Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person

This Is What It Means to Be Sensitive (Explained With GIFs)

Too often, I hear the word “sensitive” being used as a bad thing. The truth is, being sensitive means you notice things, you care about people’s feelings, and you think deeply before you speak. It means taking the time to absorb and process, rather than rushing to a decision.

And, for a lot of people, being sensitive isn’t just a passing mood — it’s a key part of who they are.

Those individuals are known in psychology as highly sensitive people, and they are the 15-20 percent of the population that process things more deeply than others. Most highly sensitive people people grow up with the message that there’s something wrong with them — but there isn’t. Their sensitivity is a normal, healthy trait that comes with a lot of advantages.

(You can find out if you’re a highly sensitive person here.)

Recently, I asked our Facebook page of over 12,000 highly sensitive people what being sensitive means to them. Here are some of their answers — if you’re sensitive, can you relate?

Being Sensitive Means…

1. Everything’s turned up to 11.

“People don’t realize they’re broadcasting their emotions at an 11.”

“Everything inside and outside is frequently very ‘loud.'”

When you’re sensitive, your nervous system processes everything very deeply. That means you can’t help but pick up on noises, textures, and social cues that other people miss. It also means that any kind of high-stimulus environment can quickly become, well, too “loud.”

2. You deal with everyone else’s emotions.

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“Being sensitive means being a live wire for any and all emotions in the area.”

Sensitive people are more tuned-in to emotions, with more active mirror neurons than less sensitive people have. In fact, many sensitive people feel like they absorb the emotions of others — whether they want to or not.

3. You can tell what’s going on inside, too.

“I’m aware of the feelings that exist inside my body, as well as the feelings inside the bodies of every other person in my space at any given time. Tiring — but also enlightening.”

4. You see things that others miss.

“Being sensitive means noticing more than the other 80 percent of humanity.”

“I see what others cannot see.”

5. Being sensitive is a superpower.

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“I notice things others don’t notice, and it makes me much better at my job and a great life partner to my husband. Once I realized that being sensitive allows me to do things others can’t, it totally changed my perspective.”

6. Sometimes, it hurts…

One person wrote, hauntingly, that being sensitive can mean “a life of emotional pain.” That isn’t the case for every sensitive person, but they all experience it sometimes. Especially if the loved ones in their life don’t understand their sensitivity.

7. …and it can be inconvenient.

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“I feel embarrassed and like a horrible person because I’m forever asking people to turn the volume down, point the fan away from me, turn the temperature (up? down? more moderate, anyway), and rushing out of stores with room fragrances.”

8. But it can also be a massive strength…

“It used to mean why I cried under stressful circumstances or from words that shouldn’t have hurt me. Now I realize it’s also the reason that I feel deeply for those in my life and what propels me to be kind to them, do things for them, and make sure they’re looked after.”

9. …that can grow even stronger over time.

“When a person is mentally and emotionally healthy, being sensitive means being merciful, empathetic, compassionate, and strong.”

10. In fact, it can be the secret to your success.

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“There are so many things it allows me to do that others can’t. I used to be a teacher, and I knew when my students were struggling even when nobody else noticed. I called parents numerous times to tell them when I was concerned about their child, and I was correct every time, and the parents thanked me for noticing and taking action. It is, without a doubt, the trait most responsible for making me a good teacher.”

“In my personal life, I am the one in our relationship who keeps us talking and communicating when I know something needs to be addressed. I see patterns in our behaviors that allow me to see the area of concern and find a solution.”

11. If you’re sensitive, you might notice even the smallest physical sensations.

“For me, it means sounds, smells, level of stimulation, being too busy… and the need to decompress in solitude! I have even requested to sleep in a separate bedroom as my husband, which has been life-changing for me.”

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12. Many sensitive people have physical reactions to emotions.

“If I get asked for a favor and don’t want to do it, I start getting a bad stomachache. I get heavy breathing and anxiety.”

“Does anyone else feel distress and get a headache if they have to shout? My voice is very quiet and people can’t hear me, but shouting for me feels like a negative thing. I feel like a bad person if I shout!”

13. Everything is more intense.

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“A life of intensity… the good is really good, and the bad is really bad. There is very little middle ground. But as I have never known any other way of being, to me, it’s perfectly normal.”

“Feeling and experiencing things much more deeply than others realize.”

14. There’s no way to “turn off” your sensitivity.

“I need a ‘life’ button to turn down.”

“Feelings, emotions, lights, noise, all of it. I want to turn it all down.”

15. You can easily get overwhelmed.

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“When there’s a lot going on around me, it’s hard to concentrate; all I want is to be away from the stimuli. Others might think it’s because I don’t want to be with them when it’s really not that at all!”

16. Other peoples’ anxiety becomes your anxiety.

“I’m only ever as relaxed as the most unrelaxed person in the room!”

17. You have a hard time with gore.

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“I really struggle with violent or gory media. In the past, I’ve caved to pressure to go see movies I didn’t want to — and they stayed with me long after it was over.”

18. Picking up on everything, good or bad.

“It’s like being a walking nerve ending.”

19. Being sensitive is a gift.

“Being sensitive means that I was born with a gift, and it’s one I wish more people had. I think it would make the world a better place.”

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