Do you tear up at those super sad SPCA animal rescue commercials? Are your feelings often hurt when your friends tease you? Do you brood over it for days? Are you able to sense sadness in those around you and quickly pick up on the moods of others? Do you deeply empathize with others?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, you may be a highly sensitive person.
Highly sensitive people (HSP) are all around us. Between 15 and 20 percent of the population have the innate trait of extreme sensitivity. It is not a disorder or a disability. But it is misunderstood.
About 70 percent of all highly sensitive people are introverts. Both introverts and HSPs reflect deeply, like meaningful conversations, and need lots of down time, which is not surprising. But the other 30 percent of HSP’s who are extroverted are the most misunderstood. Most people equate introversion and extroversion with sociability. But these two traits only account for someone’s tolerance level in having a large circle of friends and enjoyment in meeting strangers and socializing in large groups. Introversion and extroversion have very little to do with heightened sensitivity. High sensitivity lies deeper. It is an inherent trait.
Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People
Highly Sensitive people:
- Are easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud sirens.
- Feel stressed when they have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time.
- Avoid violent movies and TV shows.
- Withdraw during busy days. They may escape and go to bed or hide in a dark room or some other place where they can have privacy and relief from the situation.
- Take great pains in arranging their life to avoid, or at least minimize, stressful situations
- Love aesthetic beauty. They notice and enjoy things like delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, and works of art
- Have a rich and complex inner thought life.
- Were seen as sensitive and shy as children.
- Have a low thresh hold for pain.
- Crave deep and meaningful relationships.
- Cry frequently.
Understanding is the number one key in dealing with highly sensitive people. Know that the best way to love a HSP is by supporting them. Avoid shaming them because of their sensitivity. Validate their feelings and let them know it is OK to feel the way that they do.
Here are 7 things that deeply hurt highly sensitive people
1. Withholding your emotions and being dishonest about how you really feel
HSP’s can pick up on how you feel, and lying about your feelings only makes things worse. Openness, honesty, and transparency are key when dealing with a sensitive individual. They detest people who play emotional games.
2. Refusing to give them space and alone time
HSP’s need to decompress–frequently. Know that they simply need time to process and recharge after dealing with society. This is not meant to hurt or alienate you. They are not retreating or avoiding you, but rather, replenishing their energy stores.
3. Disregarding their heightened sensitivity and emotions
They have a keen sense and deep insight into the emotional world. They can literally feel other people’s pain. They wear their heart on their sleeve. They have a deep, complex personality and long to be loved and accepted as they are. They understand that they can be difficult to deal with.
4. Criticizing them
This is one of the worst things you can do to highly sensitive people. They experience your words in a deep and very personal way. Criticism penetrates their heart and seeps into their soul. They are natural people pleasers and have a tendency to engage in self deprecating behaviors to win the acceptance and approval of others.
5. Withholding or limiting love and affection
HSP’s crave love and affection. It is the fuel that energizes their very being. The highly sensitive are prone to depression and feel heightened levels of anxiety. Physical touch helps to reduce anxiety and depression, which they feel on a much deeper level.
6. Trying to change them
Trying to change the sensitivity level of the super sensitive is an exercise in futility. It just will not happen. Your efforts to alter them will be sensed and then internalized. They will feel unloved and rejected.
7. Not Encouraging them to get out of a rut
Highly sensitive people are paradoxical in that they love spontaneity and are very adventurous but yet are hesitant to try new things. They can easily slip into the habit of staying home too often and become reclusive. Encourage them to get out of the house. Challenge them to get involved in things they love.
Photo Credit: Shy Child from Sukanto Debnath on Flickr