Learn More

Sweet biscuit sugar plum. Halvah chocolate bar jujubes. Dragée donut candy.

Join My Educational Community

View blogs




Follow Along

Learn More

Sweet biscuit sugar plum. Halvah chocolate bar jujubes. Dragée donut candy.

Meet Massy

Has a trip to the grocery store ever sent you home in a panic? Was it the fluorescent lights buzzing? The sticky feeling of your sneakers on the floor? Maybe it was the squeaky wheel on your grocery cart or the strong smell of fresh paint? Maybe it was the awkward small talk with an old friend you saw or the interaction you had with the cashier. Or, maybe, it was all of it.

If you’ve ever experienced being overwhelmed like this, you might be a highly sensitive person and you aren’t alone. Nearly 20% of people are highly sensitive and face the same common issues. And while highly sensitive people might experience similar challenges, let me be clear that sensitivity is in no way a character flaw.

Being a highly sensitive person is not a diagnosis, and we discourage the use of it as a negative label for yourself and others. The list we are sharing today is intended to help highly sensitive people feel validated and understand why they may feel a certain way. This list can also be a helpful tool for friends and family of highly sensitive people.

Being sensitive has a negative connotation for a lot of people, especially if they have been accused of or labeled with it in the past. We hope we can help reframe the way people see sensitivity.

The highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in their surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.

— Dr. Elaine N. Aron


You might be a highly sensitive person if…

  • You are easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud noises

  • You often feel emotionally exhausted

  • You struggle with doing things under pressure

  • After spending time with others or after a busy day, you need to withdraw into your bed, dark room, or somewhere you can have privacy and relief

  • You struggle with setting boundaries, and dislike confrontation

  • You are highly intuitive

  • People often assume you are shy, timid, or introverted

  • You avoid violent movies and TV shows

  • You avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations

  • You notice or enjoy the small things or subtleties that other people sometimes miss

  • You have been called sensitive or dramatic, especially as a child

  • You are creative and have a vivid imagination

  • You think about or prepare for the worst-case scenario in almost all situations


HSP facts

  • 30% of highly sensitive people are introverts

  • The HSP trait is found in 15 to 20% of the population

  • In some cultures, HSPs are more valued. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem

  • HSPs are prone to high functioning anxiety

  • HSP is common in people with ADHD

  • HSP is not a disorder, it is a personality trait also called sensory processing sensitivity

  • HSP are more likely to suffer from asthma, eczema, and allergies



  1. You often feel emotionally exhausted.

    For a HSP, feeling drained and exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically, is a constant struggle. There are a lot of reasons for this since everything can be overwhelming for a highly sensitive person. Some reasons you might be tired include: absorbing people’s emotions, exerting too much energy or focus, ignoring your own boundaries, holding back your authenticity, too little sleep, constantly being “on” and more.

    What can you do?

    • Remember that you are allowed to hold other people’s emotions without carrying them throughout your day/week/month. Ask yourself whose emotions you’ve been holding and allow yourself to set them down now.

    • Schedule breaks throughout your day to rest and feel grounded.

    • Prioritize self-care.

    • Create, communicate, and stick to your boundaries.

    • Holding back your authentic self takes a lot of energy and will eventually take a toll on your wellbeing. Remind yourself as much as you can that you are enough exactly as you are.

    • Prioritize your sleep! Create a solid bedtime routine so you can look forward to sleeping.

  2. You are easily overwhelmed and/or distracted by physical stimuli like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud noises.

    They might not seem like much to some people, but it’s often the little things like a fuzzy TV, blinking lights, subtle beeping, or an itchy sweater that can overwhelm highly sensitive people. If this sounds like you, you probably know that even though you can identify what is bothering you, you can’t always put into words why it is bothering you. HSPs process all stimuli more deeply than non-sensitive people, so the things that seem small and meaningless to others can seem big and overwhelming to HSPs.

    What can you do?

    • Create a safety kit to take with you when you leave your home. When creating your kit, think about your senses and what will comfort them. Some things to include: noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses or a hat, a light scarf, blanket, or jacket, gum, mints, water, reliable snack, comforting smell like herbs, lotion, oil, or spray.

    • Feeling comfortable physically, mentally, and emotionally, is very important for HSPs, so if this is you, be sure to prioritize your comfort. Even if you don’t need the extra socks in your bag, just having them there might be enough to keep you comforted.

  3. Alone time is a necessity.

    Have you ever spent a day out with people, and felt like you needed at least 5 to 7 days of alone time to recover? Same. HSPs tend to exert a lot of energy require alone time to feel balanced again.

    What can you do?

    • If you can, set aside two hours each day for intentional but unstructured alone time. Some ideas for what to do are: spending time in nature, reading, watching a movie, making art, taking yourself out for a date, or meditating.

    • Schedule days in advance throughout the month and year for just you. Think of these as important dates.

    • Treat your scheduled alone time like you would treat scheduled time with a friend. Try your best to not schedule over this time or use it to finish work, scroll mindlessly on your phone, or offer to help someone with a favor.

  4. You struggle with setting and communicating boundaries.

    Because HSPs are more emotionally aware than other people, and they feel compassion for people’s situations, they can often end up saying yes to a lot of things they don’t want to do. They do this to please the people around them, avoid conflict, and keep the peace.

    What can you do?

    • Practice boundary setting. This looks like first noticing what boundaries you need and making yourself aware of them. Then, communicate your boundaries to whoever needs to hear them. Remember that their reaction is not your responsibility. Click here for a more in-depth guide for setting and communicating boundaries.

    • Remember that your needs are just as valid and important as the needs of other people.

  5. You avoid uncomfortable or overwhelming situations.

    Because HSPs are prone to anxiety, it’s common to struggle with and avoid uncomfortable or overwhelming situations. There is nothing wrong with choosing to opt-out of a party because being in a crowd of people is not exactly your idea of a good time. Just make sure you aren’t opting out of all situations and opportunities that have a possibility of being uncomfortable or overwhelming to you.

    What can you do?

    • Remember that growth happens when we are uncomfortable. Feeling your feelings can be highly uncomfortable, but it is necessary to heal and move through difficult emotions.

    • Start small. If you struggle with social anxiety but hope to make friends, start small by saying hi to your neighbor or complimenting the barista’s earrings.

    • Practice doing uncomfortable things. If you want to feel more confident being out alone, practice! Start by going to the movies alone, then to coffee, etc. Eventually, with practice, you will feel more confident.

  6. People often misunderstand you.

    If you’ve grown up feeling like the odd one out, the black sheep, or like you don’t ever seem to fit in, you aren’t alone. HSPs often feel misunderstood by most people. Other, non-sensitive people tend to assume HSPs to be shy, timid, or introverted, especially of highly sensitive children. Along with seeming shy, HSPs are sometimes told they are too sensitive and need to toughen up, or they are too dramatic. Feeling constantly misunderstood is exhausting! But know that your authentic self is worthy of appreciation and love. There are people who will understand and accept you in your wholeness, you just might not have found them yet.

    What can you do?

    • Trust that the right people will slow down enough to see you (trust me, they’re looking for you too).

    • Reach out to another HSP about how you are feeling. Validation is important for highly sensitive people. If you don’t have someone like this, click here for tips for making friends as an adult.

    • Be secure in yourself by practicing self-acceptance and self-compassion. When you feel secure in yourself, you will notice other people second-guessing you less.

    • Ask yourself who you are looking to for acceptance. Make sure you are the first person on the list.

    • Remember, it is not your responsibility to correct other people’s perceptions of you.

  7. Your inner critic tends to be loud.

    HSPs can be their own worst critic. Every small mistake, every criticism, and every awkward interaction has the possibility of lingering in the head of a highly sensitive person for days, even years. Can you relate? HSPs often struggle with overthinking, feeling like an imposter, and feeling like they are always doing something wrong.

    What can you do?

    • Practice techniques for managing anxiety like reframing thoughts, mindfulness exercises, and affirmations.

    • Talk to a mental health professional if your inner critic is overwhelming and affecting your daily life.

One last thing

Don’t let the challenges listed here discourage you. Despite these struggles, being a highly sensitive person is anything but a flaw. HSPs are some of the most insightful, creative, open-minded, thoughtful, empathetic, talented, and gentlest people you will ever meet.

Highly sensitive people are often wonderful friends and loving partners because they notice little details that other people might miss. They can be great helping professionals because of their ability to help people feel seen, and understood. HSPs can also have more insight into their own mental and emotional journey since they are naturally introspective. Maybe that is what has lead you here to learn more about yourself. I hope this list has helped you feel empowered.

If you are not a HSP, but you know someone who is, thank you for taking your time to read this. Your effort to understand them is so appreciated.

Sources: Healthline.com, HSPerson.com, Additudemag.com


Join my educational community.

Ready to learn more about mental health resources and practical tools?