Are You Highly Sensitive? Here are 24 Signs

Are you a highly sensitive person? Do you know someone in your personal or professional life who may be highly sensitive? High sensitivity can be defined as acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli. A highly sensitive person may be an introvert, an extrovert, or a combination of both.

Although there are many positive attributes to being a sensitive person (such as greater empathy, intuitiveness, etc.), in this writing we will focus on aspects of high sensitivity which adversely affect one’s health, success, and well-being. Here are twenty-four signs of a highly sensitive person. These traits are in the form of assessment questions, which are organized into three categories: Sensitivity About Oneself, Sensitivity About Others, and Sensitivity About One’s Environment.

While many people may experience some of these signs from time to time, a highly sensitive person will likely feel them more frequently, and process (or over-process) them more deeply. Some individuals may be highly sensitive to just one or two stimuli, while others may be strongly affected by more on the list. 

Category One: Sensitivity About Oneself

1. Do you often have difficulty letting go of negative thoughts and emotions?

2. Do you frequently feel physical symptoms (i.e. stress or headache) when something unpleasant happens during your day?

3. Do you often have bad days that affect your eating and/or sleeping habits in an unhealthy way, such as eating or sleeping too much or too little?

4. Do you experience tension or anxiety often?

5. Do you tend to “beat yourself up” when falling short of your own expectations?

6. Are you afraid of rejection, even in relatively minor situations?

7. Do you compare yourself with others often (in physical, relational, social, work, financial, or other scenarios), and experience unhappy feelings from negative social comparison?

8. Do you often feel anger or resentment about situations in your life or in society which you find unjust, aggravating or simply annoying, and allow them to affect your day?

Category Two: Sensitivity About Others

9. Do you often think about/worry about what others think of you?

10. Do you tend to take things personally?

11. Do you find it difficult, when triggered by relatively small unpleasantness with people, to just “let it go?”

12. Do you feel hurt easily?

13. Do you often hide your negative feelings, because you think they are too strong, turbulent, embarrassing or vulnerable to share? Do you keep a lot of negative emotions inside?

14. On the other hand, do you often discuss your negative emotions with others because there’s a lot of “drama” in your life?

15. Do you have a hard time accepting critical feedback, even when it’s given to you reasonably and constructively?

16. Do you often feel like people are judging you, even when there’s no strong evidence?

17. Do you often find yourself over-reacting to real or perceived slights and provocations?

18. Do you often feel awkward in group situations, and feel uneasy/not being able to be yourself?

19. Do you feel self-conscious in romantically intimate situations, and worry whether your partner approves of you? Are you afraid of being judged or rejected by your romantic partner?

Category Three: Sensitivity About One’s Environment

20. Do you often feel uncomfortable in large public crowds? Or in a room full of people actively socializing? Or with too many things occurring simultaneously?

21. Do you often feel uncomfortable when exposed to bright lights, loud sounds, or strong scents?

22. Do you startle easily by sudden noises, fast traffic, or other unpleasant surprises?

23. Do you often feel upset when watching or reading negative news in the media? Do you dislike “shock” entertainment that is intensely scary or violent?

24. Do you often feel unhappy when following people’s “look at me!” posts on social media?

Again, while some highly sensitive individuals may be acutely affected by just one or two of the traits above, others may be over-stimulated by more on the list.

For many highly sensitive people, the key to managing oversensitivity is to deploy strong emotional and environmental leveraging techniques, to smartly calm and alleviate over-stimulation. For those who live or work with highly sensitive individuals, effective communication skills are a must to foster positive and constructive relationships.

© 2017 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.

Select References

Aron, E.; Aron, A. Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (1997)

Aron, E.; Aron, A.; Davies, K. Adult Shyness: The Interaction of Temperamental Sensitivity and an Adverse Childhood Environment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. (2005).

Booth, C.; Standage, H.; Fox, E. Sensory-Processing Sensitivity Moderates The Association Between Childhood Experiences And Adult Life Satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences. (2015)

Boterberg, S.; Warreyn, P.. Making Sense of It All: The Impact of Sensory Processing Sensitivity on Daily Functioning of Children. Personality and Individual Differences. (2016)

Larson, R.; Ketelaar, T. Extraversion, Neuroticism and Susceptibility to Positive and Negative Mood Induction Procedures. Personality and Individual Differences. (1989)

Liss, M.; Mailloux, J.; Erchull, M. The Relationships between Sensory Processing Sensitivity, Alexithymia, Autism, Depression, and Anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences. (2008)


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