22 signs you’re a highly sensitive person (and that’s OK!)

People say you’re emotional, but maybe you just feel things. There’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive creature, in fact there’s a lot to be said for it. But it comes with its own highs and lows. Some highly sensitive people—a term coined by Dr. Elaine Aron— tend to feel lonely because many people can’t relate to the way they operate. However, many more people are HSPs than you’d think. Psychology Today reports that 1 out of 5 people can be considered “highly sensitive.” “This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting,” writes Dr. Aron. “The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others”

Think you may be an HSP? Check out these signs. And if most of them apply to you, then welcome to the club—we don’t have jackets, but we’ve got tissues and a lot of feelings.

1. You feel ALL the feelings


Your emotions are vivid—practically palpable. You can be moved easily, whether that’s through a play, a movie, a book, or simply an interaction on the street.

2. You can often tell what someone’s feeling, or when something’s wrong with those you love.

HSPs tend to be highly intuitive. (Actually, in Dr. Aron’s research she found at 20 percent of the population reacts strongly to other people’s emotional circumstances.) Since you’re so in tune with your feelings, you can also pick up on the feelings of those you love. When your friend says they’re okay, you can see through that, and often end up saying, “Please, really, tell me what’s wrong. You know you can trust me.”

3. You tend to prefer exercising on your own.

“Highly sensitive people may tend to avoid team sports, where there’s a sense that everyone is watching their every move,” according to the Huffington Post. Even if you’re very into fitness, you didn’t join team sports as a kid because you felt like everyone was watching or judging you. Even going to a gym when it’s somewhat full can intimidate you. The most ideal workout for you is in the comfort of your own living room.

4. . . .or really, just working on your own in general.

The thought of working from home is wonderful to you. You get to control the environment, and you find that you work best that way. But if you have to work in an office, you much prefer having your own cubicle. According to researcher Ted Zeff, who spoke with the Huffington Post, cubicles—as opposed to bullpen-type environments—provide that extra little bit of privacy an HSP needs to feel productive. 

5. You’re very polite.

According to Salon, HSPs “often have particularly good manners, and notice when others don’t.” You always notice when people say “please” and “thank you,” and you always make sure to say them yourself. Deep down, you’re afraid of offending people, so you make sure to always mind your manners until you feel 100% comfortable with someone—and even then, you’re still polite. 

6. In fact, you’d describe yourself as a “people pleaser.”

The thought of criticism is terrible to you. You often go to great lengths to avoid it. This leads to people-pleasing, and trying your hardest to always make sure everyone likes you and is happy with you. “You know why I do that? Why I try so hard not to inconvenience people? It’s to prevent them from feeling like Idid inconvenience them,” writes Kelly, an HSP blogger. “I’m so afraid that people will think I am annoying, I go out of my way to make sure they don’t feel that way.”

7. For that reason, it’s very difficult for you to say “no” to anything.

You sometimes are so afraid of hurting or offending someone that you find yourself saying “yes” to everything, even when you would strongly prefer not to. For example, you may find yourself helping out at an event when you’re feeling exhausted, or agreeing to pick someone up at the airport when you already had plans.

8. You take ages to make decisions. . .no matter how small.

You know that mildly uncomfortable feeling everyone gets after realizing they made the wrong decision on something minor? Yeah, you get that, too—but times 10. Even if it’s something as small as an ice cream flavor, you get it bad. For that reason, you tend to take ages to make decisions, because you want to be positive that it’s the right one. You mull it all over and even envision how you would feel if you chose each route.

9. You’re incredibly observant.

You’re very much a detail-oriented person. You notice every little nuance.You tend to find yourself overwhelmed (in a good way!) by simply being outdoors, especially during seasonal changes. You notice how the sun shines through the leaves making them a brighter hue, or how the air has become slightly colder as summer turns to fall. Combine those observant tendencies with your intuition and emotional intelligence, and you can always notice if someone’s being genuine or not.

10. You’re a bit of a perfectionist.

Because you’re such a detail-oriented person, you notice mistakes much faster than others. You tend to be a perfectionist in many things you do, especially if you work in a field you’re passionate about.

11. You tend to react more than most people.

If something happens—the phone rings, there’s a knock at the door, someone asks an abrupt question—you often find yourself the first to respond. This also happens with anything regarding emotion. You wouldn’t describe yourself as dramatic, but you feel everything stronger, and that makes you react stronger in turn. “Most people have a reaction when seeing an accident but for some highly sensitive people the effect can be dramatic and long lasting,” writes HSP blogger Edward Mills.

12. You’re not afraid to let the tear ducts take over.

You cry at happy movies. You cry at sad movies. You just cry. It’s common for HSPs, according to Aron’s HSP newsletter, The Comfort Zone. To you, crying isn’t always a sign of despair—it’s a sign of being alive.

13. People often look down on your for your emotional tendencies, or tell you “not to take things so seriously.”

You’ve had people, especially very logical people, be rather surprised at your reactions, because they can’t connect.

14. But your loved ones take a different route.

Your loved ones know that you’re emotional, and when you’re upset, they often tell you not to worry, because “it’s just not worth it” (though they know you’ll continue to be upset until you calm yourself down). On the other hand, if you’re happy crying, they just giggle and pat you on the back.

15. You have a lower pain tolerance than most people you know.

You fear pain, like getting your blood drawn, more than most. What other people may find just painful, you may find excruciating. “Headaches, muscle and joint pains, and general malaise are all indicators the body sends out that change is needed, and HSPs are more prone to pay attention, rather than just shrug something off or take a couple of aspirins,” according to the HSP website.

16. You scare kind of easily.

You’re more sensitive to violence and frightening situations, even in movies. Since you can vividly picture what it would be like, you can connect to the characters on an emotional level, making it far scarier for you. “I am highly sensitive to violence and horror,” writes HSP blogger, Kelly. “I learned early in life that I don’t want anything to do with scary movies. Friends would sometimes tease me and try to convince me to watch, thinking it was not a big deal. But having disturbing scenes burned into my brain for life is a big deal!”

17. No one really likes loud, annoying noises, but you hate them.

That static on the radio when you have a bad signal, the baby screaming next to you, the car alarm down the street—everyone’s annoyed by them, but you let them fill your head. You feel the extreme need to either quiet the noise or get away from it as soon as possible. (There’s a whole section on dealing with noise on the HSP website.)

18. You also hate bright, fluorescent lights.

You prefer cozy, dimmer lighting because it’s easier on your eyes. The harsh lights are just too much for you to handle. In general, anything that is extreme on the senses is often too much for you.

19. You’re super-creative.

You can think outside the box. Your mind seems to work in a different way than most. You have a passion for a creative hobby, like painting, music, or writing. Your capacity to pay attention to every sensory detail fosters a super creative side, according to Psychology Today

20. You’re not the only one in your family who’s highly sensitive

“Sensitivity is an inherited trait,” Dr. Aron told the Utne Reader.

21. You struggle with taking care of your body

“[HSPs] often put off things like taking proper breaks, exercising, making it a point to eat a healthy, balanced meal or may even skip a meal because they don’t have time right now,” according to the website for Highly Sensitive People. Because your sensitivity may extend to certain foods or physical maladies, it’s important to prioritize your health and make time for eating properly and exercising. 

22. You tend to like things “before they’re cool.”

Your intuitive nature tends to make you appreciate and recognize things faster than most, making you the ultimate tastemaker.

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