Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? Take This Test To Find Out
Whether you can't stand bustling environments or get seriously overwhelmed by sensory things like itchy fabrics and bright lights, you may have wondered, Why am I so sensitive?
In case you haven't heard, being "highly sensitive" is very much real, with at least 15% of the population showing signs of nervous systems that are more reactive than the average person. These folks are referred to as HSPs, or highly sensitive people, and if you're curious about whether you're one of them, here's a quick HSP test to find out.
The highly sensitive person test:
What is highly sensitive person?
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone whose nervous system is believed to be literally more sensitive1 to certain things, whether it be their environment or emotional state.
Research has found this sensitivity is actually due to increased blood flow in the areas of the brain that process emotions, awareness, and empathy. In other words, HSPs are born with a brain and nervous system that's different from the rest of the population. "It's a nervous system that is more reactive to stimuli—it's a nervous system that can feel things more deeply," psychologist and relationship counselor Margaret Paul, Ph.D., previously told mbg.
According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., a psychologist who authored The Highly Sensitive Person and The Highly Sensitive Child, about 15 to 20% of the population is born with this unique, more reactive nervous system.
While high sensitivity does allow these people to be acutely aware of what's going on around (and within) them, that doesn't mean it's always easy. As psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D., previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "Highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to other people's stress and emotions. This can result in panic attacks, depression, exhaustion, and a range of physical ailments."
But when HSPs know how to properly avoid triggers and stressful environments and, further, take the time they need to recharge, Paul says being highly sensitive can be a gift. "[HSPs] have an easier time tuning in to other people's feelings and feeling that empathy and that compassion," she explains.
That said, research has found that highly sensitive people do tend to have different brain activity than others, so there does seem to be a neurobiological basis for the predisposition.
How can you tell if someone is highly sensitive?
Someone who is highly sensitive will display common signs of an "overactive" nervous system, i.e., being sensitive to environmental factors like lighting and noise, but also emotional factors like their own mood—and other people's.
Is HSP a disorder?
No, HSP is not considered a disorder, diagnosis, or medical condition. That said, research has found that highly sensitive people do tend to have different brain activity than others, so there does seem to be a neurobiological basis for the predisposition.
What do HSPs struggle with?
Highly sensitive people struggle with environmental and emotional triggers such as loud or chaotic places, other people's bad moods, and even bodily things like itchy clothing or sensitivity to caffeine and bright lights.
If you're part of the 15 to 20% of the population that is said to be highly sensitive, remember that being an HSP is not a disorder—but it may require you to operate in the world a bit differently. While high sensitivity can certainly be frustrating, when you can work with your nervous system instead of against it, you can even use it to your advantage.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.