The benefits of being HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

I love the saguaros across the street in the preserve.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal “The Superpowers of Highly Sensitive People,” journalist Elizabeth Bernstein talks about strategies sensitive people use to cope with overwhelming moments. (I love Bernstein’s articles and the fact that she’s an Elizabeth Anne like me. Although I’m an Ann without an e.)

She admits she’s what known as an HSP herself.

At the end of the article is a test you can take to determine if you’re an HSP too. I did, and according to the quiz, I passed with flying colors.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

HSPs process information more deeply than other people. They’re very responsive to emotions, both their own and those of others. And they’re often more attuned to sensations, such as taste, touch, sound or smell. 

Scientists have been examining HSPs for decades. Researchers believe that sensitivity occurs on a spectrum: About 20% to 30% of people are HSPs, including both men and women. A similar amount have low sensitivity, while the majority are in the middle. 

High sensitivity—another term is environmental sensitivity—is an innate, stable trait, requiring some HSPs to employ next-level coping skills. They use strategies such as setting boundaries, scheduling downtime and planning positive experiences.

These tactics often enable them to thrive in their personal lives and careers. They are also a great blueprint for everyone.

I thought it was an interesting concept to think about. It reminded me of a picture book manuscript that I wrote when my son was young. He told me his friend’s feelings were only in black and white while he had feelings in many colors — more than you can find in a large crayon box.

I won a couple awards with that manuscript, although I didn’t find a publisher.

I do agree with the journalist that the way HSPs cope are helpful to everyone. Set boundaries, allocate your energy, schedule downtime and things that make you happy, Sometimes I sit down in the yard, listen to the birds and watch the clouds. Then I feel recharged.

Do you think you’re an HSP? Who in your life do you see as a highly sensitive person? What are your thoughts with the coping skills mentioned in the article?

25 thoughts on “The benefits of being HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

  1. I can’t read the story. You reminded me why I miss the WSJ and Bernstein’s amazing features! But, I have read about HSP in the past and am convinced that I am one or at least sympathize with many of the characteristics. And you’re right, I tend to think it has to do with r the processing of things and how I read others and situations. Interesting to think about. How do you think it affects you?

  2. I read this article the other day. I think that all of us have traits that would fall under the banner, but I don’t know if it’s an all or none sort of thing. And to be fair, the people I know who would have a lot of these traits don’t cope well at all

      • Exactly. I don’t know how many coping mechanisms true HSP develop and have at the ready in their toolbox

      • I think the more sensitive you are the more you have to have tools to get through the day. I think my sensitivity makes me aware how people are feeling around me. If my husband is in a bad mood I have a tough time. If my kids are suffering then I suffer. I don’t know if that’s related to HSP, or being a wife and mother.

      • But how many people use those tools, or how many rely on substances to get them from point a to point b?

  3. I don’t think this describes me for the most part. Like LA mentions, anyone can have their moments when things hit them and they release/empathize with emotional responses of their own, but it’s selective and maybe tuned to the causative factor more than their personality? Personally I think I would struggle and feel emotionally drained all the time.

    • I agree also that we have some of the traits, but we all vary in the degree. I believe that’s why HSPs work on their coping skills and have boundaries. I know I need time to myself and can’t be around people all the time, or I’m exhausted. I do like socializing but in small doses.

  4. No need for me to take the quiz. I would score a zero. Sensitivity gets in the way of sound decision making and causes disruption in pragmatism. I would argue that being overly sensitive means overly critical, and overly critical means over thinking, and overthinking means lack of progress. Sometimes a duck is just a duck, and sometimes the soup does not need any more spices.

    • I would have guessed you were a zero. I think if someone if overly sensitive it interferes with their daily lives to the point of freezing their ability to act.

  5. I love the description of your son’s feelings. Have you thought of circling back to getting a publisher now? Clearly the topic is still relevant and meaningful!

    • Thank you! Yes, I am dusting it off and rewriting it. I’m thankful I had a hard copy of it, because the word file from 20 years ago couldn’t be read! It won a So Cal SCBWI contest and first place for Writer’s Digest children’s fiction.

  6. This is such an interesting topic. I tend to think more in terms of introverts and extroverts. I’m definitely the former and I feel exhausted when I’m forced to socialize for long periods of time. Sensitive people tend to be good at reading people, reading rooms, or the general direction of emotional forces in a situation and often I think this pairs well with introverts. I’ll have to check out the article. Great topic. Hugs, C

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