Do you feel your emotions very deeply? Do you find yourself easily irritated or overstimulated by loud noises, certain textures, bright lights, or crowded rooms? Is your pain tolerance very low compared to those around you?

If your answer is yes to all the above, there’s a chance you may have what Dr. Elaine Aron refers to as Sensory Processing Sensitivity. In her book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” she talks about research that’s shown a small proportion of the population is born with a higher level of sensitivity. That means these individuals have very finely tuned senses, enabling them to pick up a lot more information from the environment than others do. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – all are experienced at a higher intensity. Not only are these individuals more physically sensitive, but they also tend to enjoy deep emotional, relational, and spiritual experiences.
Heightened sensitivity can be very useful in many ways. It can allow you to connect more deeply with others, sense danger faster, observe details others miss, and find an abundance of fuel for meaningful creative expression. However, it can also have its downsides. Higher sensitivity can also mean it’s easier for you to feel overwhelmed by your surroundings – especially if they are noisy, crowded, and emotionally charged.
You may feel at times like you don’t belong, especially if you’re used to living in a family, community, or culture where the most prized characteristics are being physically tough and emotionally unaffected. You may feel pressured by others to change.
If you’re a highly sensitive person, you can’t change how your brain is wired. Sensitivity is not something you can just turn off. What you can do is learn how you best function and take care to prevent and manage the overwhelm that so often accompanies high sensitivity. To some extent, you can increase your tolerance to uncomfortable sensory experiences. But managing life as a highly sensitive person also means learning when you’ve pushed hard enough, and when it’s time to be gentle with yourself.
The highly sensitive person tends to appreciate the little things in life to a greater degree. A warm cup of your favorite tea, space to journal and self-reflect, a walk out in nature, time spent snuggling a pet – these kinds of things, when incorporated into your routine, can help tremendously when you’re feeling overwhelmed. The more time you get to fully recharge, the more time you can spend doing what you do best with the unique strengths you have as a highly sensitive person.
To take the highly sensitive person self-test, visit Dr. Elaine Aron’s website: