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ARE YOU OR YOUR CHILD A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON?

If you find you are a highly sensitive person, or your child is, then you need to be aware of the following points:

  • This trait is normal -- it is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and indeed the same percentage seems to be present in all higher animals.
  • Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener (although they may be). But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply.
  • Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed.
  • This trait is not something new -- it has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited.

The reason for these negative misnomers and general lack of research on the subject is that in this culture being tough and outgoing is the preferred or ideal personality--not high sensitivity. (Therefore in the past the research focus has been on sensitivity's potential negative impact on sociability and boldness, not the phenomenon itself or its purpose.) This cultural bias affects HSPs as much as their trait affects them, as I am sure you realize. Even those who loved you probably told you, "don't be so sensitive," making you feel abnormal when in fact you could do nothing about it and it is not abnormal at all.

Are You Highly Sensitive?

A Self-Test

Instructions: Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Check the box if it is at least somewhat true for you; leave unchecked if it is not very true or not at all true for you.

I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

Other people's moods affect me.

I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.

I have a rich, complex inner life.

I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

I am conscientious.

I startle easily.

I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.

Changes in my life shake me up.

I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

To Score Your Test: Use a 1 to 7 scale; from 1 "not at all",
through 4 "moderately", through 7 "extremely".

From Elaine N. Aron, Copyright © 1996, The Highly Sensitive Person