• Nancy Mendelson

5 Signs You Might Be an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

Are you an HSP? Only just learned that this acronym for Highly Sensitive Person is an actual “thing” while researching an entirely different topic for this week’s column. So, I decided to switch gears and unpack it, since I found the subject highly relatable.

The term “highly sensitive person was first coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron in the mid-1990s. Elaine Aron published her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person," in 1996, and interest in the concept has continued to grow since then.

5 signs you're a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

If you have ever been informed by family, friends, co-workers, or whomever that “you’re overly sensitive,” or that you need to “toughen up and grow a thicker skin,” then you may, in fact, share some HSP-ish traits with me. And like me, you may have felt like there was something wrong with you. Well, there isn’t!


“Written off as an odd duck, no one mentioned that I was most likely a “highly sensitive person,” or HSP — someone with a sensitive nervous system who’s deeply affected by the subtleties in their environment,” writes Juli Fraga for Healthline, who goes on to say, “HSP isn’t a disorder or a condition, but rather a personality trait that’s also known as sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS). To my surprise, I’m not an odd duck at all. Dr. Elaine Aron states that 15 to 20 percent of the population are HSPs.”


Here are three simple, important facts everyone should know about highly sensitive people:

  • Being highly sensitive is a normal trait

  • High sensitivity is a real, research-based characteristic

  • Being highly sensitive comes with both advantages and drawbacks Highly sensitive people tend to be empathetic, artistically creative, intuitive, and highly aware of the needs of others — so much so that many thrive in careers as therapists, counselors, artists, musicians, and writers. But highly sensitive people also deal with overwhelm, exhaustion, and burnout, especially from “absorbing” or sensing all the emotional cues of the people around them.

Nancy Mendelson

The Arons also developed a highly sensitive person test, or a personality questionnaire to help people identify themselves as HSPs. It is known as Aron’s Highly Sensitive Persons Scale (HSPS). I took it, and out of 27 questions, I checked off 21 boxes. No surprise there, although I have made a concerted effort to not change who I am, but rather how I react and respond…and I have made giant strides, in spite of my score-(anything over 14 identifies you as an HSP.)


Now when people tell me I’m too sensitive, I thank them for noticing (although my thought bubble says EFF-OFF!!!)… and I hope you'll do the same!