What Are the Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person?
Highly sensitive person traits were first identified by Dr. Aron, who was a pioneer in the research for high sensitivity, explained licensed creative arts therapist Sheilagh McGreal, MS, ATR, LCAT. Dr. Aron has identified four core categories of HSP traits using the acronym D.O.E.S.:
- Depth of Processing: They think deeply, need more time for transitions and to reflect on decisions, and have good intuition, McGreal said.
- Overstimulation: With the ability to notice every little detail and feel all the feels so deeply, it can lead to overstimulation or feeling stressed when HSPs aren't getting enough downtime, McGreal said. They can be sensitive to loud sounds or music, bright lights, uncomfortable fabrics or clothes, crowds, and clutter. HSPs often need time alone in a quiet space to just think, and they often work best without distractions.
- Empathy/Emotional Reactivity: Humans have something called mirror neurons in our brains, which enable us to reflect body language, facial expressions, and emotion. HSPs have more of these active neurons, which leads to heightened feelings of empathy toward people and animals, explained McGreal. This is why HSPs are often affected by the moods of others. They feel everything deeply, higher highs and lower lows.
- Sensitive to Subtleties: HSPs notice little details and nonverbal cues that others miss, McGreal said.
Each individual will relate to these traits in different ways. For example, some may have high intuition, others might be better at sensing or "reading" the moods of others, and some might have high empathy or sensory sensitivity (to itchy clothes, drafts, loud noise, etc.), McGreal explained.
Since high sensitivity (or sensory processing sensitivity, as it's known in the research) is something 20 percent of humans are born with, explained licensed psychotherapist and author April Snow, LMFT, and it's also found in over 100 other species, you can tell you're an HSP if you have experienced all of the D.O.E.S. characteristics since you were a child.