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Sheila Hirsch LCSW
The Highly Sensitive Person


"You're too sensitive!"  Are you tired already?"   What's the matter with you?"  

As a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP, you may have heard these type of comments and questions from those close to you.  There is nothing wrong with you!  You were born with a sensitive nervous system that allows you to notice subleties in the environment, a great asset.  However, it may mean that you are overwhelmed by high or intense levels of stimulation as you pick up more environmental cues than most.

The psychological term for the HSP trait is Sensory Processing Sensitivity.  The research has found that the Sensory Processing Sensitivity trait occurs naturally in 15 - 20% of not only the human population, but in animals as well. Elaine Aron, a clinical psychologist, has been researching this trait since 1992 and has written many books and articles about this topic.  In her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person", which I highly recommend, Dr. Aron emphasizes the advantages of being an HSP and how to compensate for the sometimes overwhelming effects.

If you suspect you are an HSP, answer the questions in the HSP questionnaire developed by Dr. Aron.  This questionnaire can be found on the next page.  You may also explore this area further by going to Dr. Aron's website, www.hsperson.com.  

Rejection or criticism of your HSP trait and related behaviors may have had a negative impact on your life.  Your self-esteem and self-image may have been affected.  Being an HSP may be negatively impacting your close relationships.  This may have led to some anxiety and depression.  If you are needing help, go to Dr. Aron's website where you will find a list of therapist's trained to work with clients in your area.  Also a web search of therapists in your area that work with HSPs or sensitivity may prove helpful.













Are You Highly Sensitive
Copyright, Elaine N. Aron, 1996
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.


If you answered more than fourteen of the questions as true of yourself, you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response.
If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.