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Is being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) a thing?

(53 Posts)
AtmosClock Tue 10-Sep-19 15:26:03

I have come across a few friends (mainly on social media) who identify as Highly Sensitive. Of those friends, their children are naturally also HSPs, and I've seen a few articles about how they tend to be smarter, kinder, more aware of social injustice, etc. However, most of their experiences sound very normal to me (needing me time, feeling sad watching a film, etc).

My natural inclination is to think this is a bit of a fad to make some people feel a bit better about themselves, but I do have an open-mind.

Is being HSP a real thing, is it diagnosable professionally, and what is it like? Or is it a fad?

Usernamealreadyexists Tue 10-Sep-19 15:34:55

Have you posted this before as I recall reading a very similar post?

Wherearemyminions Tue 10-Sep-19 15:35:43

I suspect a fad, I am weary of the current trend for labelling perfectly normal human emotions and personalities. It looks like attention seeking to me and detracts from people who actually need a "label" to access support or just need additional consideration. But then I am an old fart and I appear to have turned into my mother!

Tableclothing Tue 10-Sep-19 15:36:11

It's not in the DSM5 or ICD10 so it's not something a GP will be diagnosing any time soon.

This article ( reports that the researchers estimate 1 in 5 adults meet the criteria, so I think you're probably right to describe it as "very normal".

Everyone is different. We are different in height, weight, acuity of sight, sensitivity of hearing, smell... It makes total sense to me that some people react more than others too, and it's just the way they are.

One thing that makes a good professional sportsperson, besides physical strength, speed, skill, etc, is being relatively unreactive and able to stay very calm in very stressful situations (kicking a world Cup penalty). Like other aspects of sporting prowess, I think this ability is a mixture of learned skills, practise and genetics.

AtmosClock Tue 10-Sep-19 15:37:33

No, I haven't posted this before, but I just did a search and there are some other threads on similar lines from a while back.

Atlasta Tue 10-Sep-19 15:37:55

I identify as highly-strung. It's no fun.grin
Never heard of highly sensitive.

EssentialHummus Tue 10-Sep-19 15:42:23

Sounds like snowflakeism to me.

BethanyGilbert Tue 10-Sep-19 15:54:06

I think I’m highly sensitive. I’m so aware of everything all of the time. And I find life a lot more upsetting than most people. I’m really empathetic but I don’t think that’s a good thing because I feel so much upset and anger for other people I find it hard to manage. I would never expect any special treatment though. And I’m definitely not extra intelligent.

Someonesayroadtrip Tue 10-Sep-19 16:07:06

Yes, I new fad I think. There are a few books out such as "the highly sensitive person" all identifying as empathic people. I just think some people are more sensitive and empathic than others, myself included, I'm very hard of hearing and I tend to read people's emotions quite well and that can affect me i.e. if someone is sad, I feel sad etc. But I don't think it's so much a thing, rather just different personalities. A lot of people who go around saying they are highly sensitive are what we used to call "precious". I think it's very in fashion to be seen as highly sensitive.

StillMedusa Tue 10-Sep-19 16:17:14

I'm with weararemyminions
People vary and we don't need to label everyone.
Everyone has emotions, just some people are more reactive and some are also more dramatic.
I almost never cry. It's just not me. But I love deeply, acts decently, and am not insensate. I just don't put it on show!

CroissantsAtDawn Tue 10-Sep-19 16:19:32

I consider DS1 to be highly sensitive. Mainly to sounds, smells and touch/texture. It made his baby and toddler years incredibly trying (no, not all babies get used to sound and can sleep through anything if you do it from birth - particuary difficult living in the centre of a large city).

He is also an emotional sponge, but so is DS2 so I think being sensitive to other people's emotions is normal.

ChardonnaysDistantCousin Tue 10-Sep-19 16:20:13

Yes, also known as Acute Drama Queenis*

ScreamingValenta Tue 10-Sep-19 16:21:13

In my experience, people who are genuinely highly sensitive don't go around boasting about it - they do their utmost to disguise it.

GrimDamnFanjo Tue 10-Sep-19 16:54:37

There's a whole industry springing up around it, coaches etc...

TeaStory Tue 10-Sep-19 16:59:07

Yes it’s real, it’s a sensory thing and has been studied scientifically and academically for many years.

Some of the peer-reviewed papers are listed here, enjoy:

Foslady Tue 10-Sep-19 17:03:42

Many, many years ago when I started school I started displaying certain behaviours (basically I became a human moth!). The local GP listened and said I was highly strung, but luckily didn’t put me on any tranquillisers (this was the early ‘70’s when they were dished out like sweets).
It’s horrible - I constantly afraid of offending anyone by either doing or not doing something. It lead to PNA and dissterous relationships and friendships and eventually I had a break down a few years ago.
Unfortunately ‘highly strung’ has become synonymous with ‘badly behaved ‘, which is the exact opposite of me (scared to break the rules).
It’s also used as an excuse for bratty behaviour, hence another reason why I hate the term. I am a people pleaser - the last think I want to do is draw attention to myself .

Foslady Tue 10-Sep-19 17:04:45

In my experience, people who are genuinely highly sensitive don't go around boasting about it - they do their utmost to disguise it.

This - exactly

HelloYouTwo Tue 10-Sep-19 17:17:41

I have a friend who could probably identify as this (but she doesn’t put it on FB because she’s not a dick). She finds world events incredibly distressing. I’m sure we all watch the news and think about it to a certain extent, but an item about war or famine or poverty will stay with her for days if not weeks. It worries at her and makes her anxious and tearful. She does loads of charity and community work, she doesn’t sit round crying about stuff, and tries to take action and do (more than) her bit to help the world. But the toll on her mental health is worrying to witness.

picklemepopcorn Tue 10-Sep-19 17:38:22

I was called 'highly strung' and 'thin skinned' as a child. I had some sensory issues, was wildly imaginative, and struggled to cope with fairly mundane situations.

I can't say what other people are feeling, but from outside, they seem more proportionate, better able to compartmentalise other people's pain, than I am.

I feel hugely emotional, to the point of not functioning well, about other people's misery. I read and feel a room very intensely and struggle to be around combative people. I also stay around needy people to the detriment of my own wellbeing.

It's actually a pain in the arse, and I'm close to moving to a caravan in the woods to get away from everyone.

TrainspottingWelsh Tue 10-Sep-19 18:19:35

The only people I’ve ever heard using it outside this thread are only highly sensitive to their own feelings, definitely not overly empathic regarding others. Or use it as an excuse for they/ their dc behaving in a selfish or attention seeking way.

I’m calm in a crisis, not overly emotional and have adhd. I don’t really fit the criteria of overly sensitive. Dd and dsd are both confident extroverts. And I resent the implication by the self proclaimed highly sensitive people I’ve encountered that our feelings are somehow less important or don’t run as deep because we don’t do big public sobbing displays. Whether that be someone’s pfb needing their own way or a self absorbed adult.

I once waited with a horse I didn’t even know, for an owner I’d never met, and held it while it was euthanised following an accident. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it and it won’t be the last, but still a very upsetting experience and moving memory. Still managed to hold it together for the horse, and later the owner without too much trouble. Unlike the ‘sensitive’ person that wailed about how upsetting they found it all, had to be dragged away before I floored them for distressing the horse and later collapsed on the poor shocked owner in floods of tears. Meanwhile insensitive, calm, robust me put their actual needs first and fell apart later. Whilst ms sensitive went round seeking sympathy for herself.

LittleMissEngineer Tue 10-Sep-19 18:20:22

It’s relatively new, I think, not sure it is a fad (but hope so).

A lot of child/parenting psychology is about trying to instil “resilience” etc. Albeit sensitively: you acknowledge things, but then try to tackle them (very it is addressing the issue, standing up for yourself, ignoring the issue etc). This is because you can’t always change what others do or the situation, only how you react to it.

However the world is moving towards over-reactions and - due to this - am awful lot of “dumbing down”.

Heard recently about a school, in the UK, that would no longer allow girls to wear skirts/dresses: everybody had to wear the same “gender neutral” uniform.

I think that we should be kind, caring and respectful to others and we should acknowledge problems, wrongs and issues. Undoubtedly, But we do our children a disservice if we don’t help them to learn resilience and to turn things around when the world is sub-optimal.

WeBuiltThisBuffetOnSausageRoll Tue 10-Sep-19 18:50:10

The only way to diagnose it for sure is to take the sufferer to the Sistine Chapel and see what occurs.

picklemepopcorn Tue 10-Sep-19 18:51:44

Welsh, I cope in the immediate situation- I'm actually known for diplomacy and being level headed.
No one thinks of me as a drama lama. But later, in a safe space, I'm in pieces, and I don't recover that well.

TrainspottingWelsh Tue 10-Sep-19 19:00:59

Exactly pickle but I’ve never met anyone in real life that claims to be highly sensitive that would behave well in public, or be genuinely effected by the plight of others, it’s all about their feelings and public pandering.

Fucksandflowers Tue 10-Sep-19 20:27:36

I would consider myself highly sensitive/high strung.

I hate injustice and will always defend the vulnerable and I will always try to understand the motives behind cruel acts.
Although I don't believe that criminals shouldn't be punished I try to think of them with sympathy also as to my mind they are obviously suffering themselves or mentally unwell in some way.

I am ridiculously sensitive, I cannot watch violent films, I try to avoid watching the news, I can't even bring myself to eat things like jelly shaped like puppies or Lindt bunny chocolate, I can find even cartoons upsetting sometimes!
Watching something upsetting, a violent scene on tv for example can affect me for days.

I find that other peoples emotions affect me, if I am around agitated angry people I often start feeling agitated and quick to irritate myself.

I am highly anxious, diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD) in fact, I am noise sensitive and all in all, I sometimes find life a bit of struggle.

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