Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size

    Are You Too Sensitive?

    Do you take things too personally? Overanalyze the situation? Feel defensive? Then you are almost certainly among the group classified as Highly Sensitive People.


    To protect themselves, HSPs often withdraw or attack. According to Aron, they have six main methods of self-protection: minimizing, blaming, overachieving, inflating, projecting, and choosing not to compete. All of these behaviors are defensive in nature and tend to exacerbate the condition further, as they often lead to an HSP's getting wounded twice - first when she feels the pain of a perceived slight (prompting her defensive response), and again when the other person responds aggressively to that reaction. "HSPs should carry a warning card," says Capobianco.

    But HSPs are not just people who get their feelings hurt easily. Part of the condition is having a complex inner life and an active imagination. Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, found that during the Holocaust, sensitive people tended to fare better than their outwardly tougher counterparts. He writes, "Sensitive people ... may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution) - but the damage to the inner self was less. How else to explain the paradox that prisoners of less hardy makeup were often able to survive life in the camps, whereas those of a more robust nature were not?" Given this, it's not surprising that HSPs tend to be creatively gifted, and that a large percentage have become famous because of their particular talents (many HSPs consider creative types as diverse as Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, and Winona Ryder to be one of their kind). And given how beautifully they describe the pain that comes with feeling so intensely, both Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf were almost certainly HSPs.

    But the message that Aron is intent on sending to all HSPs is to "stop trying to pretend you're not an HSP." At times, of course, pretending not to feel so much may be necessary. But by being selective with our surroundings, minimizing stress, managing our nervous systems through things like yoga and exercise, and by carefully choosing whom we spend time with, HSPs can play to their strengths. Cognitive behavioral therapy (where you challenge your negative thoughts with logic), as well as antidepressants, can also help. What's more, when an incident occurs that you find hurtful, Aron suggests clearing the air by sharing your reaction.

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
    Take your medication
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Hungover man
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Woman worn out on couch
    Happy and sad faces
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    laughing family