Could you be living with a highly sensitive person (HSP) and not know it? Many people who have an HSP personality are unaware of it, in many instances not even realizing that such a thing exists. Needless to say, if they don’t know the truth about their HSP personality you aren’t likely to know either, unless you’ve learned how to identify the signs on your own.

Defining the HSP Personality

A highly sensitive person is wired to respond quickly and strongly to everything that is going on around them. Their five senses are heightened, and they often display exceptional emotional sensitivity. They are highly perceptive and intuitive, which adds an element of surprise and mystery to their relationships. Because they have a tendency to become overwhelmed in a broad variety of circumstances, an individual with an HSP personality will frequently need time to themselves to relax and unwind.

The HSP personality is detectable from the physical, psychological, and emotional sensitivities that define it. No two highly sensitive people are exactly alike, but they share certain characteristics that make it possible to recognize them when you interact with them on a regular basis.

The great news is that highly sensitive people are kind, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, and considerate, and if you learn to understand and respect their needs and vulnerabilities, your relations with your closest HSP companions will be joyful and mutually fulfilling.

Reading the Signs: The HSP Personality Revealed

You may be living with and sharing your life with a highly sensitive person right at this very moment. Here are 10 signs that will let you know: 

#1 They will notice even the smallest details

Highly sensitive people often amaze others with their uncanny ability to spot the slightest oddities, deviations, inconsistencies, or subtle details in the surrounding environment. It may seem as if the HSP is listening and staring intently at everything going on around them, looking for tiny irregularities so they can point them out.

In fact, they aren’t any more focused on their surroundings in this regard than anyone else. Like the greatest fictional detectives, i.e., Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, HSPs simply notice many small details that others miss, and they can draw conclusions from those details that would never occur to most people.

#2 They can become overwhelmed by excessive sensory experiences

A highly sensitive person may react negatively to an environment you find perfectly normal. You’ll likely notice their visible expressions of discomfort or fatigue, which are clear signs that they’re feeling overwhelmed by something. It might be too much exposure to loud noise, pungent odors, or excessive movement or motion in their visual fields. Their feelings might also be triggered by the presumptuous or overly extraverted behavior of people who in one way or another refuse to honor the HSP’s personal boundaries.

If you have an HSP in your life, you probably already know that they cannot handle crowded or overly busy environments for very long. Their need for moderation in all things sensory-related is one of their defining personal characteristics.

#3 They frequently hear or smell things you don’t

Here’s something people who live with an HSP personality will commonly experience. Their loved one will suddenly proclaim that they can hear a strange noise or detect an odd or unusual odor, either coming from outside or from somewhere in the house.

As a non-HSP, you won’t hear what they hear right away, or smell anything at all at first. You may even be skeptical, thinking that they’re imagining things. But eventually, perhaps after stepping outside or wandering around the house a bit, you’ll finally notice it and realize they were right all along. A highly sensitive person really does possess heightened senses, and they will often surprise you with what they can hear, smell, or see.

#4 They may have aversions to whole categories of taste or food

Unsurprisingly, highly sensitive people have highly sensitive taste buds. They will truly relish the foods or favors they enjoy, but they frequently have strong aversions to one or more categories of flavor, such as sour or bitter. These sensitivities can make them seem like picky or even eccentric eaters, and you may be disappointed to find that the new dishes you sometimes prepare aren’t being greeted with much enthusiasm.

Once you know what they like and don’t like, this is certainly not an insurmountable problem. But you should realize that the avoidance of entire categories of taste is typical behavior for the HSP personality.

#5 Their feel physical pain more often and more intensely than most people

When a highly sensitive person is injured in some way or suffering from some type of chronic pain, their reactions may seem wildly out of proportion at times. What you must realize is that their responses are not over the top, but an indication that they really do feel pain more acutely and more intensely than most people.

The HSP personality can be easily hurt both mentally and physically. Their sensitivity is entirely real, as they are not the kind to create drama for drama’s sake. What would be a small hurt for you could be highly unpleasant to them, and in fact they are often surprised by the lack of a reaction in people who have a higher tolerance for pain.

#6 They often have powerful emotional reactions to TV shows or movies

Does the person in your life frequently cry, express unbridled joy, or otherwise react with intense emotions while you’re watching television shows or movies together? Do they love to discuss what happened after the presentations are over, and do they express sympathy or disappointment with the behavior of characters, as if they were real people?

If so, that is a telltale sign that you’re living with an HSP personality. Highly sensitive people are super-empathic, so much so that they can identify strongly with the life struggles of imaginary characters almost as easily as they identify with real people.

#7 They don’t like to be hurried or feel pressed for time

Living with a highly sensitive person will require you to adjust to their rhythms, if you want to help them maintain their emotional equilibrium.  One thing that really bothers them is when they’re pushed to get things done quickly, or when they’re pressed for time because they’re juggling different responsibilities and feel like they’re falling behind.

They won’t respond well if you try to hurry them up, even if you do so gently. This will only add to their stress and frustration. The best thing you can do is to try to lighten their load by helping them out if you can. Together you can try to organize your lives to avoid situations that you know will be anxiety-inducing to the conscientious and sensitive HSP personality.

#8 They don’t enjoy amusement parks, fairs, or carnivals

People who are highly sensitive are easily overstimulated by the adrenaline-boosting rides you find at amusement parks and similar venues. While you might be thrilled by the speed and up-and-down movement of the roller coaster, your companion with the HSP personality will not, and they may regale you with stories about how they’ve gotten ill in the past whenever they’ve ridden on such attractions.

Your HSP companion won’t care much for the noise of the less-than-healthy foods you find at such locations, either. They prefer more low-key and peaceful environments and less intense activities, where the stimulation is moderate at best.

#9 They seem to be able to read your thoughts and emotions

People with HSP personalities are not psychic—at least not as a general rule. But they are extremely empathic, and that makes them extraordinarily sensitive to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the people around them. They are especially tuned in to the feelings of those they care about the most, which they demonstrate through an advanced form of intuition that can make it seem like they know their closest companions as well as they know themselves.

A highly sensitive loved one will surprise you on a daily basis with their accurate insights into your psychological and emotional states. You won’t have to tell them anything; they will simply know what’s going on and be ready to offer you kindness and understanding.

#10 They have a passion for healthy living

Highly sensitive people are acutely aware of what is going on inside their minds and bodies. They are fully attuned to their own physical and mental states, which is why they generally make a concerted effort to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.

Most men and women with an HSP personality will consume nutritious foods, get plenty of sleep, exercise on a daily basis, and avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Their commitment to wellness is an outgrowth of their sensitivities, which can leave them feeling sick or anxious if they compromise on their healthy habits for even a day or two.

The Clues are Obvious, Once You Know the Truth

These are just some of the signs that will let you know if your partner, friend, or family member is a highly sensitive person. There are many other clues that can reveal their personalities, and now that you have a general idea of what to look, for you’ll likely have no trouble identifying quite a few more.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.