Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, but I also like my T-time. (Tamara Time). I didn’t realize until a few years ago that not only do I like alone time, but I require it to be happy. Back when buying books from bookstores was common, I would walk into the bookstore and look around until a book “jumped out” to me. One day a book called Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) stood out to me. I took it off the shelf (it may have fallen off the shelf) and I began to read it.

After reading just a few pages, I knew this book was right for me and that it would change my life forever. The book discusses how some people are more sensitive to certain things than others are.. The author, Dr. Aron, provides questions to see if you are a highly sensitive person and strategies to lead a productive happy life.  

Here are questions from her book to see if you too might be a highly sensitive person:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?

  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?

  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?

  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?

  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?

  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?

  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?

  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy? Visited on July 6, 2017.

When I took the quiz in the book, I answered yes to many of the questions and could finally put a name to the many things I experienced for much of my life.

After reading this book, I had many ah ha moments from my past. When I was a college student, my roommate was extremely social and loved to party. I too enjoyed going out, but each day I would need to go back to the dorm room to take a nap for an hour or two to regain my energy before I could rejoin the party. I now know that I was overstimulated and needed a little solitude to recharge.

The other day I was walking down the beach with a friend. He said, “Don’t you just love that sound?” I asked which sound he was talking about. To him, he only heard the sound of the ocean, but for me, I heard the waves of the ocean, the breeze passing by my ears, people talking nearby, kids playing, and music on the boardwalk. This is how my everyday life is no matter where I am. I simultaneously notice many of the sounds, smells, lights, noises, and touch (fabrics) all around me.

I used to work in an office where everyone sat in cubicles. It was easy to collaborate and build camaraderie but as a highly sensitive person, my senses were overwhelmed on a regular basis. I could hear noises from many of the desks and people, I could tell you if someone was eating pot roast for lunch ten cubicles away, and if someone sprayed body spray anywhere near me, I would get a headache.

I have spoken about experience that might not seem positive but being a highly sensitive person, I feel like I experience some things more deeply than others. I really enjoyed eating delicious desserts, savoring a great cup of chai tea, sitting on top of a mountain after a long hike, or listening to a song on the radio. I know that everyone can enjoy these things, but I believe when you are a highly sensitive person, you feel and experience things on a whole new level.

When I sit and observe people, I can pick up on things others may not. While working at the office with cubicles, we would have many group meetings. The days where I was not leading the meeting, it was amazing the facial expressions I would notice. If I would call someone out on it, they didn’t even realize they were doing it.

What else have I learned about being a highly sensitive person? Well, I get overwhelmed in places where there are a lot of people or crowds. I try to avoid going to concerts, fairs, and places crowds congregate. When I am near a large group of people (for me that can be 3+ people), I feel like I am an antenna on high alert absorbing all the thoughts, feelings, and energy of other people, which is very exhausting. If being in a large crowd is unavoidable, I try to schedule some alone time after that event to decompress and recharge. My alone time could be at home, a short walk, going to the bathroom (it’s shocking how peaceful the bathroom can be), or sitting in my parked car.  Having this awareness has changed my life.

There’s nothing wrong with being a highly sensitive person, we just experience life differently than others. Sometimes the experiences are amazing and we are so glad we are highly sensitive. During other times, we may wish we weren’t so sensitive but that’s okay. We are unique!

So, what does this mean for you? When you read the questions above, did you say yes to many of them? Does my story sound familiar? If yes, you too might be a highly sensitive person. If you are, learning strategies to take care of yourself can change your life. If you are not a highly sensitive person, but you are married, date, work with, or have a friend who is, you could learn strategies which might help you understand them and be supportive in their lives.


Tamara Small

Happiness Now