HSP: What is it?

A few days ago, I was tagged in a new social media trend “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me.” Since I tend to be an open book, I found it surprisingly hard to think of some facts no one knew (which I am not sure if this is necessarily a good thing). Mine were as follows:


  1. I have my MBA, but my first job following graduation was a job in entry level sales
  2. For that job, I moved to SF not knowing anyone or having even visited. (minus my best friend, who was insistent upon me finding my views on the city and experience for myself before letting her mold it for me. I still thank her to this day for that, but that is for another post)
  3. My hair is naturally blonde
  4. Teaching/doing yoga and writing are my personal therapy and I legitimately feel my chest lighten up when I do any of them
  5. I recently found out that I am an HSP; which commonly leaves me overwhelmed and exhausted
  6. (BONUS) I have always been religious, but have recently made it a goal to make praying apart of my daily routine


Now after posting this, I didn’t get much response (nor do I expect any), but I did have a few different people ask me:


What is HSP? First off, HSP stands for “highly sensitive person.”


After a brief explanation, one person actually said: “that makes sense why you nap so much!” 😉 …We’ll go with that. While my napping obsession I believe is due to a culmination of things (habit, anxiety, lack of sleep at night), I do believe HSP can be apart of what many refer to as a “problem” I have.


After explaining to another, I instantly “apologized” because I assumed they would think it’s another excuse in our “snowflake” (which I recently learned is what our generation is frequently called) and” entitled” society that us millennials live in. I surprised by their response:


“…I really hate that people say mental health issues are another excuse, like sorry my brain doesn’t work like yours but it doesn’t mean I’m making excuses.”


And you know what, he’s right. I’m sick of being “sorry.”


Sorry that I can’t constantly be on the go (even though I used to live for it).

Sorry for needing extra reassurance than the average person.

Sorry for needing to rest more than others.


One thing I promised when creating this blog was that I would be raw, real, and authentic. I also promised myself that I would do this because I wanted to help others. Help them resonate, help them understand, help them know they’re not alone.


Writing makes it much easier to do this as I have a very hard time being honest and explaining myself in a face to face atmosphere.


Below, I will share with you how I found out I am an HSP, what it is, and how I have learned to view and handle it.


How I Found Out I am an HSP

I recently found a therapist here in KC (whom I love, but again, that’s for another time and place) and we follow many similar outlooks on life, passions, and backgrounds. One day during a session, I explained to her about a weekend I had that brought up a lot of anxiety.


It started on a Friday directly after work with a few drinks (most peoples typical Friday night). This was followed by wandering the city, more drinking, seeing lots of different people, and less sleep than I usually get. This didn’t stop until late Sunday afternoon.


I felt depleted; shaken up. My mind was racing, but about nothing in particular. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My mind had begun sabotaging itself by bringing up negative thoughts from events that:

a) would likely never happen


b) happened a long time ago.


After explaining all of this, her first question was if I had ever heard of/been tested for HSP- highly sensitive personality.


“No, I haven’t… but I already know I’m sensitive. People tell me all the time. Not to mention, I’m sure drinking had a large factor in all of this.”


She went on to explain that the above might partly play factors, but HSP disorder actually has to do with being highly sensitive to all sensory processing. I had been around a lot of people where we were talking a lot in a bar (think loud music, people falling over, low lights, and all spectrum of sounds coming from everyone there), running low on sleep, and (as I mentioned) had been drinking.


According to Dr. Aron’s definition, “the highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.


After hearing this, a few things came to mind:

  1. This is probably just another modern scientific disorder to excuse behavior
  2. Great, something else is wrong with me
  3. This actually sounds a lot like me


She had me go home to take a quiz. If you scored 14+, you were considered HSP. I scored 24/27. I told a few people my findings and received a lot of different reactions. Some supportive, some confused, some didn’t really care because I’m still me and that’s all that matter (ps. you should definitely hold on to those people in your life).


One person mentioned, “yeah, I always knew you were sensitive.” Ha-ha! Yes, I know. But being an HSP isn’t just getting your feelings hurt or worrying about pleasing others. It’s having an abnormally low tolerance to alcohol, caffeine, and hunger. It’s getting a little more aggravated with the upstairs neighbors being loud than your roommate might be. It’s feeling on a deeper level than the average person.


What is HSP?

You can take the quiz here if you would like. If you’re also just interested, below are some common symptoms that Marwa Azab explains in his TEDx talk, “Are you too sensitive? Should you change?”:


  • has a rich and complex inner life
  • is deeply moved by the arts and music
  • gets easily overwhelmed
  • has difficulty performing a task when being observed
  • easily startles
  • is sensitive to pain, caffeine, and hunger
  • is attuned to inner bodily sensations
  • readily notices sensory changes


Elaine Aaron also explains further research along with some “relief” to fellow HSP’s:

  • your trait is normal
  • it is innate
  • you are more aware than others of subtleties
  • you are more easily overwhelmed
  • this trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood
  • sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures


How I view and handle being an HSP

Since finding out, I have some relief and some anxiety (can you believe that!).


You see, it’s a relief to know I’m not the only one.

It’s a relief to know there is a reason why I react to things the day I do.

It’s a relief understanding an even deeper depth to my anxiety.


It’s also anxiety driving knowing I have another thing I have to worry about.

It’s anxiety driving that if I decide to push myself, I’ll likely go into a 3-day anxiety driven tunnel (how ironic).

It’s anxiety driving that others might think I am just coming up with another excuse to not do something.

It’s anxiety driving that others may no longer want to be around me because I am “too high maintenance.”


Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I am only happy when I am in a silent, dark room alone (while sometimes, this is needed). I still love meeting new people, going to concerts, exploring nature, and even going out to the bars from time to time. The difference is, I just may need some more time to reboot than the average person- especially when I am experiencing sensory overload from multiple sources.


For example, my best friend invited me on a trip recently as a present. Another friend would be joining and I was so excited to go! Being around great friends, a new atmosphere, catching up, and loving life- right! Well, yes to an extent.


Yes, I loved seeing close friends.

Yes, I loved experienced amazing food.

Yes, I loved just acting like a complete weirdo (my specialty).


But, by the time the weekend came to an end, I was a mess.


Irrational sensory overloaded brain:

“I “ruined” the trip. They didn’t have fun and it was all my fault. I’m just another friend that takes more work to be around than actual fun. I need to text them over and over to apologize and let them know how sorry I am. Great, now I am being that annoying friend who is just producing their annoyance by my overbearing communication.”


All I wanted was to sleep, but I couldn’t.


Rational brain:

“Deep breaths. Think of something that has made me feel good and what that feels like. Remember when you guys laughed until you cried. Remember when you ate the best eggs benedict? When you drank that delicious bloody mary? When you walked around outside feeling the sun beating down on you? Deep breaths.”


A few days later, which was accompanied by a lot of sleep, prayer, Brene Brown, yoga, writing, and deep breathing; I began to feel myself again.


I am okay. I am more than okay. I am loved to depths of my soul – all the good, bad, and in between – by not only those friends but many others and most importantly, God. I might be a little more fragile at times. I might need a little more sleep. I might have days that my brain has convinced me that I am selfish and unworthy.


But, I also love and I love a lot. I also laugh at just about anything and about 95% of what comes out of my mouth is sarcastic. I still enjoy long talks and binge-watching Netflix. I still have a blast playing games (arcade, board, you name it) and trying new things.


Writing all of this is very nerve wracking- are people going to no longer want to be around me? Do they think I’m being another entitled millennial? Do they think I’m not fun anymore?


Well, while I might be many things, I have recently learned I am not a mind reader. I have also learned that living my life on eggshells so that I can be the “fun, laid back, girl everyone wants to be friends with” is exhausting.


Choosing to live authentically is really scary at first. Speaking your truth leaves space for vulnerability and the chance that your worst nightmares might come true; that people won’t accept you or, even worst, leave you because of it.


When and if they do, remember it is not the end of the world. This journey will help you find others living authentically, truthfully, and judgment free. It will also show you what love is and who really loves you. You will learn how many other people have experienced what you have and empathize. Or, how some haven’t, but choose to love you anyway.


These people are your tribe; Your angels. These people are your people. So smile and find comfort in that.


You are not anxiety.

You are not depression.

You are not an HSP. (Well you are, but you get what I mean)

You are not too much.


You are loved and you are love.

You are beautiful just the way you are.

You are unique and perfect in your own way.

You are you. <3


With all of that being said:

How many of you have heard of HSP before?

How many of you found tactics to help relieve it in various situations?

How many of you think I’m crazy?

How many of you love me anyway? 🙂


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