top of page

What does it mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person?

HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person, also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). This term was coined by psychologist, Elaine Aron in the early 90s. 

High sensitivity is a personality trait that is held by 20% of the population. Around 50% of people who seek therapy tend to be highly sensitive and may not realize it. 

Signs you may be Highly Sensitive:

  • You sometimes notice that in large crowds or loud places your sense of overwhelm is higher than your peers

  • You have been labeled (by others or yourself) as an empath, intuitive, or both

  • Whether introverted or extroverted, you find you get more easily exhausted after highly stimulating situations and take longer to recharge (this may not have been the case when you were younger, but is more of a nuisance as an adult)

  • You are easily moved (maybe even brought to tears) by nature, creative expression, happiness and joy

  • You are constantly accommodating the needs of others, or at least attuned to their needs.

    • Example: You're often the one to notice if someone is too hot or too cold, offering a beverage in case someone is thirsty, feeling & sensing the moods and needs of others, even if you don't know them well.

  • You feel pain, sadness, and upset very deeply (whether directly yours or regarding someone close to you)

  • You may have a hard  time watching media with violence or hearing/reading about it

  • You startle easily and may be jumpy

  • You are extra sensitive to caffeine, medication, physical pain, alcohol or drugs

  • You find yourself getting deeply involved in books, movies and stories to the point that you feel what the characters are feeling

  • You have been called "sensitive" or "shy" in certain situations, or at some point in your lifespan

  • You are very particular about textures, tight or uncomfortable clothes or fabrics, strong smells, loud noises, lighting, ambiance, or temperature

How does therapy help?

I work with the HSP client on examining the different avenues of life that may require adjustments in order to increase the odds of equilibrium.


Many HSPs struggle with tendencies of:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Sensitive Feelings

  • Isolation

  • Chronic Pain

  • People-pleasing

  • Overwhelm

  • Irritability


Due to lack of knowledge and awareness, most HSPs were not raised in a home that accommodated their personality trait. No matter the age of the HSP, there is still time to make the necessary adjustments to help ease the overwhelm. 

A typical approach in therapy may look like this:

  1. Education on the HSP trait and identifying your sensitivities 

  2. Recognizing your unmet needs as an HSP and working to discover the root cause/exploring your HSP timeline

  3. Highlighting areas that you have the power and desire to adjust

  4. Communicating your needs to those close to you

  5. Maintaining a new approach to your world as an HSP and utilizing the trait to your benefit


This may involve larger life transitions (such as career change, housing adjustments, relationship dynamics, or others), and we will work through each of them together.

Where can I learn more about the Highly Sensitive Person on my own?

Elaine Aron has several books regarding the HSP, and I highly recommend them all. To take a self-test, check out her website at

Another wonderful resource: 

bottom of page