Ever heard someone being described as a hypersensitive person or a highly sensitive one? You might think they are one and the same, but actually, the two are completely different.

The best way to describe them is that hypersensitivity is an emotional state whereas high sensitivity is biological. To demonstrate what the difference between a hypersensitive person and a highly sensitive one, let’s take a hypothetical incident:

A car has accidentally gently hit another car whilst backing out of a parking spot.

A hypersensitive person might jump out of their car and shout and scream at the driver, demanding their insurance details, and making a big deal out of the tiniest bit of damage. A highly sensitive person would be more concerned that everyone was ok and no one was hurt.

Hypersensitive Person vs Highly Sensitive Person

There is no evidence to suggest that hypersensitive people’s brains react any differently to people who are not hypersensitive. However, new research suggests that the region of the brain that deals sensory information and empathy is different in HSP’s.

HSP’s have the following characteristics:

  • They startle easily at loud noises and bright lights
  • They find large crowds overwhelming
  • They are incredibly sensitive to sights, smells, and touch
  • They get overstimulated quickly
  • They have a ‘Princess and the Pea’ reaction to physical things
  • They find it hard to ‘tune out’ their environment
  • They need downtime to recharge their batteries
  • They work well in nurturing environments such as teaching and counselling
  • They are more likely to be artists and musicians
  • They are highly empathic and get upset easily
  • They are intuitive and very observant
  • They prefer solo sports
  • They tend to be people pleasers

Now that we have a clearer idea of what an HSP is, here are 8 signs of a hypersensitive person:

  1. Their reactions are over-the-top

You can always spot a hypersensitive person in the stores or the movies. They’ll be the one complaining at the top of their voice to the manager or screaming at the scary bit in the film.

Their reactions will appear much more exaggerated than the rest of us. They’ll be the ones laughing the loudest at the funny film, or sobbing their hearts out at a wedding. If there is a world tragedy, it will affect them personally. Don’t be too concerned though, it’s shallow and all for attention.

  1. The slightest thing sets them off

Do you find you are always treading on eggshells around a particular person because you don’t know what is going to upset them this time? Do things that seem fine one day cause the most dreadful reaction on another? Are these reactions completely off the scale compared to the situation? This is a classic sign of a hypersensitive person.

  1. They become easily overwhelmed

This isn’t the same as the above although it looks very similar. A hypersensitive person tends to want to do their best and takes on much more than they can handle.

This often leads them to feel overwhelmed but due to their hypersensitivity, they don’t let on until it is too late. Then, they erupt and people think they are being difficult.

  1. They focus on the tiny details

Because hypersensitive people are attuned to their emotions, they are also very good at the finer details in life. So if a hypersensitive person is making a fuss about some small detail that looks irrelevant to you, perhaps you should pay it some attention. It might be important.

  1. They are over-analysers

Hypersensitive people will spend hours and hours going over a text message, an email, and a conversation in their head, to get a clear picture of the situation. They are like a dog with a bone when it comes to getting to the point of an issue.

Most people can let things go but not a hypersensitive person. They will pursue a matter to the point where is it embarrassing for them. The problem is, all the while they are focusing on the past, they are not fulfilling their future.

  1. They are extremely self-aware

You might not think so after reading the comments above, but hypersensitive people are very self-aware, to the point where they can even laugh at themselves. Those that are will know exactly what sets them off, their triggers, how to back down and to relax and how to stop over-reacting.

Those that are self-aware and can manage to control their outbursts tend to go onto have very successful careers. Their sensitivity towards situations and others is a bonus in the workplace.

  1. They prefer to work alone

Because hypersensitive people get upset easily at the slightest little thing, it is natural for them to work well when they are on their own. Teamwork is too stressful as it means compromising and collaborating and this doesn’t come naturally to them.

  1. Are insecure and emotionally immature

Hypersensitive people have not learnt how to deal with their emotions, which is why they often react in an over-the-top manner. It is this insecurity that often leads them to make the wrong assumption about people.

For instance, a friendly critique by a colleague that the majority of us would take as a nudge in the right direction, a hypersensitive person would view as a personal attack.

Are you a hypersensitive person?

If you think you can relate to either set of characteristics, then be assured that there is nothing wrong with being hypersensitive or an HSP. Both have traits that can be beneficial.

For those that recognise they are a hypersensitive person, it doesn’t have to be all negative. Recognise your triggers and understand that there are some benefits of being hypersensitive.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk

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