Although people with anxiety and other mental health challenges know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by your surroundings, for some people this sensitivity is more than a once-in-a-while phenomenon — it’s engrained in their personality. It’s called being a “highly-sensitive person” (HSP), a personality trait in 15 to 20 percent of the population, that makes those who have it more sensitive to sounds, feelings, pain and other everyday stimulation. In a loud and sometimes overwhelming world, people who are highly sensitive can be easily susceptible to anxiety and depression if they’re not taking care of their needs.
To get a sense of what people who have this trait need, we asked highly-sensitive people in our mental health community to share one thing they wish others understood about their experience:
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “I wish they would get we recognize everything around us more deeply than other people. Nothing can be ignored. That’s why being in a room full of people can be really exhausting.” — Birgit K.
2. “Most of the time it’s just as much of a surprise to you as it is to me when I start crying. I cannot control my emotions sometimes and they usually emerge suddenly even when I’m only slightly upset.” — Ashton P.
3. “We aren’t ‘just dramatic.’ We actually feel things stronger than other people. It’s like burning your hand when you already have a wound. It’s the same pain, but I sometimes feel it more because I’m more vulnerable.” –Cinthya G.
4. “I wish people understood that as a sensitive person, I am always analyzing my behavior and the temperament of those around me to avoid conflict, misunderstanding and impoliteness. This makes it hard to concentrate on much else.” — Jac J.
5. “If I could control it I would, but I can’t. I don’t cry at the drop of a hat for attention or for sympathy or to get what I want. It’s completely uncontrollable, uncomfortable and highly embarrassing for me.” — Rebecca R.
6. “Respect my personal space. The closer people are to me physically, the more I take on their (usually) negative energy. It drains me. If I can feel your body heat, you’re too close.” — Crystal R.
7. “Everything about my body is sensitive so it only makes sense I’d have a sensitive mind. Having Asperger’s, it is really hard to communicate to others, I just keep it simple and say I feel like a mirror and I reflect emotions.” — Andrew M.
8. “I’m not trying to making it about me. But rather, if I was in any way part of the problem causing you discomfort in any way, I want to recognize it and be part of the solution. I sense deeply when you’re troubled and I just want to be there to support and encourage if it’s possible. I don’t have a hidden agenda.” — Robyn W.
9. “I will remember things that were said or done weeks, months and years down the road. Something others wouldn’t give a second thought may stay with me indefinitely.” — Ginny B.
10. “I can’t just ‘get over it.’ Yes I know it’s not a big deal and I wish I didn’t take everything to heart, but I do and nothing can change that.” — Hannah C.
11. “My quietness and conservative ways are not that I’m a snob, I’m an emotional person and I have social anxiety too, so sometimes just a casual conversation [makes] my heart beat out of my chest.” — Brittney V.
12. “I’m not weak because I’m sensitive. In fact I think it makes me stronger [to] express my emotions so openly. I can feel the full spectrum of human sensitivity.” — Taylor C.
13. “While others view ‘sensitivity’ as a weakness or annoyance, I find great pride in feeling things so deeply. It causes me to be more empathetic, passionate and to look very deeply into the actions and personalities of other people around me.” — Alexandra R.
14. “If you ask me ‘what’s wrong?’ and I say nothing, please don’t push me to tell you at that moment. Most likely, the second I start explaining, I will burst into tears and feel worse. Give me some time to calm myself then we can talk.” — Holly L.
15. “Please don’t judge me. Believe you me, there in no one who judges me more than myself.” — Sarah C.
16. “I wish people understood sometimes I just need to be left alone in silence to collect myself and try to feel normal again.” — Taylor C.
17. “I’m not crying for effect or attention or to manipulate you. Trust me, I’d rather not be crying right now. It’s exhausting to feel this much.” –Nicky P.
18. “I just wish they would really listen with the intent to understand what I am saying instead of dismissing my feelings simply for the fact they do not understand.” — Brooke C.
19. “We aren’t drama queens.” — Anna L.
20. “Even though my body might be in front of them, my brain is far away and undetectable. Depersonalization is what I wish people understood.” — Shannen F.
21. “When I feel, I feel to my core.” — Becca R.
What would you add?