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10 Signs That You’re An HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

10 Signs You're An HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)Many people with ADHD (myself included) identify with being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), so I thought I’d revisit this topic in today’s blog post.

I’m not saying that non-HSP’s don’t experience these traits, but it’s much more common amongst the 15 to 20% of the population who carry the gene for sensitivity (yes, research backs up its genetic origin).

Sensitivities can manifest as physical characteristics, in social situations, and at work.

I’ve created the Chick A-D-D P.O.S. System to categorize these common 10 HSP characteristics.

P= Physical sensitivities
O = Occupational sensitivities
S = Social sensitivities

See if you can find your POSition through these 10 Signs That You’re An HSP.

1 ) Loud Movie Soundtracks (P)

non-HSP: Wow!
HSP: Ow!

I remember seeing Star Wars when it first came out (yes, I’m that old). I think I actually put my hands over my ears (which, come to think of it, did make me feel like a little old lady although I was only 18 at the time). The entire soundtrack was like having the Imperial Stormtroopers’ E-11 blaster rifles shooting directly into my ears.

2 ) Big, Excited Crowds (S)

non-HSP: Fun!
HSP: Run!

I’ve had the heebie-jeebies in crowds since a young age. I can get downright claustrophobic shoulder-to-shoulder at a large fireworks display, parade, or crowded bar (at least in a bar I can anesthetize myself with a few vodka coolers).

3 ) Delicate Or Subtle Smells, Art, Flavours (P/S)

non-HSP: Miss
HSP: Bliss

Two examples of this from my life are 1) I’ve been known to sit, mesmerized, in front of a painting for over three hours at a stretch and 2) the subtleties of East Indian cuisine intrigue and delight me, with delicate nuances and undercurrents of sauteed-’til-popping-mustard-seeds, cumin and cardamom.

4 ) Crude Sexual Innuendo (S)

non-HSP: Bad-ass
HSP: Simply Crass

An example of this can be found in what I refer to as the X-rated section of a card shop:

Cover of the card – “ You know you’re getting older when your underwear creeps up on you …”

Inside of card: “… and you kinda enjoy it.”

Actually, wedgies can also fall under the P (Physical) category. Ew.

5 ) Brassiere (P)

non-HSP: Wearable
HSP: Unbearable

In about 3 nanoseconds of wearing a brassiere, I want to rip the damn thing off and run screaming back to my closet for a top that will disguise that I’m no longer wearing it. I only wear one under duress (i.e. when décorum demands it. At work, for example). Straps, underwire, the whole contraption smacks to me of bondage (I know, I know; this feature is actually an attraction to some of you, but this post isn’t the place to discuss that).

For you male HSPs, I wonder if the jockstrap is the bra-torture equivalent? Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely that a male HSP would be a jock, so it’s probably not an issue.

6 ) Unkind Remarks at Work (O)

non-HSP: no big issue
HSP: get out the tissues

HSPs are known to be highly emotionally reactive. Ok, we’re drama queens (aka “emotionally labile” in psychology-speak). The same insensitive remark would affect an HSP and non-HSP very differently. I’ve been known to break into tears at work for careless and uncalled-for remarks on more than one occasion (especially when off my ADHD meds).

7 ) Violent Films (S)

non-HSP: bring on the action!
HSP: emotional reaction

Although I love film, I have to be very selective about what I watch. I’ve missed some excellent films because of this. I just can’t expose myself to graphic violence, or even to movies where someone dies at the end. (Whatever possessed me to go to the film Titanic, I’ll never know. I think I was secretly hoping that everyone would be rescued at the end. Duh! Failure to foresee consequences is a frequent ADHD symptom, so I might have an out for that little oversight…)

8 ) Circus In Town (S)

non-HSP: fun and magnificent
HSP: torture of the innocent

Just hearing the radio ad, “the horses and elephants will entertain you,” makes me physically ill and bawl my eyes out.

9 ) Tags In Clothes (P)

non-HSP: laundering navigation
HSP: endless irritation

Ever heard of, The Princess and the Pea? – that’s me.

10 ) Being Evaluated (Watched) at Work (O)

non-HSP: doing my best
HSP: make a big mess

If you want to see me walk into furniture; develop a sudden case of Parkinson’s, dropping things randomly on the floor; giggle maniacally for no reason while cracking nonsensical and non-humorous jokes, tell me I’m being scrutinized at work. The mere concept of a “Probation Period” sends me into near-panic.

How about you? HSP too?

So – how’d you do? If you found out that you’re an HSP, no worries. Just like ADHD, there are ways to cope, and even – yes – ways to turn your challenges into strengths.

Want to find out more? Read Elaine N. Aron’s excellent book, The Highly Sensitive Person.

Follow ChickADD44 on Twitter

10 Signs That You’re An HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2012). 10 Signs That You’re An HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jul 2012
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