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Actors and Artists As Highly Sensitive People

One of the most defining personality qualities of creative people may be high sensitivity, which can be experienced as sensory reactivity, and emotional intensity.

Here are some comments by actors about being sensitive and emotional – perspectives that other creative people may share.

Jennifer Beals once said, “I get emotional all the time. I get emotional every time I make a speech, or talk about other cast members. Every now and again, my heart just explodes and expands.” [Photo: with Tim Roth in the TV series Lie To Me.]

Laurel Holloman, Beal’s castmate on the Showtime series “The L Word,” has seen this firsthand: “If Jennifer is passionate about something, it comes to the surface within seconds. My theory on that is all the best actors have a couple of layers of skin peeled away. There’s a huge emotional life in Jennifer, and it’s kind of beautiful.” [From article The Real Beals, by Jancee Dunn, Lifetime, August 2004]

Nicole Kidman has noted, “You live with a lot of complicated emotions as an actor, and they whirl around you and create havoc at times. And yet, as an actor you’re consciously and unconsciously allowing that to happen… It’s my choice, and I would rather do it this way than live to be 100… Or rather than choosing not to exist within life’s extremities. I’m willing to fly close to the flame.” [Interview mag., Oct 2003]

Brittany Murphy once said she considered herself “a very oversensitive, vulnerable person. You have to be to do this for a living.” [Premiere, November 2000]

Scarlett Johansson has noted that sensitivity can have a dark side: “I think I was born with a great awareness of my surroundings and an awareness of other people… Sometimes that awareness is good, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t so sensitive… sometimes you don’t wanna see what’s behind people’s doors.” [Interview mag., July, 2001]

Winona Ryder has commented, “I’ve never been a suicidal person. But there have definitely been times when I’ve thought, I’m too sensitive for this world right now; I just don’t belong here – it’s too fast and I don’t understand it.”

Ellen Muth [in the TV series Dead Like Me] has noted her character George/Georgia does care about people, “but she puts on this front like she doesn’t really care about anything and I kind of like that. George’s sensitivity is very hidden, but when it slips out she very quickly makes it so nobody else sees it… George tries to hide her emotions and I tend to do that.”

She adds, “One of the great things about acting is that you are able to release all sorts of things through another character.”

While there are many deeply rewarding aspects of being creative and highly sensitive, there can also be emotional and mental health challenges, including anxiety.

[More in my post High Ability, High Sensitivity, High Anxiety.]

Creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi also commented on this in his article “The Creative Personality” – saying, “Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain.”

[Quoted in article After the Show: The Many Faces of the Performer, by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.]

Thankfully, creative people keep learning to acknowledge, respect and use their sensitive personalities for work that benefits and entertains us.

Actors and Artists As Highly Sensitive People

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2010). Actors and Artists As Highly Sensitive People. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Sep 2010
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