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What is an HSP? – Understanding the Highly Sensitive Person

hsp highly sensitive personHighly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a buzzword in the personal growth and mental health community.

What is HSP? I took the opportunity to interview Joe Capriotti, an HSP Coach, in search of answers.

Here are some commonly asked questions about HSPs, and Joe’s answers.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

According to the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, between 15-20% of males and females equally are born with a finely tuned, highly sensitive central nervous system.  Feelings such as empathy are one component of the trait, however there are many physical components as well.

Is HSP a clinical diagnosis?

Scientifically referred to as Sensory Processing Sensitivity, the HSP trait is innate and genetic in nature, and not a medical diagnosis.  Being born with a finely tuned, highly sensitive central nervous system is more like having blue eyes or blonde hair, in that there is no choice or environmental factors involved.

How do I know if I’m an HSP?

Are you sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights, or sharp scents?  Do you process information very deeply, and prior to responding?  Do you feel emotions very deeply, or are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, alcohol, medication, pain or hunger?  Take Dr. Aron’s free self-test for yourself or on behalf of your child at

How many HSP’s are there? Is it common?

There is estimated to be roughly 1.3 billion Highly Sensitive Persons globally, and I would bet the majority of them don’t know it.  Individuals not related to a Highly Sensitive Person probably work with and are friends with some HSPs.

How should I feel about myself as an HSP?

You should feel very special about being born with the trait!  It is considered to be a survival strategy of thinking deeply before acting, and is found in 100 different species globally.  We provide balance to the 80% majority who don’t share this trait, something the Creator saw fit to impart in our world.

Can people recover fully from Sensory Processing Sensitivity?

There is no reason to attempt “recovering” from this natural, innate and wonderful trait.  Some may take prescription meds to help desensitize or otherwise fit in better with the 80% majority of the population.

Are there techniques to help manage the trait?

The biggest challenge for HSPs is in not becoming over-aroused due to too much stimulation in our environment.  School-aged HSPs benefit from uncluttered classrooms, and time to fully process new information.  Adults will benefit by managing their schedules to build in needed down time between high stimulus tasks and environments.

Taking some down time to relax, meditate, read or listen to music in between vacation activities will also greatly benefit HSPs.  You will find other helpful tips in my blogs at

Which books do you recommend for HSP education?

The Highly Sensitive Person (mentioned above) and The Highly Sensitive Child by Dr. Elaine Aron. Also, Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Barrie Jaeger and finally, Strong, Sensitive Boy and The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide by Dr. Ted Zeff

What about coaching or therapy? Is it recommended for HSP?

Both are wonderful options that Highly Sensitive Persons may benefit from for different reasons.  Those living with traumatic childhood memories, for whatever reason, will of course benefit from therapy.  HSPs wanting to learn about their trait, how to fully embrace it, and want help in reaching their goals in order to thrive in life will benefit from coaching.

What can I do to help someone else with Sensory Processing Sensitivity?

Let them know that their trait is normal, and is found in up to 20% of us globally.  Point them towards some of the resources in this article, and encourage them to spend time with other HSPs when they can.  There are several HSP Meetup groups across the country that HSPs are certain to enjoy (

What if my spouse or partner identifies with the trait?

I encourage you both to view Dr. Aron’s film entitled ‘Sensitive The Movie’ featuring Alanis Morissette.  Check out the trailer at

Do HSP’s have hope for a wonderful life?

Oh yes….and the sooner we learn about the trait and how to most benefit from it, the better!  The trait is least pronounced between the ages of 13-30.  I feel that learning about the trait as a youth sets one up for success down the road….for example, honing the skill of building down time into one’s schedule, spending time in nature, finding appropriate physical activities, and learning how to share information about the trait with others.

What is the future of the HSP community?

The topic is just scratching the surface right now.  Famous Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung was aware of the trait as early as the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until Dr. Aron’s research in the mid-90’s and subsequent books and seminars that folks began talking about HSP.

I recently wrote a blog on LinkedIn entitled Is it time for HSPs to Speak Up, encouraging just that in order to do the most good for the most amount of people.  I’d love for our trait to be globally recognized in my lifetime, and given Dr. Barrie Jaeger refers to the trait as “The next human diversity in the workplace issue”, maybe it will!

For more on Joe Capriotti, visit HSP Mentor.

What is an HSP? – Understanding the Highly Sensitive Person

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2016). What is an HSP? – Understanding the Highly Sensitive Person. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Nov 2016
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