25 quirks of highly sensitive people

Have you ever felt like you have certain quirks or traits that other people find weird?


Like having the brightness on all your devices turned down as low as it will go. Jumping a mile high if someone suddenly sneezes or the doorbell unexpectedly rings. Or avoiding certain TV shows and news articles because of the violence.

Well chances are, you're a highly sensitive person (HSP).

Are you an HSP? Find out here.

What it means to be a highly sensitive person

About 25% of the population are highly sensitive which means even if you're not one, chances are you will know someone who is. 

Despite this, the traits of HSPs are still fairly misunderstood. Irrational, emotional, weak, anxious, and fussy are typical connotations that come to mind when thinking about sensitivity. Yet HSPs are a perfect evolutionary balance to the rest of the population.

You see HSPs are born with a nervous system that processes sensory, mental and emotional information on a deeper level. This means that they are aware of the little details. Attuned to subtle changes. Perceptive of their environment. 

So thinking back to evolutionary terms and cavemen days, it was the HSPs who were aware of a slight rustle in the bush from a sabre-toothed tiger and other subtle cues that indicated a threat or danger.

But the challenge of processing deeply is that sensitive people can become easily overwhelmed because they are taking on board so much information. For instance, a non-HSP may walk into a party, get a rough idea of the layout, see some other people milling about and head on over to their friends.

An HSP, on the other hand, walks into the same party and notices the texture of the furniture, the colour of the walls, the outfits people have chosen to wear, their facial expressions too, the different moods and energies that are circulating, the aromas wafting through from the kitchen.

It's exhausting. No wonder an HSP battery drains a lot quicker.  

In order to manage being overstimulated, highly sensitive people create coping mechanisms to protect their sensitive nervous system, strategies that to other people can seem bizarre or strange. 

So here are some quirks that you may have, or odd things you do, that are in fact just down to you being in the HSP tribe. Not all of these will resonate with you because we're all unique beings, but I'm sharing them here as a way to invite conversation, understanding and normalising to sensitiveness. 

Highly sensitive quirks

You seek meaning in all you do

Highly sensitive people crave more from life. Their careers, relationships, activities, and pursuits need to have purpose and meaning. Often they find themselves reflecting on the bigger, maybe even spiritual questions, such as Why am I here?

You avoid conflict at all costs

Everyone finds conflict uncomfortable to some extent as it activates the fight, flight, freeze response. But to an HSP, raised voices, arguments, and disappointment can be unbearable and many will go to great lengths to avoid those situations, even when it negatively impacts them in the long run. 

You crumble under time pressure

There are some people who thrive under time pressure, but for the HSP that is rarely the case. Whether it's handing in coursework, a project deadline at work or rushing to catch a train, the sensitive person feels physical and mental stress intensely. 

You love hard

Sensitive people feel their emotions strongly and so whilst a breakup can feel like an actual heartbreak, falling in love, and all that comes with it, is magical. 

You feel other people's emotions

It can sometimes be hard to separate your emotions from the emotions of those around you. A sensitive person can often feel like an emotional sponge, absorbing the anger, sadness, frustration, and grief of the people around them. This can be especially challenging in a relationship.

You often feel misunderstood

The world hasn't been designed for HSPs. There's an unwritten expectation that we ought to be working hard, out every night, burning the candle at both ends. Often decisions and choices are misunderstood or attributed to being shy, weak, introverted, and un-social which doesn't tally up with who you believe yourself to be.

You find it harder than most to say no

An HSP desires to please. They can easily put themselves into another person's shoes and feel the disappointment of their decision, which results in cycles of saying yes, even when they know it will negatively impact them. They would rather suffer than feel they caused someone else pain.

You feel uncomfortable in tight or restrictive clothing

HSPs prefer to wear soft fabrics and loosely fitting clothes that don't feel restrictive. Wearing trousers with a tight waistband or a cardigan made of some itchy fabric can be so unsettling as to distract you entirely from what you are supposed to be doing.

You remove labels in clothing due to itchiness

A label at the base of your neck, or around your waist can be so irritating that it easily becomes the focus of the day.

The sound of people eating makes you want to scream

Sensitive people are highly attuned to noises around them. This could be loud music in a restaurant or someone talking obnoxiously on the train. But even the subtle hum of the fridge at night or your partner chewing his pasta can be enough to cause an HSP intense stress.

It takes you an age to decide what you want to order in a restaurant

Perhaps there are many things going on here, like the environment your nervous system is adjusting to, the conversation you're trying to keep up with, the emotions of people dining with you and the choice in front of you. HSPs like to consider their options carefully before making a decision and for non-HSPs that can seem like an unnecessarily long time. 

You get hangry easily

Sensitive people are naturally more sensitive to the dips and spikes in their blood sugar. So when a sensitive soul is hungry, they are seriously hungry. The dip in blood sugar can lead to feeling hangy, irritable and distracted. 

Finding the right volume is an art

One digit down and it's just too quiet. One digit up and it's as if a megaphone is screaming in your ear. Finding the perfect level of volume takes practice and is an art you have comfortably mastered. 

If it hurts, it hurts

Whether it's a headache or a stubbed toe, the pain is real. Research has shown that the area in the brain associated with managing pain is more receptive in an HSP's brain than in others. 

You seek solitude after a workday

Being sensitive doesn't mean that you don't like socialising or spending time with people. It does, however, mean that your social battery drains more quickly and that after a day of interaction, you likely crave some time alone to recharge. 

You zone out in crowded places

People might mistake it for day-dreaming but when an HSP is in an overcrowded environment they might temporarily check out to give their overstimulated brain an opportunity to pause from processing their surroundings. 

You're easily startled

Your colleague sneezes and you jump a mile. The doorbell rings unexpectedly and you stifle a squeak. Since the dial on your nervous system is already turned up due to acute awareness, something seemingly innocuous can trigger the fight, flight, freeze response. 

You feel genuine empathy for an inanimate object

With an active imagination and a tendency to feel other people's emotions, HSPs can project their own feelings onto things around them. For instance, selling your car could lead you to imagine how the car must be feeling a sense of rejection in your decision and so you feel sorry for the car.

You have an aversion to certain textures

Materials like velvet or the touch of chalk can irritate some highly sensitive people to the point of anger or extreme discomfort in a way that non-HSPs cannot understand. 

Smells can change your mood

Strong aromas can both please or irritate you. Unpleasant smells to you could be a 'socially accepted' aroma like a person's choice of perfume. Yet if it doesn't sit with your nervous system it can become so intrusive that you physically need to distance yourself from it.

You avoid violence in the media or on TV

Violence, whether seen or read, can linger in an HSP's mind for a lot longer than other people, with images that haunt them for days. But more than this, the violence can be too much for someone whose emotional pain is magnified by feeling it all.

Stimulants stimulate you big time

Caffeine, alcohol, and drugs can impact HSPs more potently because their nervous system is more sensitive to the effects.

Noise-cancelling headphones are an essential

Focusing at work or on a project at hand with background noise can be extra challenging for a sensitive person. Even listening to instrumental music can be too much for a nervous system that is already absorbing everything else around them. 

You have the brightness turned down on all your devices

Many HSPs prefer natural lighting and will opt for low lighting or candles when indoors. Screen fatigue is real and as such their devices are often on the lowest setting for brightness, or even dark mode. 

You need more sleep than others

We all need sleep, but for sensitive people, sleep is a powerful elixir. Less than seven hours and an HSP can seriously struggle to function the next day. Sleep is when the body gets to recharge an overworked nervous system in preparation for the next day. Many sensitive people naturally learn to organise their life in a way that allows for them to be in bed at a reasonable hour. 

Understanding your sensitivity empowers you to shift from regarding it as a hindrance to viewing it as one of your greatest strengths, a superpower in fact. Sharing this information with family, friends and colleagues is a beautiful gift.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW6 & Lymington SO41
Written by Alexandra Taylor, Holistic Life & Mindset Coach for Women
London SW6 & Lymington SO41

Alexandra, is an experienced Integrative Coach supporting her clients in overcoming their inner critic and reaching their full potential. She helps people to make the changes that they wish to make so that they can lead happier, healthier and more balanced lives.

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