The Highly Sensitive Person: Definition of the Trait


Let’s talk about the trait of high sensitivity and give it an accurate definition that you can even choose to share with others to help explain the trait. Included also is a video discussing the trait. When I offered to answer questions that highly sensitive people have about the trait, I realized a lot of people are still unclear and need to understand the basic definition of the trait so we will cover that in today’s blog post. I’ve made it my mission to be sure that accurate information about the trait is available.

The following is an excerpt from the book, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person.

HSP 101

Highly sensitive beings suffer more but they also love harder, dream wider, and experience deeper horizons and bliss. When you’re sensitive, you’re alive in every sense of the word in this wildly beautiful world. Sensitivity is your strength. Keep soaking in the light, and spreading it to others. — Victoria Erickson

What is a highly sensitive person? Here’s a quick definition for those of you new to learning about the trait.

Back in the 1990s, psychologist Elaine Aron, a pioneer in researching this unique innate trait that at least 20 percent of the population had, named those with this trait the highly sensitive person (HSP), but in the scientific world, it is known as sensory processing sensitivity. It is NOT a disorder. This trait evolved as a survival strategy of the population and offered greater sensitivity and responsiveness to environmental and social stimuli. People with this trait had specially developed abilities that helped them be good at finding food, mates, and a safe place for the tribe to live.

They have researched and found this trait in over a hundred species so far, and it is found equally across genders. 70 percent of highly sensitive people (HSPs) are introverts. Aron presented a good way to summarize the HSP trait with the acronym DOES, which stands for depth of processing, overstimulation, emotionally responsive, and sensitivity to subtle stimuli.  In chapter eight we go into more detail about these as well as the specific brain differences we have already found in the HSP. Read More

One of the more difficult aspects of this trait is that we can often feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. I think of it like having a supercomputer brain where we are downloading and processing more information than 80 percent of the population. There are different levels of sensitivity that people experience, so thinking about things in terms of the physical senses might mean that we need to adjust lighting, we may be more impacted by smells, noises, textures, or tastes, and we also tend to be more drained by crowds.

There are certain challenges associated with being a highly sensitive person. For example, we may experience more overstimulation, depletion, and often feel misunderstood and different than others, especially because we are the minority and experience the world in a different way. We also tend to have increased awareness and are more intuitive, more empathetic, and feel things more deeply.

Why This Approach Works

I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, “For the same reason I laugh so often—because I’m paying attention.” — Glennon Doyle Melton

Most books are written for the way those without this trait, what we call non-HSPs (the other 80 percent), experience the world. The techniques I have developed are an approach that works for HSPs specifically because it is written for how we experience the world and takes into account our unique brain differences. We do experience the world differently. Many of us have been told how we experience it is somehow wrong or we need to toughen up and harden ourselves to fit in. I am telling you something else.

You were born with incredible strengths and gifts as an HSP, and this is a manual to help you harness them to your highest potential. I believe you can reach your goals and dreams and that you will keep taking those steps higher and higher. When you are living at your potential you are going to change the world and make it a better place. HSPs are the kindest, most compassionate, and empathetic, wonderful people in the world. You care deeply about others, and you try really hard to be your best every day. I know that because I see it in my clients and students every day. Anyone that follows my work or social media knows I am incredibly passionate about this trait. I have taken it as a personal mission to spread awareness and education about this trait and to help HSPs rise to their highest level.

I firmly believe we have these incredibly gifted, supercomputer brains, but no one taught us how to manage them! Until now. I’m here to teach you about your amazing HSP trait and to show you the potential of what is possible. You are the way you are for a reason, and by the time you finish this book, I hope you are on your way to soaring as an empowered HSP! Once you get to a place of flying, you can pay it forward in the world in all the ways we need it. I know that about you. If you are aligned within your center and honoring you, then you are out there in the world making it better. It’s just who you are. So in a way, this book is my contribution to the world. It shares with you my journey and the journey of thousands of HSPs like you who want less suffering and more joy and peace in ourselves and in the world.

I get so excited when an HSP reaches a point in their life to be ready to grow and take the steps toward empowerment! When an HSP first comes to work with me, they are usually suffering quite a bit and yet there is something inside of them that is ready for a change. The moment you started reading this book is the pivotal moment where your life starts to transform. I believe in you so much because I have seen the same thing happen to the HSPs I work with, a spark that is lighting you up inside. This spark is saying you want something better for yourself and for those around you. When we are not living to our highest potential that impacts everyone around us. I know if I’m not balanced and centered it impacts my children, my partner, my work, and my whole life. Thankfully, the reverse is true too. When you make these changes in your life, it is like a domino effect in the positive direction too. Every aspect of your life starts to transform as you step closer to living a life that works for you and allows you to be your best self.

P.S. Find out how my brain-training program can help you live to your highest potential.

P.P.S. The following are so many important resources for you that I invite you to check out. The first step is learning about your unique HSP brain differences to help you understand why you experience the world in the way you do. We can make real and life long changes to reduce overwhelm so you can get your life back!

  1. Highly Recommended: Don’t miss out! Subscribe to my HSP blog for weekly tools, tips, and support.

  2. Check out the dozens of pages of information on my HSP resources page that I invite you to explore.

  3. Subscribe and watch the many ongoing free videos I’ve done teaching techniques on my HSP Youtube channel

  4. Join my HSP tribe on my HSP Facebook page for connection and my free live trainings. Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter and Linkedin too.

  5. Learn more about my 8-week online HSP course

  6. Read the recommended HSP books

  7. Listen to these HSP podcasts

~Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, global HSP consultant, and leader in the field of high sensitivity and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions. Julie teaches an online course for HSPs and is the author of several books.

Julie BjellandHSP, HSP trait