Mental Health

Highly sensitive person: a new study has revealed the 6 core traits that HSPs possess

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Lauren Geall
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The new research is a powerful reminder of the benefits of being “too sensitive”.

Highly sensitive people often get a bad rap for “overthinking” or being “too sensitive“, but being an HSP isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, according to a new study, there are six key traits that make up a highly sensitive person – four of which are associated with positive personality traits.

The study, which was published in the Journal Of Personality Assessment, asked a sample of 10,300 participants aged 18 to 87 to respond to a draft questionnaire based on 60 traits they identified in other studies on the subject.  

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After they got the responses, they narrowed those down to 43 qualities – which they then grouped into six factors that make up an HSP.

The six key factors they identified are as follows:

  • Emotional and physiological reactivity – for example, being “too sensitive” and getting stressed out or upset on a regular basis as the result of external stimuli.
  • Sensory discomfort – for example, being bothered or overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises or strong smells.
  • Social-affective sensitivity – for example, being able to read other people’s emotions and tell when they’re not feeling themselves.
  • Sensory sensitivity to subtle internal and external stimuli – for example, being very aware when something changes within the body, such as a dry mouth or racing heart.
  • Sensory comfort and pleasure – for example, being able to relish and take particular pleasure in nice feelings such as love, joy and relaxation.
  • Esthetic sensitivity – for example, being able to appreciate art, music, beauty and nature on a deeper and more emotional level.  

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While it’s clear that some parts of being an HSP aren’t exactly easy (in particular, the acute sensitivity to external stimuli such as bright lights and strong smells), what these six traits do reveal is that being a highly sensitive person doesn’t just leave you at the mercy of your environment.

In fact, as these six traits reveal, HSPs possess a number of unique abilities that help them engage with the world around them on a deeper and more meaningful level.  

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.