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Different Types Of Sensitivity

So after spending a month researching sensory sensitivities that some HSPs experience, I began to understand the finer differences between what HSP is actually about and how to not confuse it with other type of sensitivity.


People would call Highly Sensitive People empaths, even though its not the same. Empaths are attuned or ‘sensitive’ to other people’s energy and emotions.

These are the people who would feel your pain or happiness as their own. These are also the people who would cry with you when they see you cry, or get super excited if you’re exited. And, these are the people who just get you even though you may be very different from each other.

Although empathy is not just an inborn trait, it can be learned and trained. I believe any person can and should try to become more empathetic. However, the current preference of society in business world lays towards apathetic people because ‘feelings are distractions’ or for other left-brain reasons.


We all know these people, the ‘thin skinned’ tribe. Sensitive people are affected most by words and their thoughts. It can be argued that they are somewhere on the same page with Highly Sensitive People, but I like to separate these to give more clarity.

These are the ‘normal’ people with some not so great habits of overthinking, victimising and overreaction. All of these are learned, which means that sensitive people can learn to replace their bad habits with better ones and become less sensitive.

This is not to say that something is wrong or bad with sensitive people. All people are sensitive until we learn a better way to live for ourselves and for others.

And a person can be sensitive if they where deprived or not stimulated by a certain stimuli enough or for a long time (like new and undiscovered things in life).

Sensory Sensitivity (Hyperesthesia)

Now, being highly sensitive to one of the sensors (such as hear, smell, vision or touch) is a neurological disorder.

Hyperacusis, or noise sensitivity, makes it difficult for people to experience everyday sounds because they can be too loud or too many.

Hyperosmia, or smell sensitivity, is a hyper acute sense of smell. Generally people experience smell loss, so this is sensitivity is not as common.

Photofobia is sensitivity to light, which is caused by medical issues and is treatable.

Tactile defensiveness, or touch sensitivity, is a disorder where your body responds to different types of touch in way that doesn’t help you deal with whatever is causing you discomfort.

And sensitivity of the last sensor we have – taste – is not a disorder, but rather a system of preferences.

High Sensitivity

Elaine Aron, in her book Highly Sensitive Person, gives this definition of the trait that identifies people as highly sensitive:

“The highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”

Elaine N. Aron

It is important to highlight that HSP is not a mental or neurological disorder, which distinguishes it from ADHD and Hyperesthesia.

These are the people who waste a lot of their energy on fine details of their daily lives, sometimes without even noticing. It is if they are really in the present most of their lives, even though it is draining to pay attention to most things at once.

These are the people who can become sensitive to words or thoughts (like the sensitive people do) because they are overstimulated or overwhelmed by the amounts of things they pay attention to. And for the same reason their senses may become over-aroused as if they have hyperesthesia.

And Highly Sensitive People are more often than not very empathetic people. Personally, this comes from being too aware of the other persons body language and the fine movements of their face muscles or subtle changes in their voice tone.

So as you can see all of these are quite different from each other. I hope that brought some more clarity to you on this topic.

Thank you for reading this post, and I’ll see you this Saturday for a flash fiction piece to illustrate how the world looks like from Highly Sensitive Persons eyes.

(Featured image source is here.)


By Jevgenija Zukova

I'm a second year university student doing Accounting and Finance course. I stand together with other female entrepreneurs to bring sensitivity into the business world, fun of art and creativity into local communities, and awareness of highly sensitive people.

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