Prostock-studio/ShutterstockBeing a highly sensitive person can come with many challenges. HSPs may struggle to adapt to new circumstances, may demonstrate seemingly inappropriate emotional responses in social situations, and may easily become uncomfortable in response to light, sound, or certain physical sensations. On the other hand, HSPs often report that they form deep bonds with others, have exciting dreams and internal monologues, and find great enjoyment in art, music, and human connection.

Like all personality traits, there are pros and cons to being highly sensitive. With proper support and a recognition of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, HSPs can set up environments in which they can thrive.


New Research on the Emotions of Highly Sensitive People

A recent study examined whether highly sensitive people are affected more strongly by negative events only, or by both negative and positive events.

The paper, authored by Van Reyn et al., and published in the August 2023 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, is reviewed below.

The highly sensitive person and sensory processing sensitivityWhat does it mean to be a highly sensitive person? Sensory processing sensitivity refers to individual differences in the perception of and response to stimuli (e.g., noise, light, touch).

Sensory processing sensitivity is considered a temperament or personality trait with four components:

  • Strong emotional reactions.
  • Deep processing of sensory data.
  • Enhanced awareness of environmental subtleties.
  • Great susceptibility to overstimulation.

The Highly Sensitive Person Scale, developed by Aron and Aron, is used to measure individual differences in environmental sensitivity (see Table 1). A high score is associated with greater sensitivity.

Source: Arash Emamzadeh (adapted from Aron and Aron, 1997)

An important question is whether highly sensitive people show greater reactivity only to negative stimuli (e.g., an invalidating childhood environment, abusive romantic relationship, hostile workplace) or positive stimuli as well (e.g., a loving family, supportive romantic partner).

Investigating sensory processing sensitivity and positive/negative eventsSample: 239 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers; 129 males, 108 females, and two non-binary; average age of 37 years old (ranging from 20 to 72 years); 86 percent American.

Participants were asked to complete an initial survey, plus 21 scheduled daily diaries.


  • Highly Sensitive Person Scale: 27 items; for example, “Are you easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input?” and “Do changes in your life shake you up?”
  • Daily life satisfaction: One item (“How satisfied were you with your life today?”)
  • Daily self-esteem: Degree of agreement with the item, “Today I had high self-esteem.”
  • Daily positive and negative affect: Level of agreement with 13 emotion items from the Affect Valuation Index (e.g., angry, enthusiastic, happy, lonely, relaxed).
  • Event appraisals: Eight items. For instance, “How threatening was the experience?”
  • Event descriptions and intensities: Participants’ descriptions and appraisals of the day’s most positive and negative events.

Sensory processing sensitivity and the influence of negative environmentsThe present research, the first-ever longitudinal investigation of sensory processing sensitivity, found that increased sensitivity correlates “only with greater emotional reactivity to negative events.”

Specifically, those with high sensory processing sensitivity experienced more negative emotions and lower self-esteem, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction in “response to more subjectively intense negative events.”

11 Signs You Have A Strong Personality But Are Also Super-Sensitive

Being a strong and sensitive person may seem contradictory when you think about it. How can you stand up for yourself and others if you get shy every time someone is looking at you?

Being strong isn’t always about being the loudest or the biggest person in the room. It’s about how you treat others and how you look at life. Someone who is sensitive and strong may not always know what to say at the right time, but they’ll always be a shoulder for you to cry on and be someone who listens.

A combination of such personalities makes you a sharp person who is also in tune with their feelings and emotions. In short, you are at an advantage when it comes to dealing with everyday life.

What does it mean to have a strong but sensitive personality?

As a strong person, you can take anything that life throws at you; pair that with a dose of sensitivity, and it makes you more sympathetic to those around you. To be a strong but sensitive person means you have traits that encompass sensitivity to the feelings of others as well as emotional strength.

Individuals with this personality exhibit specific traits like resilience, determination, and assertiveness, as well as being attuned to the emotions and needs of those around them.

RELATED: Four Of The Cruelest Things That Can Be Done To Super-Sensitive People

Here are 11 signs you have a strong but sensitive personality type because, yes, it’s completely possible.1. You get overwhelmed sometimes.

Yeah, sometimes the world is an overwhelming place. But you don’t let it kill you. That’s the strength. You feel your feelings, sure, but at the end of the day, you’re a fighter who doesn’t give up.

2. You call people out.

But only when they deserve it. You’re in touch with your feelings and you know when someone deserves to be called out. You’re sensitive, so you have an acute awareness of details.

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