History and Psychological Background
High sensitivity is commonly associated with being shy, timid, awkward, or simply quiet. It affects more introverts than extraverts (roughly 70% of reported cases).
In actuality, it encompasses the wide range of symptoms experienced by sensory (and emotional) stimuli—thus individuals who are HSPs can “overreact” to events and intuitively “pick up” on others’ feelings.
Different from social anxiety (the persistent fear of socializing and messing up during in-person interactions), high sensitivity is the natural reaction from an individual’s brain wiring.
In other words, it’s a completely biological condition—all in one’s genes and brain wiring.
High sensation seeking, on the flip side, is the recurring tendency to seek out thrilling (and sometimes dangerous) situations in order to feel invigorated and satisfied.
Boredom is a chronic problem for HSS individuals, who have a high baseline engagement threshold.
To combat feelings of stagnancy and flatness, they may engage in behaviors that resemble that of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Personality Disorder).
HSP and HSS: Definitions
HSP (Highly Sensitive Person): Has an aversion (often physiological in nature) to extreme sensory input, such as loud sounds and bright lights.
HSS (High Sensation Seeker): Has an inclination for adrenaline-boosting activities, such as gambling, skydiving, and roller coasters.
Examples of HSP and HSS Behaviors
A HSP may, on a near daily basis:
- Feel fatigued from their surrounding environment
- Take several days to a week in order to recover from socializing
- Gravitate towards low-stimulation environments
- Only work in specific settings (e.g. no overhead light)
- Spend large amounts of time alone
- Overanalyze messages through texts or body language
- Blow a small mistake or suspicion out of proportion
A HSS may, on a near daily basis:
- Have an extremely short attention span
- Get impatient easily while waiting in line
- Lose their temper without warning
- Actively search up ways to feel “high” or “alive”
- Cause trouble with relationships, consciously or unconsciously
- Become agitated when faced with no activity
- Start and abandon a slew of hobbies and projects
Ideal Career Ideas for the HSP and HSS
Individuals who are highly sensitive tend to find career fulfillment in:
- Veterinary sciences
- Graphic design
- Natural therapy
- Speech pathology
Individuals who are high sensation-seeking, in contrast, tend to find career fulfillment in:
- On-site forensics
- Performing arts
- Stunt driving
- Travel writing
Can You Be Both HSP and HSS?
Yes—although it’s relatively uncommon. An appearance of both traits may be misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety, or even ADHD/ADD.
A lack of vitamins (such as D or B12) or a thyroid disorder may also contribute to the anxiousness in HSP or restlessness in HSS. Sometimes, these conditions can be comorbid (i.e. occur simultaneously).
Significant overlap between conditions exist, however, it’s best to consult several psychological professionals before settling on any decision and taking next steps.
HSP and HSS: Final Thoughts
Individuals who are HSP, HSS, or both all possess innate talents and gifts.
Through understanding and education, we can all acknowledge the colorful diversity in behavior and personality.Remember: no one is inherently “wrong” or “broken” as a complex and uniquely talented person.
Mcmanus, Helen. (2012). Psychotherapy and the highly sensitive person. Improving outcomes for that minority of people who are the majority of clients. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. 12. 1-2. https://doi.org/10.1080/14733145.2012.655955.