23 Things Highly Sensitive Is Not

I was one of the many people who read this article with a mixture of feelings. I am thankful that the mainstream media is picking up highly sensitive and running with it to spread the word, but I get a little annoyed when the chosen imagery and headlines do little to eradicate the misunderstanding that exists about what being highly sensitive actually means. The image used in this article only served to reinforce the notion that many people have that highly sensitive people cry a lot and about very little. The title of this article implies that there is something wrong with highly sensitive people.

23 Things Highly Sensitive Is Not

So let’s clear this up. This is what highly sensitive is NOT.

  1. High sensitivity is NOT a disorder. It’s a set of personality traits.
  2. Highly sensitive is NOT a made up thing.
  3. High sensitivity does NOT look the same in every highly sensitive person. Each highly sensitive person, just like every other person on this planet, is unique. Some people are sensitive to noise, others to taste, others to activity around them. Some are introverts and some are extroverts.
  4. A highly sensitive person does NOT spend their entire day crying uncontrollably because they see a kitten, someone stands on their foot or they see a news report. Highly sensitive people experience emotions intensely and process things deeply, but they do actually spend a lot of their day completely tear free. Our tissue expenditure is not as excessive as the mainstream media would have you believe.
  5. Being highly sensitive has nothing to do with tree hugging (a school teacher once suggested the two things may just be connected – yes, he is still breathing but we are no longer attending the same school).
  6. Highly sensitive people do NOT see dead people. There is a tendency to be spiritual because of the deep processing that highly sensitive people do but don’t expect to engage your highly sensitive friend in any ghost busting activity any day soon. It’s not a normal highly sensitive trait.
  7. Highly sensitive is NOT something parents make up as an excuse to molly coddle their children. Highly sensitive children genuinely struggle with processing the excessive sensory input that our world constantly throws at them.
  8. Highly sensitive is NOT something that every parent thinks their child is, like one mother suggested: “All kids are highly sensitive. Is HSC actually a diagnosis? Every mother thinks her child is more sensitive than other children.” The fact is that 20% of children are highly sensitive. 80% is not.
  9. Highly sensitive is NOT the same as autism.
  10. Claiming a child is highly sensitive is NOT an excuse to not discipline a child.
  11. Highly sensitive is NOT the same as sensory processing disorder.
  12. Highly sensitive people and children are NOT drama queens or kings. They are easily overwhelmed and have issues processing the excess stimuli their environment.
  13. Highly sensitive children are NOT broken. They do NOT need fixing. 
  14. High sensitivity is NOT an excuse highly sensitive people use to get out of attending your birthday party.
  15. Highly sensitive is NOT the same as ADHD.
  16. Highly sensitive is NOT caused by being an overprotective parent.
  17. Highly sensitive children are NOT attention seekers. They become more easily uncomfortable – either physically or emotionally.
  18. Highly sensitive children are NOT special needs children.
  19. Highly sensitive children do NOT automatically need special education. They benefit greatly from support in the classroom to reduce the stimuli they have to deal with, which can greatly effect their concentration. However, being highly sensitive is not a prerequisite for special schooling.
  20. Highly sensitive people do NOT need to grow a thicker skin.
  21. Being highly sensitive is NOT a negative thing.
  22. Being highly sensitive does NOT mean a visit to the doctor or a professional is necessary.
  23. Highly sensitive children, particularly boys, do NOT need to toughen up. All children should be able to be who they are, to live authentically and not have to meet society’s messed up expectations of them. Let children be children. Let highly sensitive children be highly sensitive children.



About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
This entry was posted in The What and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 23 Things Highly Sensitive Is Not

  1. Pingback: Understanding a Highly Sensitive Child | Happy Sensitive Kids

  2. Lucinda Leo says:

    Amanda, I’ve been enjoying so many of your blog posts recently and been desperately meaning to get round to coming over and thanking you!
    I know what you mean, it’s nice to see sensitivity getting wider press (like introversion did a few years ago with ‘Quiet’) but one does tend to wince when it gets the heavy-handed treatment.
    As a parent it becomes rather wearing having people accuse you of causing the ‘problem’ by pandering to your children, doesn’t it?
    I feel so much better about myself now that I understand this is just the way I’m wired. I’ve stopped apologising (well to be honest the habit is a work in progress. I catch myself before I apologise out loud and then have this internal debate with myself about why I shouldn’t have even felt the NEED to have to apologise. Etc!). And I like to think I’m bringing up my kids to have so much more appreciation of their uniquely authentic natures than I ever did.
    Thank you for the eloquent way you celebrate neurodiversity!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your kind encouraging words Lucinda. It is hard to stop the mindset of feeling like you have to apologise because you have to work outside the expected norms…. but it is getting easier as I understand more about myself and my children and our highly sensitive natures. It also helps to hear from other parents who get it – and that support makes such a difference!

      Liked by 1 person

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