The Difference Between Being Highly Sensitive and Hypersensitive

October 21, 2016

Although the two are often confused or understood as the same, being highly sensitive and hypersensitive are two very different things.

  • Hypersensitivity is equal to emotional fragility and delicate feelings.
  • Being highly sensitive is a biological predisposition that makes identifying certain feelings less difficult.

An example of a hypersensitive person could be a colleague at work who misinterpreted one of your gestures. On top of getting angry and ‘exploding’ in the middle of the office, they file a complaint with your boss.

When it comes to a highly sensitive person, a good example could be that, when something negative happens, they are more concerned with the other person’s reaction.

woman butterfly reflecting

 Biology vs. emotions

As I mentioned above, being highly sensitive is a biological predisposition. This means that it actually has little to do with emotions themselves. Much like other biological factors, being highly sensitive is complex and greatly depends on one’s surroundings.

You can be highly sensitive and not hypersensitive. If you’re highly sensitive, it can be very hard to hurt your feelings if you have emotional abilities. The point is that highly sensitive people are capable of perceiving if another person’s emotional state is genuine.

This gives them the tool to hurt others, if they so desire, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to hurt them or manipulate them emotionally. If they have developed positive emotional abilities, they can be a great support system to their family and friends.

A hypersensitive person is usually this way due to their experiences and upbringing. If they haven’t had the emotional support needed to make them strong and give them the abilities to face the world, they will end up being affected by other people’s opinions about them.

Characteristics

Since it can sometimes be confusing to try and differentiate hypersensitive people from highly sensitive ones, we’d like to detail and explain a few of their unique characteristics.

Hypersensitive people:

  • Are insecure. This is because they don’t know how to differentiate between someone attacking them, and someone making a comment with no intention of criticizing them.
  • Most of the time, haven’t learned to deal with their emotions. This causes them to be silent regarding their feelings. That is, until they get to a point where they can’t keep holding it in, and explode.
  • Make use of negative tools such as emotional blackmail and aggressiveness while speaking. This is done to feel a certain sense of superiority.
  • Are very susceptible to what others say and do. 
  • Had negative experiences during their childhood and teenage years that they haven’t gotten over. These can span from their parents getting divorced, to them being overprotected, and even to being bullied and suffering domestic abuse.
woman crying sad blue

Highly sensitive people:

  • Have a great ability to empathize. Although this can seem like a good thing, it can cause a lot of a confusion. Confusion starts setting in when they haven’t had a good, strong emotional education.
  • Can grow apart emotionally from the people around them. This happens most frequently when they haven’t learned to involve themselves in what’s going on around them. Everything makes them feel overwhelmed.
  • Are very intuitive. From people, to animals and equipment, they’re able to grasp and understand everything with great ease.
  • Prefer solitary activities, so as to better focus on their goals. Working with others can also make them feel stressed if they haven’t learned to cope with high sensitivity.
  • Are very observant. If you have a friend who’s highly sensitive, he’ll surely be the first one to notice any changes. Whether it be in your decor, your mood, or your appearance, a highly sensitive person will notice that change.

What they have in common

Something that highly sensitive and hypersensitive people have in common, is that they can learn to be stronger.

Remember that even if you can’t alter your genetics, you can at least learn different abilities that will help you improve as a person. Although hypersensitive people typically have trouble differentiating between certain tones or emotions, they have a great ability to understand stimuli that goes unnoticed by most.

Something that can help is to simply talk to the people around the hypersensitive and highly sensitive persons. By doing this, they learn to understand them. If it doesn’t work out, though, psychotherapy is also a viable solution. Through therapy, certain life behaviors that are desperately needed for day-to-day interactions, can be relearned.