Growing up, did you feel overwhelmed by bright lights and loud sounds? Were you more sensitive to criticism and correction than your peers? Were you an affectionate child who loved hugs?
If you can relate to any of these examples, you might have been a highly sensitive child (HSC). Many times, highly sensitive children grow up to become highly sensitive people, who make up about 15-20% of the population. A highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone who is more sensitive to sounds, feelings, pain and other everyday stimulation than the average person.
We wanted to know what “signs” people recognize now that helped them understand they were highly sensitive children, so we asked our Mighty community to share their experiences with us. Read what they shared below.
If you were (or are the parent of) a highly sensitive child, you’re not alone. Children with heightened sensitivity are often deeply compassionate and self-aware, but are often easily overwhelmed, and may shut down or lash out when they are struggling. If you can relate to comments mentioned below, we want to remind you there is no shame in feeling things intensely.
Here are 10 signs you might have been a highly sensitive child growing up:
1. You Cried Easily
“I would cry seemingly at the drop of a hat, and no one seemed to understand that it was so much more than the insignificant thing that triggered it.” — Sindhu V.
“I would lie in bed at night and cry hysterically. For the stray animals I knew were outside, for the homeless people I saw on the street, for the rainforest and all the animals humans had made extinct. I would be despondent and inconsolable.” — Samantha S.
“I would cry when someone was yelling. Anyone. It didn’t even have to be directed at me — just the yelling itself would upset me. I never really figured out why, but even as an adult I’m really sensitive to sensory overload. If it’s too loud or there are too many people taking at once, or loud music, it’s too much for me to handle.” — Jenn G.
2. You Got Upset If You Made a Mistake in Class
“I would cry a lot when I received criticism from teachers or would get something wrong.” — Shelby V.
“I would get scared and cry when the teacher would correct me when I made a mistake in class.” — Genevieve R.
“I always cried in math class because I didn’t understand. Other kids who didn’t understand just asked questions. My teachers would get so frustrated with me and start yelling which would just make me cry more. I still hate math to this day.” — Annie L.
3. You Needed Hugs More Than Your Peers
“Always wanting hugs.” — Kelly H.
4. You Were Particular About Texture
“I would have fits about clothes… Some textures were overstimulating and I would have meltdowns about the inner stitch in socks touching my toes. (Everyone said I was a nightmare to take shopping!) — Miranda K.
“A lot of crying and arguments about food textures and brushing my hair, which I found out later made sense because I had a sensory disability.” — Christie J.
5. You Felt Extremely Attached to Your Parents
“I couldn’t separate from my mother. I would come home from school and immediately tell her every single thing about my day. If i missed something, I felt bad about myself and my relationship with my mom. Very difficult to sustain. I was too sensitive. I couldn’t handle life on my own.” — Michelle H.
“I was also in the nurse’s office a lot in school because I wanted to be home with my mom because of my anxiety about everything.” — Miranda K.
6. You Lashed Out in Anger When Overwhelmed
“Everyone considered me to be a nightmare child. I was constantly filled with rage and lashed out constantly at the tiniest things. My mom told me she would go to work crying because she couldn’t handle it.” — Bryce A.
7. You Felt a ‘Need to Confess’
“Feeling guilty for thoughts and the urge to ‘confess.’ As a child, I used to confess my thoughts, ones that made me feel like a ‘bad’ person… I needed validation that I wasn’t.” — Kirsty M.
8. You Were a ‘Picky Eater’
“Being very picky about the food. The smell, taste and the ‘texture’ really mattered to me.” — Ola H.
9. You Struggled to Speak When Anxious
“Selective mutism. Severe anxiety to the point that I couldn’t speak.” — Becca R.
10. You Connected Deeply With Music
“When I was younger, I used to fall asleep listening to our local soft music station. I would stay up past my bedtime and listen to dedicated love songs, and even at 7 or 8, I would cry listening to the instrumentals or lyrics. I ended up playing violin for 12 years, and being an HSP [highly sensitive person], it was a great outlet for my creativity. Music became a huge part of my life, and still is in my mid 30s. I still cry over songs and my taste varies with my mood. Sometimes being an HSP is draining and overwhelming, but most if the time, it reminds me of how lucky I am to feel everything so deeply.” — Gretchen H.
If you recognize any of these childhood behaviors, you’re not the only one. While it’s true that being sensitive and feeling all the feels can be emotionally exhausting at times, we want to affirm that being in touch with your emotions is a beautiful thing worth celebrating.
Related Stories From Our Mighty Community:
- 21 Secrets of ‘Highly Sensitive’ People
- What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety
- 16 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’re Emotionally ‘Numb’