Peter has written extensively about high sensitivity since 1997 when he learned he was an HSP.
Sensitive Men: A Case of Statistics Masked by Cultural Biases
Dr. Elaine Aron, along with other researchers studying the trait of high sensitivity, often cites the statistic that approximately 15-20% of the population fits the definition of a "highly sensitive person." Furthermore, the indications are that equal numbers of men and women are highly sensitive. Whether one subscribes to the 15-20% figure as "truth," or not, it is often hard to believe that there are just as many highly sensitive men as highly sensitive women.
I have been part of the global HSP community since 1997, and personal observation—from workshops, online groups, local groups and surveys—suggest that HS women (at least in the United States) outnumber HS men by a factor of about 5 to 1. But appearances can be deceiving!
In digging deeper for a better understanding of this glaring disparity, I believe most of these outwardly visible differences are ultimately the result of cultural biases, rather than a statement about the true ratio of sensitive men to sensitive women. Stated a little differently, I believe there may be just as many men as women who fit the HSP description, but the majority of the men—for a wide number of reasons—remain hidden from public view, either by choice, societal pressures to conform to specific male ideals, or as a result of lacking information and awareness.
Highly Sensitive Men: the Hidden HSPs
I was motivated to write this article after I spent an afternoon studying the visitor logs from my blog and web sites about the HSP trait. On all three of my old"sites (for which I have more than ten years of visitor data), the single-most used search phrase leading people to those sites—by a considerable margin—is "sensitive men." On one site, this keyword accounts for 25% of all external search phrases, compared to the number two search phrase with 7%. I should add that the particular site in question has little more than a couple of paragraphs on the topic of "sensitive men," and 15+ pages on other HSP-related topics.
So, what gives? Why are so many people looking for information about Highly Sensitive Men when there appears to be so few? I believe this pattern of search activity suggests that there really are a large number of HS Men in the world, but they remain largely hidden from view.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron
So why don't we see them?
I feel that that modern society—especially in the United States—has created a set of cultural ideals that make it particularly difficult for Highly Sensitive Men to learn about, and come to terms with, and then be open and honest about their sensitivity.
Apart from the many who simply ignore the possibility that they might be an HSM, I feel certain there are also significant numbers who may be aware of their sensitivity, but feel hesitant or afraid that anyone else might find out-- even their families and loved ones. They labor under our societal tendency to label sensitivity—especially in men—as a weakness, and even as something to be made fun of.
As a result, it is extremely likely that many HS Men live lives of quiet suffering—many choosing to mask and "narcoticize" the pain of not fitting the male ideal with alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or other addictions.
Growing up Male: Welcome to the "Boys' Club!"
Let's review, for a moment: The human socialization process—especially in the United States, but also in many other western nations—tends to be centered around some fairly well-defined norms and rules, when it comes to gender roles.
Although the "New Age" and self-awareness movements have done much to encourage people of both genders to be true to themselves, there remains considerable—even if subtle—pressures for people to follow a set of guidelines as to "how men are" and "how women are."
If you're a guy and reading this, you might have been told, early on in life (as was I) things like "boys don't cry!" and that "being emotional is for sissies!" You were perhaps taught to be "strong," and to "tough things out" when difficult situations arose. Perhaps you were told that showing your emotions "was for girls." Most were also taught to be aggressive and competitive, and that—in many cases—it was okay to push other people out of the way (literally and metaphorically) to get what you wanted.
The message was fairly clear: "strong" meant that you had to be forceful, combative, competitive and largely unemotional—and if you were sensitive, cooperative, and caring, you were perceived as "weak" or "effeminate."
These were—and largely remain—the basic unwritten rules of "the boys' club." And if you deviate significantly, you quickly get labeled as an outsider or "weirdo."
If you're male and an HSP (which I typically shorten to "HSM" for Highly Sensitive Man), you may actually have been quite successful at doing these things, and at adapting yourself to the boys' club rules of conduct. I did, for many years. But, at the same time, you may also have felt a sense that something was "wrong," like you were putting on an act just to get along, and like you weren't truly being yourself. I felt this, for many years, as well.
Gender and High Sensitivity
I've touched briefly on the issues of traditional gender roles and the fact that HS women seem to outnumber HS men by a wide margin. I also used the phrase "cultural bias," and I'd like to expand a little on this.
Whereas it may seem a bit unfair, it is a fact that most western societies regard sensitive men and sensitive women quite differently. I'm by no means implying that being a highly sensitive woman is easy; I am just pointing to the fact that the phrase "SHE is so sensitive!" doesn't carry the depth of negative connotations attached to the phrase "HE is so sensitive!"
A highly sensitive woman will struggle with precisely the same issues of overstimulation and overwhelm as a highly sensitive man; however, public perception will be different. The woman may be regarded as "fickle," "high maintenance" and "a fragile flower," but it may not all be framed in a negative light. In some instances, "being sensitive" may even be regarded as a positive attribute.
With very few exceptions, a sensitive man is labeled negatively the instant he identifies himself (or is identified) as such. At best, he can hope to be labeled as a "sensitive New Age guy" and might become a bit of a "ridiculous character"—at worst, he is perceived as a "weakling," "sissy," or not a "real" man. Of course, these are just superficial characteristics.
For an HSM, there are actually some serious practical implications, relating to how we choose "leaders" in our playspaces, workplaces, and relationships. Whereas it may be an outdated paradigm, fact remains that "sensitive" and "gentleness" still tend to work against men, in a group of their peers. Hence (for example) one of the reasons why HSM tend to be underemployed at their places of work, and seldom rise to leadership roles in traditional company settings.
Recognizing the Highly Sensitive Man
In 1996, Dr. Elaine Aron created a self-test that helped people determine whether or not they are highly sensitive. This free test—still available on Aron's website—is equally valid for men and women. If you have not already taken it, I highly recommend taking five minutes to do so. As I said, it's free.
Take Elaine Aron's sensitivity self test (opens in a new tab)
In addition, here are some general attributes often common to HS Men. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor do all these characteristics apply to all HSP men. They are the result of meeting and knowing dozens of HS Men over the course of the past almost 20 years. In no particular order:
- HS Men are often soft spoken and "yielding," rather than forceful and assertive.
- HS Men often have more female than male friends, but are not necessarily "sexually involved" with their female friends (if heterosexual).
- HS Men were often not interested in-- or good at-- team sports, while in school.
- Heterosexual HS Men have often been told they are "effeminate" and frequently misidentified as gay.
- HS Men spend more time in solitary pursuits than most men.
- HS Men tend to be drawn to the arts and creative pursuits and often have limited interest in "traditionally male" pursuits like hunting, working on cars and watching sports on TV.
- HS Men are often more "right-brained" and intuitive rather than "left-brained" and logical, unlike about 75% of the male population.
- HS Men tend to have fairly low involvement/participation in typically male "posturing" and "territoriality" behaviors.
- HS Men are typically highly intelligent, conscientious and and hard working, but tend to underachieve at work, relative to their skill levels.
- HS Men typically start dating and relationships later in life than non-HSPs.
- HS Men have typically had fewer sexual partners by age 30 than their non-HSP counterparts.
- HS Men typically favor "cooperative" problem solving over "competitive" problem solving.
Naturally, there are many other attributes common to HS Men, but these are some of the most commonly observed, and they seem to hold true for HS Men, regardless of socio-economic background or nationality.
Where ARE the Highly Sensitive Men?
Over the years, I've discovered that HS Men fit loosely into three distinct categories:
Category 1 - This is typically the largest group. They display all the characteristics of high sensitivity, but forcefully deny and reject the possibility that they are "sensitive." The have fully bought the concept of the boys' club and conventional ideas about how men "should" behave. A few may be secretly aware that they are sensitive, and almost go overboard in their attempts to "prove" they are not. Whereas we don't get to see their inner sensitivity directly, we get to see the side effects of them ignoring their inborn trait which often manifests in unhealthy ways: When they start feeling overstimulated—as all HSPs do, from time to time—they often dull their senses with drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors, while insisting that nothing is the matter. Short tempers and irritability are common, as are periods of depression—typically unaddressed. Loved ones might hear phrases like "I just need to be alone!" after which the HS man-in-denial secludes himself in a study or in a solitary hobby of some kind.
Category 2 - This is also typically also quite large. It consists of HS Men who are aware they are sensitive, but live a bit of a double life: They accept their sensitivity at home, in private, but outwardly "fake it" that their lives are quite normal.
You might even hear them say things like "Yeah, I'm an HSP, but I don't really pay attention to it."
The primary challenge they face is that they end up participating in a lot of things they don't really like or enjoy, in service of keeping up this outer appearance of normalcy. In the long term, this can lead to resigned sadness about life, and even depression and unexperienced anger at the situation.
I have personally met quite a few HS Men from this subgroup—and I can usually recognize them by their words; phrases like "I really like the idea of your online support group for sensitive men, but I can't join because what if someone from work/my family found out that I am like this?" A small number of this group acknowledge their sensitivity but normalize it by setting out on quests to "cure it."
Category 3 - This group is somewhat smaller but growing. It is made up of HS Men who have come to understand and embrace that they are Highly Sensitive, and have found ways to integrate the effects of the trait into their daily lives—without feeling like their sensitivity is a "burden."
Often they are the "cultural creatives" of society; men who have found ways to publicly be themselves without sacrificing any of their sensitive traits. They may even be public figures like musicians David Bowie and Neil Young, although most are more behind the scenes like the late Thomas Leonard, founder of global life coaching organization CoachVille.
These men have typically also moved beyond the point of getting bogged down in extensive self-analysis surrounding being highly sensitive, and quietly go about their lives, understanding how the trait affects their lives, but not making a big deal of it.
The Challenges Ahead
Bottom line: Regardless of who you are, it is neither fulfilling nor healthy to live an inauthentic life.
If you are a highly sensitive man, the ultimate goal is to craft a life that allows you to be part of the third group mentioned above, in which you can be fully yourself and thrive—not just as a highly sensitive man, but as a human being. It allows you not only to honor your sensitivities, but also to be respected for your contributions to whatever work, causes, organizations, groups and communities you're involved in.
When we don't feel free and safe to be ourselves, we tend to get angry and/or depressed. Both of these can have a negative impact on our health, especially if we allow them to persist for long periods of time... and perhaps even reach for unhealthy ways to self-medicate in order to deal with our frustrations.
The first challenge HS Men face is to simply recognize and be aware of their sensitivity, as sensitivity, rather than as weakness or some kind of illness or pathology. This requires us to change our negative beliefs about the implications of sensitivity and the masculine.
The second challenge is to then accept and incorporate the different aspects of sensitivity into our lives, without relegating ourselves to the ranks of "misfits." This requires us to abandon old habits of ignoring the effects of high sensitivity, and accepting that they are simply part of us, and we must be willing to plan our lives accordingly.
The third challenge is to create a life and lifestyle that honors and utilizes the strengths of high sensitivity... and then to fearlessly embrace and LIVE that life. Often that will require us to let go of old beliefs centered around early lessons about "what it means to be a man," and creating our own definitions and embracing our own sense of personal power.
Now, some may be thinking "I can't just DO that!"
I'm not for a moment suggesting it is an easy process, nor that it is something we can do overnight. However, part of the process is about overcoming our fears of (potentially) negative judgments. I am absolutely not suggesting that HS Men start running around telling everyone that they are highly sensitive—often this self-development process is quite private. However, we gain nothing from living a life in which we fear being ourselves.
Changing our personal paradigms is an essential process, if we are to live well and thrive as Highly Sensitive Men.
Where Can I Learn More?
The book recommendations made on this page are all from my personal library and include only titles I have read and found useful/relevant/insightful.
In addition, you might consider reading some of my other articles about various aspects of being an HSP:
On a more personal level, you can read about my own discovery of being an HSP, back in 1997. If you're curious about the person behind these words, I have a fairly extensive author profile posted on this site, as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Talk back! Are you an HS Man? Do you know someone who is? How have you dealt with your sensitivities? Are you living an authentic life?
David on October 05, 2019:
Thank you for the article; and for all the insightful comment posted.
Once, complaining about being 'too sensitive', I was very gently challenged with the question, 'Too sensitive to yourself?'
Read with care.
We HSPs need to own and accept ourselves. Fully. Really. Always.
But our gifts, ours especially, are to be shared with others.
And the communion that brings about will improve you.
You will become more supple, less brittle; respond more, react less.
Try it & see.
Gilbert O'Sughrue from Auckland, New Zealand on November 05, 2017:
I connected to this blog from The HSP Experience on Youtube.
I think you are underestimating how many HSP males there are out there Peter. Remember Dr. Elaine Aron spoke about Western culture being anti-HSP and Chinese culture being pro-HSP. See if you can find out more about the male/female ratio in a country that accepts these people. I for one have found it easy to be accepted by Chinese people compared to my peers in New Zealand.
I have suffered the wrath of a "tough guy" father and his sudden outbursts of anger and violence for most offenses. He tried to make me tough but I'm afraid I just used my HSP strengths to become "mean" to everyone who offended me, including friends, by cutting to the bone with insightful comments on their failings or quirks.
I have been insulted countless times now for my sensitivity. Pussy, wuss, wimp, wanker, poof, girl, boy, woman, fag, gay, weird are the main attacks against my character. In fact I have been branded "weird" and "just a boy" two days ago by a group of men I had to meet at a new job. True I was suffering from imposter syndrome at the time. It's very hard to take, especially when you reach 50 years of age and respect from my peers is elusive as ever.
As Dr. Aron also points out, HSP's are apt to become more sensitive in middle age and this happened to me. I think I got through most of my life because of a) The energy of youth; b) Total denial of my sensitive traits, acting like "one of the boys"; c) Being a High Sensation Seeking HSP; d) Drinking and using drugs daily.
As I went into my 30's I cut back on the alcohol and quit the weed which was starting to make me paranoid due to overuse. Since then I've had more depressive episodes instead.
I've suffered ALL the problems you mention in your article.
I finally found out what an HSP is about 3 years ago. It has helped a lot but also not helped much. I've found telling people about it can be counter-productive. Non-HSP's don't want to really know and conservatives don't seem to give a damn.
Your Categories are a useful guide Peter. Obviously I was a Category 1 for most of my life. Before I knew HSP's existed I tried to move into Category 2 on my own but failed due to no encouragement or direction from others and even some hostility from those around me.
Now I know about being HSP it took a load off my mind at first realising I was not alone. I even started to notice other HSP's but I tell you what, males here do not want to talk about it. Here in N.Z. there is a "warrior culture" taken partly from the old English domination of the world from the early pioneers and the equally strong native Maori warrior culture. A male Maori HSP will have an even harder time of it because they are expected to be "staunch" 24/7. Just the "posturing" alone would simply exhaust me.
I have managed to move into a Category 2 (mostly) but still have a foot in Category 1. Category 3 looks very inviting. It would be great to finally accept myself as a whole man on his own particular journey and loving life for what it is.
Make the most of every moment guys. As far as we really know, we only get one chance to live. Remember us HSP's have a deep inner strength we can draw on and there is nothing wrong with you. It's our culture which is flawed.
Anon on May 03, 2017:
I'm an hs woman but have met many hs men and they are struggling with abuse and boundaries. Working on self-acclaimed is great but women struggle with that without being as abusive as many hs men I have met. When abuse issues are dealt with men will have an easier time accepting who they are. Unacknowledged guilt can hold people back and I see it frequently with hs men.
galaxygirl01 on August 22, 2015:
It breaks my heart to read these comments from HSM. You are beautiful souls. In the last year, I've discovered why I have felt so different all of my life: I'm a HSF. I made the incredibly difficult decision to end a marriage with a non-HSM and am embracing my authentic self. The connection between HSPs is amazing and I find that I'm recognizing HSPs more and embracing them in my life. I wish you all of the HSM who read this article and thread to one day look in the mirror and accept and love who you are. You are an incredible gift to this world and, one day, to some very lucky women. It isn't a world made for us HSPs....but I firmly believe with all my heart and soul that we make it a better one with our sensitivity and empathy. Much love xo
Lina94 on July 31, 2015:
I was always falling in love with highly sensitive men (I'm an hs woman). I still do. It has been my ideal image of a man since forever, long before I knew there's high sensitivity. I'm against any kind of stereotypes. So I think you're overgeneralizing this stuff about highly sensitive women. By the way, it's not healthy for any person, highly sensitive or not, to hide their emotions and to pretend and lie yourself you don't feel at all. I see a lot of men doing this and even highly sensitive ones and it is really tough. I think we, hs people, should develop our sensitivity or particular sensitivities such as empathy even more. It is some sort of a gift...
I have to say it is hard to be a highly sensitive woman too, especially if you are introverted and serious about your job or hobbies. I don't think it's fair to make assumptions about who's struggling the most without being in other's shoes. For example, women are not supposed to complain and are viewed as more patient. Plus, often their issues are not taken seriously. That's why you'll hardly find any article about how hard it is to be an hs woman. I would even say some highly sensitive men can be biased towards highly sensitive women too. Cause women are supposed to be obsessed with their appereance, outgoing, always positive, focused on social life, flexible etc. So I hope you guys will empathise us too. Our problems in this case are different since culturally women and men are viewed as if they were entirely different spieces which is not true, of course. People are so obsessed with these gender myths. Believe me, we are alike and the only major thing that makes us women and men) different from each other is cultural biases (we were raised differently etc)
P.S. Sorry for my English
another Alex on July 06, 2015:
Yeah and look where emotional repression-especially for men- has gotten us. Kid-ults who can't deal with their baggage so they take it out on the world and further add to the misery. Do you ever wonder why so many young guys go on shooting sprees? DURrrrrrrrrrrr
I wish i could be more positive but i can't right now. I'm tired of mood swings and going it alone in my basement hole. Of medications and therapists and mindfulness and all the added humiliation of mental health stigma. Of having no actual men to guide me in my own life that don't charge exorbitant fees. Of having no relationships, sex or any physical contact with anybody whatsoever (kudos to the girl who wondered if this HSP thing causes some guys to assume their gay). Of having no steady job i can do nor money nor car. Of struggling with my mind 24/7 so that the smallest tasks other people take for granted are huge and disproportionate for me. Of thinking about G_d and airy fairy crap constantly just cause I'm weak inside.
This mentally retarded society is stuck on hiding everything at all costs so it shames and crushes the ones who rock the boat with all their disturbing hu-man emotions. ooooo SCARY...no, you're just comfortably numb and I'm the other side of the equation. You don't like that, you'd rather be machines.
Thanks for letting me bitch
Paul on March 10, 2015:
This article provides a really deep insight into the meaning and certainty of the reference of sensitive processing sensitivity in men - (labelled as HSP or HSP/HSS, with varying degrees of defining spectrum introversion or extroversion associative personality elements attached), as described and touched on throughout this article above.
It is a relief and a refreshing read to realise, in particular, the depth of insight raised about Hiigh sensitivity in men. I , like many men who have come across this article, have to confess that I fully concur with every aspect of this topic. Moreover,taking the very helful 'Self-Tests' and ticking virtually every box, has assisted me in self realisation and awareness of the numerous factors and their relationship affecting me as a highly sensitive individual. I am an HSP who grew up thinking there was something seriously wrong with me, as i did not seem to quite fit in with the ' Normal' social and workbased stereotypes displayed by non-hsp's. I have always seemed like an outsider, treated as something less than human, suffered severely at the rejections of others, abused and targeted as someone to be bullied and picked on or blamed for being sensitive and non-conformative, too conscientious, or seen as a goody -goody, over-caring, effeminate etc etc. This has led me to a place of separation and isolation, depression and even bouts of angry mood swings and frequent over-use of the F-word and viewing non-hsp's as selfish self-centered, aggressive arrogant evil-minded 'B- Stards', which of course many of them are not. This article opens up the possibilities for ownership and change towards becoming 'ourselves ' in a hostile and indifferent World. What this article reveals for us is that this need for change towards authenticity begins with one most important factor: Acceptance. If we as HSP's /HSS people can grasp this factor first then we can begin the long road to true self. Jesus was all about authenticity in every aspect of society and it was He who said: you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free. Surely there can be no greater truth than the need to Love ourselves and accept ourselves as we really are and not as others claim we are. Its time for us to hold our head up high and stop the lowering of the eyes when challenged by the insensitivities of the world at large.
rafal on May 02, 2014:
I think all non hsmen look down on us but will never tell this loud
JP on November 22, 2013:
This article portrays accurately what HS men have to deal with. I have been "narcotizing" my pain with addictions all my life because of this trait. As a result, life has passed me by now. I am 37, have never been in a long term relationship, and am living day to day. Not only do I feel incredibly different from most other men, i look different also. Ive been labeled a "terrorist" by those who look at me in fear. This lack of understanding from a judgmental society coupled with this trait has left me isolated. Social fears have taken over my life and I now avoid social interactions unless I am forced to be in them. I view this trait as a curse. It is a constant struggle to make it in society when this trait provides an obstacle to live a productive life. I'm worn out by the end of the day. However, the articles and research about high sensitivity have been comforting. They have validated what I have known and felt all my life. Good luck to everyone with this trait. It is definitely a challenge to be this way.
Itsnotapproved on May 28, 2013:
Shit this is me. I got diagnosed with ADD, although there was always this tiny little problem I had with that; Concentration was never a problem. What I do remember very clearly was crying about a song as a child, because it sounded sad... You already see where this is going.
So here I am, a male, 26 years old, sad as hell, mood swings, fighting against depression, but do to dose ADD pills I can get trough the day. All this "you must see it as a positive thing" doesn't work in the real world; You're a pussy, only you think of that, are you gay? etc.
I see this trait as a burden, my friends talk about football, and I like to talk about why the end of the universe can't have an end. So the positive way (or naïve) to look at this would be to think you're a more interesting person, you're more philosophical etc. But in reality, social interactions rarely demand this kind of depth.
As a bonus I over think socially made "mistakes", reliving every moment of them, what results in avoiding social interactions. And than there is the pain of women who tend to say they want sensible guys, and like guys who pay attention at details etc. etc. But they end up whit the aggressive stereotypes. Flushing my self esteem down the drain every time. Of course my self esteem shouldn't be effected by that, of course this and that. But fact is that a higher percentage succeeds in social interactions and relationships without this trait.
What I haven’t seen addressed here are mood swings. Although I do understand the classical definition of mood swings wouldn’t address a certain cause, the high level of empathy in combination with certain impulses can have mood swings as a result to me.
Is there information about the biological side of this? Brain scans etc. I ‘ve read that there are more connections in the brain and more activity on the right side? Medication ideas?
james on March 08, 2013:
I recently realized that I, a male, fit this HSP category a lot. I have had people question if I was gay, especially women; because I've been very cautious about jumping into a long term relationship; noting our differences. They get offended and accuse me of being gay! I'm am very not gay. I love women, but hate the pain of breaking up if she is the wrong person, so I contemplate if she is right before I get close. I have employment problems also; being a creative type person; they workplace can be so regimented, competitive, and judgmental. I am a very deep thinker; I can't help it...I naturally like philosophy and psychology.
mark on February 10, 2013:
add me to the list of hsm. straight white fellow, and most would see me as cis gendered, yet the minute I open my mouth comes out deeper thoughts and conversation and I can see it in a heartbeat that women think I might be gay, and guys just have no clue what the heck I just said. frustrating at best. I've had plenty of heterosexual liaisons over the years, not one homosexual one, but when it comes down to talking about feelings and all that even the girls get side eyed at me. where in the heck do I really fit in such a judgmental world? fortunately I've been married twice, the first one for 20 years, the second for 5, but even then, and they are both good people, I think still don't really know what to make of me. being a partner, cleaning the house and liking to cook more than they do just doesn't seem to be enough. I have to be all that AND kill bears with my bare hands, knife never drawn from my teeth. I guess then I might be the perfect Fabio.
J. Patterson from Northeast Oklahoma on December 12, 2012:
I only occasionally comment on articles on the internet, but this HSP thing, which I've never hear of before now, makes some sense, and reminds me of a website I found a long time ago about introversion being a trait and not a psychopathy - I suspect that author hit on this same concept or saw the same earmarks.
I took the test you note, with 20 boxes checked, which was no surprise, and I identify with the problems in work and relationships (friends and romantic partners), and wish there were more information and support available for people like me (books and websites only go so far), but am glad to see there is some illumination of this issue which I've never been able to understand or express and wasn't sure was real. Thank you.
Alex on October 01, 2012:
I've recently come to the conclusion I'm a HSP/HSS. It was an eye opener and a great relief to find this information, and to me it answers a lot of questions. I have always been myself (and therefore different) and I've been proud of not being like everybody else. Now I'm glad to see there are quite a lot of others out there. (Sweden)
Bluejay on July 13, 2012:
I am a female HSP and I have often wondered if our Western cultural norms for men have pushed many HSM into considering themselves as gay even they might not be gay but it is an area in society where sensitivity is more acceptable for men. Any thoughts on that?
Not a PhD yet66 on July 02, 2012:
Very interesting piece! I'm researching HSP's for my dissertation and agree that men in the US are much less likely to identify as HSP. I fall somewhere in the third group you describe. I freely admit to being highly sensitive and have learned to own it as well as live with it.
In a culture as macho as the US though most of us quietly go on living and doing our best to manage the overstimulation and lack of understanding from others in our lives.
What amazes me are the projections others place on us, expecting us (because we are men) to fit a narrow stereotype, which few of us do. In my observations sensitive men exist everywhere and often are highly skilled. Being highly sensitive is often looked at in exclusively social terms, yet that is only one dimension of life.
Integrating an awareness of high sensory sensitivity into our lives as men in a larger holistic sense is perhaps the direction HSP men need to proceed in.
Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend on June 05, 2012:
@hsptweets: Thanks for the kind words and enouragement!
@Nadine Marie: Thanks for commenting! Society CAN be quite cruel... which sometimes bothers me LESS than its narrowness of mind. We pour so much effort into ensuring "diversity," yet when it becomes something other than ethnic/cultural, diversity is almost frowned up. Ironic, no?
Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend on June 05, 2012:
@Person: Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences. Maybe it's just part of human nature-- for many people, anyway, to think someone is being arrogant when they declare they are "something" (HSP, fit, rich, smart...) even if nothing is meant by it. It often backfires for HSPs because we tend to be less "competitive" so we don't realize that other more competitive people hear such words as a "challenge."
There are quite a few long-time members of the HSP "community" who believe we need a better term than "highly sensitive."
Nadine Marie on June 04, 2012:
I am highly sensitive & it's been a challenge. And I am female so I can just imagine how much tougher it is for the men! I so empathize with you and salute you for your courage. You sure are helping many others like you to continue to be true to themselves and not succumb to society's dictates. And society can sometimes or often be very cruel. Bless your heart and thank you for your work!
hsptweets from San Francisco on June 02, 2012:
Your point about not telling people you are HSP is a good one (lest it be seen as elitist, and it will!). There is so much misunderstanding out there on this subject, so it is not a good idea to wear a public badge. On the other hand, it is a good idea to develop friendships with kindred spirits (like with your life coach), and to recognize the limitations of other friendships (like with your best friend) who are not able to meet all your needs. Non-HSPs have a right to be who and what they are too. We must respect that if we want respect, and not make them wrong. Best wishes to you.
Terrific job on this article. Everything you said describes me to a T.
person on May 21, 2012:
My mom always classified me as highly sensitive but I don't really care what people call it haha. I've been reading your articles and the friendship one really got me. I can relate so much to the part where you say that HSPs tend to talk a lot more about deep stuff. I always want to talk with my best friend about life and girls just to hear his views and stuff. In my head it goes: "that would be damn interesting! Who wouldn't find that interesting! I feel like talking for weeks!" And he's like nah let's play a game. And I hate games lol. But sometimes we get good conversations about politics. However - and this is not only with my friend - I always feel (and sometimes people tell me) like I must stop talking about something in order to keep someone interested, or else they'll walk away or in my friends case he'll go home. This kind of makes me sad. I always continue to think about the topic in my head though. And then sometimes I bring it back up because I'm thinking: "I need to tell this!" But people don't like that which I understand. Talking to my life coach is always very pleasing. At the end of our conversations I aleays have one of those big relieving sighs. Anyway I still don't like the idea of calling people an HSP. It sounds elitist (like you said) and you can't really tell anyone because they'll think you want to imply they cannot feel or something or that you are better (híghly sensitive has high in it, well I think you know what I mean...). Anyway I guess I'm not really against it but it's not wise to tell someone he/she is an HSP because sooner or later they are going to tell someone else and then the HSP will look like an arrogant douche... Of course we don't want that, but people always tend to look at things in a negative way. Not always, but lots of times.