Did You Know That Highly Sensitive People Can Also Be High Sensation Seeking?

By Rachel Puryear

If you’re familiar with and loved Dr. Elaine’s seminal book The Highly Sensitive Person, then you are likely such a person yourself. (If you’re not familiar with this work, note that the “highly sensitive” trait refers to sensory sensitivity, as well as certain tendencies that come with that; and is not necessarily emotional sensitivity). This high sensitivity trait – or, as I prefer to refer to it on this blog, being a neurosensitive or highly empathic person – is the result of differences in the brains of neurosensitive individuals, compared with most other people.

Neurosensitive people are characterized by traits such as:

  • Introversion,
  • A deep appreciation of art and music,
  • A keen awareness of other people’s needs, as well as subtleties in their environment,
  • A high degree of empathy,
  • Strong emotional reactions at times – although we tend to keep them hidden, not because we are emotionally unavailable, but because most other people would not understand or relate,
  • A high degree of conscientiousness,
  • A strong internal moral compass and a sense of ethics and justice,
  • An interest in spirituality – though typically not of the more conventional or fundamentalist variety,
  • Attraction to counterculture,
  • Being prone to sensory overload, and needing to retreat to a dark and quiet space when overstimulated,
  • Having a rich and complex inner life,
  • Being overwhelmed when we to do a lot in a short time,
  • and possibly more.
A pair of shoes on feet, with one ankle crossed over the other, on an outdoor wicker table, from the perspective of the person whose feet they are, where one shoe is red and the other shoe is yellow. By Possessed Photography.

Neurosensitive people are born the way they are. Their trait is innate, and lifelong. About 20% of the population has the trait – and a similar proportion of many animals also has the same trait, as well. An equal number of males and females have the trait.

Another inborn neurological trait is known as being high sensation seeking. High sensation seeking people:

  • Crave novel experiences, variety, and adventure,
  • They love to travel, and explore new places,
  • They love to try all sorts of new sensations and experiences,
  • They can get bored with the mundane and routine,
  • They may prefer unpredictability,
  • and possibly more.

One might think, comparing the traits of neurosensitivity, versus the traits of being high sensation seeking; that such groups of people are polar opposites, and could not possibly overlap. One could also be easily forgiven for thinking such, too, as the two sets of traits do seem very different.

However, these two different sets of traits are actually governed by different parts of the brain. Therefore, it is possible to have one or the other, or neither, or even both at the same time!

So, what is life like for people who are both neurosensitive, and also high sensation seeking? (Note: In the field of psychology, people who are both are also known as “HSS/HSP”.)

Well, I do have personal experience with this – as I myself am HSS/HSP. This is part of the theme of this blog, as people like us are distinct within the neurosensitive population, as well as within the high sensation seeking population. There will also be future posts, further discussing this subject matter.

I have found several blogs for neurosensitive people, but I have not yet found another blog for people who are HSS/HSP – so, of course, I wanted to start one.

It’s been said – and I think it’s true – that being HSS/HSP is like going through life with one foot on the gas, and one foot on the brake. This is a very apt analogy.

People who are HSS/HSP often like to do fun, novel, and adventurous activities; but in a less risky or more low-key way. For instance; personally, I enjoy road trips and exploring and seeing new places, but I like to travel in an RV so that I still have a comfortable and familiar space. I also like to find places out in nature, quiet spots, and parks in new areas I explore. Or, an HSS/HSP might like to try new foods or new sports, but do so in their home or with people familiar to them.

People who are HSS/HSP are often ideal interviewers – we are curious about others, and therefore ask good questions; but we also have a great ability to connect and build a rapport, due to our high level of empathy.

In relationships, people who are HSS/HSP tend to be best off with a partner who is also HSS/HSP, because we understand each other the best. Fortunately, I am happily paired with someone who is also an HSS/HSP, like myself!

Think you might be HSS/HSP? Take the high sensation seeking test here, and also take the highly sensitive person test here. If you score highly on both, then you are an HSS/HSP! If you are, then feel free to comment below, and also share your experiences!


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to the lucky few of us who are both neurosensitive, and also high sensation seeking; and to the unique and amazing life experience and perspective it offers. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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