It’s more than a kid hangover

I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement with Ellen Painter Dollar’s recent post about the “kid hangover” she’s suffered for much of the last 13 years. As an introvert, she finds people draining. But as a write-at-home mother, she’s around people–her kids–all day long. She explains:

As an extreme introvert with three chatty children, I can assure you that as much as I adore my children, interacting with them is just as draining as interacting with anyone else. More so, actually. I have had a “kid hangover” for most of the past 13 years.

I get this. I’m not an “extreme introvert” like Dollar–my husband and I joke that I could almost be an extrovert, but for my overwhelming urge to curl up with a book after talking nonstop for two hours. But extreme or no, I’m an introvert. I adore my kids. But they burn the gas in my emotional fuel tank at an astonishing rate.

I’ve thought about personality and parenting a lot this year, and I think there’s more to this story than my introversion. My apparent “kid hangover” is actually a little more complex. When I read Quiet last year (great book), I encountered the term “highly sensitive person” (or HSP) for the first time, and immediately recognized myself as one.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, who coined the term, the HSP “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.” (Henceforth, I shall describe my house as a “highly stimulating environment” instead of what I usually call it: Crazytown.)

(Ironically, The Highly Sensitive Person is one of the books I’ve abandoned in 2013, because–in typical HSP fashion–I couldn’t handle the frequent references to sexual abuse.)

Introverts are drained by interacting with people, but HSPs can be drained by people plus a slew of other factors at play in their environments, like sights, sounds, and smells.

First, the bad news: I’ve got a lot of things draining my fuel tank.

But the good news is that I actually have control over some of those factors.

I’ve known for a long time that clutter makes me cranky, but it never occurred to me that messy spaces are actually draining for me because there’s too much visual input. If my kids and I can keep the house straight, I can get more mileage out of my fuel tank.

And I’ve long known that when all 4 kids are talking to me at the same time, it burns my fuel at about 80 times the usual rate. But it’s not just because I’m an introvert, it’s because that’s way too much sensory input. If I can keep the noise levels down, I can actually enjoy the days when I’m home with my kids–instead of just surviving them.

I want to cultivate great relationships with my kids in my everyday life. I’m discovering that I can only engage well when I manage my energy well, and that means paying attention to my environment.

So these days I’m observing my day-to-day routines, to see where I can gracefully dial down the things that punch my HSP buttons. I’m eyeing simple fixes: snack charts and shut doors, headphones and 5-minute pickups. Things that don’t take much time out of our days, but make our days a lot more enjoyable.

If I stumble upon anything brilliant, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How does your personality affect your home life? And have you heard of the HSP before? (If you are one, tell me!)

P.S. Read this next: let’s talk about highly sensitive people.

P.P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.


Leave A Comment
  1. Linda says:

    Wow, you’ve described me well. I’m still on the waiting list for Quiet at the library. I’m hoping to read it before summer’s end. When the girls were younger, even thought they didn’t need to nap anymore, I still instituted what we called “quiet time”. They had to stay in their bedroom and do quiet things for one hour. As a homeschooling mom, I needed a break from them and they needed a break from me. We were all much happier.

    • Anne says:

      We do, too…but since my baby stopped napping a few weeks ago I’ve had to be a stickler to enforce the actual “quiet.” I’m reminding myself that it’s worth establishing these habits, even though it’s no fun at the time, because just like you all, we’re much happier when we all get a break from each other. 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you mentioned this concept (HSP) again! I know you’ve spoken of it before, but I couldn’t remember the book reference. Realizing that I’m probably an HSP makes my life make so much more sense :).
    And, while I’ve always been a fairly extreme extrovert, since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed more introverted tendencies. As a bit of a MBTI junkie, I want to go pick up that book now! 🙂

      • Jennifer says:

        I love Please Understand Me II! I am still reading Quiet but I have already gotten a lot out of it. I am definitely a HSP. I am currently watching a five year old and a 20 month old on top of my three kids (5, 2, 8 weeks) and it has been rough. My own kids can push my buttons at times but we’ve adjusted to each other over the years and they are pretty good at behaving in ways that complement my personality. The other kids though are taxing my HSP a lot. The youngest one randomly screams and yells, which is not okay in my house. The older one constantly asks questions that she knows the answer to just to hear herself talk. The constant chaos and noise drives me crazy. I make us all have a quiet time in the afternoon and even though it’s quite the ordeal to get them all quiet and still but it is a huge sanity saver for me.

  3. Meredith says:

    Oh WOW! This explains so much for me. When I am at home and my husband and both boys are talking to me. All. At. The. Same. Time. It just sucks everything out of me. I’ve known for some time I am an introvert and interacting with people for extended periods drains me. I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection sooner. I guess since I think as my home and family as a safe “I can be myself place” it didn’t register that these are still people and I still have to interact with them.

    Also, I have noticed how too much noise bothers me (i.e. kids yelling at each other in the car) so the HSP really resonates with me as well.

    “Quiet” is on my to read list but my reading has kind of fallen to the wayside since I have been focusing on fitness and weight loss lately. So I gather “Quiet” helps gain insight into introverts and HSP but does it give any advice on coping?

    • Anne says:

      Quiet is so good! You’ve gotta read it. 🙂

      It doesn’t contain any bulletpointed “coping strategies” checklists or anything, but Cain does explore what environments introverts thrive in (and which ones are soul-sucking for them). I think understanding the perks and pitfalls of being an introvert makes it easier to tweak your environment accordingly.

      Did I mention it’s a great book? Also, Susan Cain’s TED talk is excellent and just 15 minutes or so.

  4. AlyssaZ says:

    Yes, if you learn any secrets SHARE instantly! I only have one baby child and dealing with her all day is exhausting. I usually need to spend my evenings staring at Netflix or reading a fiction book (not as involved as non fic). Needless to say, my house is not as clean as it could/should be.

  5. Missy June says:

    I’m a work out of the home, single mother to three littles. When I get home, I greet everyone BUT then I get bombarded with questions, requests or big news!!! So I have instituted a rule that any question will be answered with “no” and after hugs and welcome, Mommy needs five minutes of quiet alone in my room. It makes all the difference in the tone of the rest of our day. I most certainly need

    • Anne says:

      Hey, if a 5 minute change can change the tone for the rest of the day, that is worth doing! It’s great that you were able to identify a small change that made a big difference.

  6. Angie says:

    HSP sounds like the spirited child that “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka talks about. I’m a ‘spirited parent’/HSP, and my oldest is spirited/HSP, so we butt heads constantly! Kurcinka’s book was amazing for our family–it could have been written for my son! Having a quiet time for him right after school helped us sooo much. Our middle son is a chatterbox extrovert, and he was so excited to see his brother after school, that everything melted down really quickly. I just got “Quiet” from the library, and can’t wait to read it!

  7. Tracy S. says:

    My kids are older, but they still have times that they make me feel crowded–when they meet me in the garage when I come home from work to tell me something or when I go to my room for some quiet time and find, inexplicably, 20 minutes later that I have three kids on my bed with me. My youngest is sixteen! I appreciate that they crave time to fill me in on what’s going on in their lives and their minds, but I also need some time alone to recharge. I will get very specific and tell them that I need 20 minutes or 45 minutes to be by myself and then I will be available again.

    Interestingly, my youngest is very introverted, yet she likes to have someone nearby when she works. She will bring her laptop into my room and sit on my bed and work while I read. She doesn’t want conversation, just the connectedness of having someone in the room.

  8. Amy Nabors says:

    This is me exactly. Highly introverted & highly sensitive. And having a very extroverted & loud son is so draining. No one seems to get how draining it is and I’ve too often been made to feel like a horrible mother. I’ve been learning ways to reserve and boost my energy also. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone.

    • Laura says:

      I am just now learning these things about myself {introversion and HSP} and it’s really hard to get other people to understand. Anything that keeps me away from social events should be overcome! I should be able to listen to mindless chatter all day long! My husband kind-of gets it, but he doesn’t understand why I need hours of time to recuperate after a busy weekend. I get soooo incredibly drained and then impatient.

  9. Allison says:

    Thank you Anne. This is so me. I just thought i was a bad parent. I love my kids so much but being with them is hard. My one daughter has ADHD and practically never stops talking and my other daughter (probably a little ADHD) is very very observant, misses nothing, and questions me about everything – which is very overwhelming to me.

    I probably am HSP as well. I never understood why i feel so antsy and uncomfortable when too many things and people are too close to me. And i;ve always known clutter makes me crazy – but i can not seem to conquer that – it is very overwhelming to me.
    Thank you again.

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness, Allison: thanks for telling me. I hope having a little more understanding about the “why” helps you in big ways.

      • Allison says:

        Anne, again, thank you so much. i never knew such a thing existed and that there are others like me. You really opened my eyes.

        Last night after i got my kids together and told them about this and how it would really help me (and ultimately them) if when i got home from work there wasnt a lot of screaming and fighting (they do that a lot – they’re twins). They agreed.

        We’ll see. lol

  10. Nicol says:

    YES! I am one too! I understand kid-hangover AND the over-stimulation. Has anyone mentioned Wal-Mart as a TRIGGER? I predictably get head-aches from shopping there-bright lights and excess visual stimulation….one of my daughters is similar to myself, but my eleven-year old incessantly talks=Mom wanting to hide in bedroom. Since I am home usually all day, one way in which I had to give myself boundaries (from the audio noise) is to make sure I have an hour before bed-no-kids-time.
    I am sure that you have mentioned before that introverted and extroverted is not merely how we exude energy but how we RECHARGE. Another safety-net feature to my life-hot,soaking baths (of course, by myself).

  11. Janice says:

    Yes! This post describes me to a T! I had my husband read it, so he could read “my perspective” when he jokes about my need to be clutter-free! Thanks for the insight.

  12. Mandie says:

    So, I know I’m an introvert. I could stay home by myself for days before missing the outside world. I just had an interesting experience last night- my husband, who is about to graduate & become an RN, made a comment wondering if he’ll have to work 2nd shift when he begins working. I sortof froze as we’re expecting our first baby a couple months after he graduates, and in my mind I always assumed he’d work a day shift and that I wouldn’t be ALL ALONE with our baby for 12 ish hours. I’m still thinking about it this morning, and I know it will be ok, there will be hard days, but they won’t all be hard, but goodness!! This has rocked me and my introverted self a bit. 🙂

    It will be quite interesting, no?

    • Jeannie says:

      I just had to comment on your comment because I hear you!! My husband’s a nurse too. My kids are now 14 and 10, but how well I remember the first time he did a night shift after our first child was born — I was SO anxious about how I would cope for his 12-hour shifts. You have exactly the right perspective: “I know it will be OK, there will be hard days, but they won’t all be hard, but goodness!!” That’s exactly what I would’ve said to you if you’d asked my advice. 🙂

      • Anne says:

        Jeannie, I love that you’ve been there, since Mandie’s expecting her first. And Mandie, I love that you’re thinking about this now–instead of when you have a 3 week old!

  13. Sarah says:

    After I read “Quiet” this past Spring, I realized I was an HSP too. I’m still working on ways to manage my surroundings since I’m married to an extreme extrovert who is the opposite of an HSP 🙂 Thanks for this post and reminding me that I need to rework my surroundings for my own sanity!

  14. Nicol says:

    Hi Anne. I think this is so important for Introverts to understand about themselves (and Extroverts to understand Introverts) that I shared your post at Ladies of Virtue Blog.

  15. Breanne says:

    Yes and yes!! I am an introvert and tend toward HSP. Once I realized that it was okay to be like that, I felt great relief. I often don’t play music during the day for that reason, unless it’s quiet/instrumental music.

    Recharging oneself is so key, and it is possible even as a mom. My husband sent me on B&B retreat when I was close to total burnout which was amazing. I also find a ton of stimulation from the screen and try to close all screens after supper. I sleep better and my whole body is refreshed.
    I’ve read Quiet (and loved it!) but I want to look into some of those other titles you mentioned.

    • Anne says:

      I am so with you on the screens. I need to be really careful about that or bad things happen. But it never occurred to me that that was an HSP thing, too. (Though everyone is supposedly better off avoiding screens before bed, I’ve read that it affects some more than others.) I appreciate the insight.

  16. I love this post. I’m pretty sure I’m an HSP, and introvert…and a migraine sufferer — which has a lot to do with the same factors of HSP. Thank you for this post. It’s nice to know there are others out there facing the same challenges and it gives me encouragement to see how you’re handling it.

  17. Jeannie says:

    I could relate to much of what was written in this post & in the comments. I’m definitely an introvert, and while I’m not that physically sensitive (smells and sounds etc.), I’m emotionally sensitive and becoming more so. I had a difficult conflict with a friend recently and after an hour of intense conversation I simply couldn’t continue talking — I was totally overwhelmed and had to excuse myself and leave. I feel very ashamed of that now and I know it has widened the gulf, but in the moment I couldn’t help it. I need to think more about how to handle situations like that in a way that works for me, since crawling under a rock (while appealing) doesn’t seem to be a viable option….

    • Andrea says:

      My husband and I have dealt with this whenever we have conflicts in our marriage. He is not HSP, I am. He can talk and process our conflicts much longer than I can. I finally realized that I either shut down or become unreasonable (just sticking to my guns whether or not they make sense) at a certain point. Now we talk for a while, he gives me space to process (I love him!!), then we revisit at another time. It’s been so helpful!

      Btw, this post was so helpful regarding my kids and our home environment. Thanks Anne!

  18. Jo Lynn says:

    I too am an HSP. And technically an introvert. I do like being around people but only really like small more intimate groups.

    I’m home all day with my son and while I love being home with him it is very challenging for me. He only has a few words and I sort of need to be “on” at all times to help him interact with his environment etc. He was born with special needs so we go to a lot of therapies and dr appointments which is draining in and of itself but also being HSP and introverted I feel like my role as a mother is being intruded upon at tiimes and that’s hard for me to deal with. I often feel much more drained on appointment days versus the at home days. I agree with another commenter that quiet time worked into the day is essential.

    • Anne says:

      That sounds like my first year of motherhood. I never thought at the time to filter my experience through the lens of personality, so I couldn’t even attempt to shape my environment in helpful ways. I hope you’re able to carve out a little space and time to regroup, and I’d love to hear any ways you find to do this that actually work. Wishing you the best in this tough stage.

  19. Katherine says:

    This reminds me of another of your posts that I pinned and have returned to a lot:

    I relate to needing some quiet time and some space. I notice that I flee to little bursts here and there online when I’m maxing out on the noise and questions. It’s an escape from my kids, but it tends to create more noise in my head because I’m not listening to them for 5 minutes, but I’m inviting a bunch of other ideas to clang around via facebook, usually. I don’t think it’s a good solution for me. It adds to the feeling of chaos.

    So- there’s what *doesn’t* work for me:)

    • Jo Lynn says:

      I completely agree with the facebook thing. I would try to take “breaks” by going on facebook and I ended up feeling more wound up and anxious. It took me awhile ti figure out I cant really handle facebook, its way too much input for me.

      • Anne says:

        That’s so interesting about facebook. I’m glad you all pointed out that social media doesn’t feel like a “break” to everyone.

    • Taura says:

      Yes! In an overwhelmed moment I grabbed a coffee and a lawn chair and sat at the far corner of the yard with face in sun the other day (smart phone left in house) … I felt crazy and extreme at the moment … however! Eyes closed, listening yo the birds, holding warm cup … reset the hsp clutter button! (2&4+hubby = loud, cluttered day).
      Amazing! FB etc doesn’t work as an escape.

      • Taura says:

        Ps. ENFP, Red/Yellow, extreme extrovert, ADHD accused … and yet all of this speaks to me … clutter, noise, sensory overload …
        I will be reading Quiet, changing the flow of our home. ♥

  20. Cori says:

    I am not an introvert, but I am highly sensitive to sensory input. I’ve been in the “crazy cycle” all week because my husband is home for the week from work and the house is constantly a mess! Visually i’m going crazy! Clutter everywhere. I don’t want to be the mean or nagging wife/mom, but seriously people, I’m going crazy here!

  21. Carrie says:

    I don’t think I’m HSP but I do have certain triggers and I’ve learned I have to respect them. For instance, I was getting stressed at the dinner table every night and I realized that the main reason for this? Several conversations at once. So hubs and I instituted a “one conversation” rule. Everyone has to be quiet until that conversation is over. It helps tremendously!!

    Clutter is a big trigger for me too. It totally makes the difference between me being peaceful and calm with my kids and snapping at them. So I have to keep on top of that. I’m unapologetic about it.

    • Anne says:

      I love the way you’ve put it: that you’ve learned to “respect” your triggers. My approach used to be to try to beat them into submission. It doesn’t work. 🙂

  22. Sarah Ronk says:

    Wow thanks for this!! You just put into words what I’ve been trying to figure out! Adjusting to 3 kids has been different than I thought. As an HSP and INFJ I used to be able to handle 2 kids all day long but now they are older, more talkative and not napping! (I was blessed b/c they napped LONG!) Ack! 😉

    They aren’t loud kids, at all, but I find some days when my husband comes home I HAVE to find quiet and escape somewhere for 30 min (which always confused me since it hasn’t been “loud” during the day.) I decorate in a clean/empty sorta way because I always said an empty wall space and tables not covered with decor gives my brain space to think and be creative. Now it *all* makes sense!!

    • Anne says:

      I get this: we had to do a MAJOR reorganization of quiet time when my 3-year-old stopped napping a month or so ago. Suddenly, since he was up, everyone seemed to be talking during that time, and I’d be a frazzled mess by 5pm. We’re learning to manage our quiet time a little better–we have to, the consequences are too serious to botch it!

  23. Anne, I super enjoyed this post (and the related ones about how you deal with motherhood being an introvert and HSP.) I just love hearing about how other moms do day-to-day life. Plus, every business I’ve worked for has made a big deal about personality profiles and working environment, so I really love how you have applied that to the occupation of motherhood.

    I’m an introvert too and I’m pretty sure my husband is an HSP. I am making note of your methods and adding Quiet to my reading list. Would love to hear more on this subject!

  24. Sarah R says:

    I am an extreme introvert, and from your description of an HSP, I’m one of those, too. I find that after about an hour (depending on the company- with certain people I can go longer, some people I can only endure for 10 minutes) I need to go into my room and shut the door. Even that doesn’t always help, because I am hyper aware of where everyone else in the house is and what they are doing. I live with my parents at the moment, and while I can usually handle them (and the noise they create) very well, some days there is just too much busy for me! Fortunately, they travel quite a bit, so I get a lot of downtime to recoup and recover equilibrium.

  25. Colleen says:

    Wow. Never heard of HSP, but I shall look into it. I’m very introverted. Very susceptible to exhaustion after being around people, especially in a STORE of ANY kind.

    What jumped out at me was your comment about clutter. I’ve never connected my desire to live in a house as sparse as a monk’s cell with sensory issues. Typically, I feel like a big meanie when I’m flying around the house, hyperventilating because people have STUFF out. And I think I feel all the more worse and mean because we are all generally tidy, non-hoarding people. There’s just six kids and two parents in one house, so there will be books, socks, spiral notebooks left out. Perhaps I’m just wired in a way that too much visual stimulation stresses me out. I mean, I know it does, but perhaps I can cope with it better knowing that it’s who I am, how my brain works. Furthermore, explaining this to my family will help me feel less mean – and make my kids more understanding. “Guys. Let’s compromise. You can keep your stuff as long as I don’t have to look at it. We don’t need to live like monks, but can we at least leave the surfaces clear???” Coupled with those seasonal purges of STUFF, of course. 🙂

    Lots of food for thought. Great to hear from others who feel this way.

    • Anne says:

      “Perhaps I can cope with it better knowing that it’s who I am, how my brain works.”

      YES. I don’t know why this works, but it does. (And yes, clear horizontal surfaces do wonders for me!)

  26. That “ding” you hear is the sound of the little light bulb above my head turning on! I am definitely an introvert, but this whole HSP thing makes so much sense to me. I have a chatterbox of a four-year-old {which can be oh-so-draining} and I can’t stand clutter for an extended period of time. So, yes, I can relate…

    Oh, and “kid hangover”? Actually a quite perfect way to describe how I feel when my hubby gets home from work and my son turns his attention towards his daddy…

  27. Esther says:

    I’m definitely an introvert by nature and my kids drain me too. I’ve found that if our home is kept picked up and things put away, then I’m much calmer–and ultimately nicer. The kids have their own drop zones which makes it easy for them to put their things away and stay organized. My husband is exceptionally organized at work, but that does not carry over to home. This is always a bit trying for me, but he does a pretty good job of picking up after himself which helps. Overall, if the clutter is contained, and surfaces are clear, then things run so much more smoothly for me and the family in general.

    • Anne says:

      Hmmm. I think my kids need drop zones. Now I’m wondering why I never thought of that before.

      Talking about this stuff is so beneficial, emotionally and practically. Thanks for the tip!

  28. Deborah says:

    I am a highly-sensitive introvert too. I read both Quiet and The Highly Sensitive Person, and I really identified with both of them. My boys are ten and seven, and managing our environment is a little easier now that they are older. I think one of the most helpful things is making sure the boys get plenty of outside time. They tend to be rather introverted also so I think we understand each other’s needs pretty well.

  29. Melinda Stanton (Auntie Em) says:

    HSP! This was a term new to me, but it explains a lot! I teach HS choir in the morning and assist in our MS program in the afternoon. We have a bit over 100 students on both campuses. We recently changed from block scheduling –where we saw 1/2 the kids every other day for 90 minutes– to seeing EVERYBODY EVERY DAY traditional, 50- minute classes. 200+ people every day is too much!
    Thanks Anne– I love your blog.

    • Anne says:

      That’s so interesting about the difference you’re feeling with the change in schedules. I never thought about it from the teacher’s perspective (except for on the homeschooling front, and from that I know teaching 4 is about 20x as draining as teaching 2!)

      I hope you can find a way to get comfortable in this schedule. But golly, 200+ people a day sounds daunting!

      Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  30. Wendy says:

    This is just what I needed to read today. I’m an extreme introvert with four kids. Lately I’ve felt like my head is going to explode if I don’t get some time to myself 🙂 I learned about HSP a few months ago, and I fit that profile as well. My husband and three oldest ALL talk nonstop–it’s like they can’t stand quiet. The jury is still out on the 1 year old, but all indications point towards him being highly verbal as well. They all seem to have this built in alarm system that goes off immediately when I sit down to read or catch my breath and I instantly have company. At dinner last night my daughter talked for 15 minutes straight; five minutes in my eyes glazed over and I started getting a headache and all I could think about was this post. Shortly thereafter I told my husband he’d have to take care of the kids because I was going out to weed the garden *by myself*. Two rejuvenating hours–just me, the weeds, and my podcasts. Thanks!

    • Colleen says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha!!! So VERY true! They know! Kids have some internal radar that pings whenever I’ve sat down.

      I’ll have to ask my (introverted) mother if I did this to her.

  31. Annette Standrod says:

    Oh my goodness Anne, I thought about texting you about this issues not too long ago. I wondered how you dealt with being around 4 little people all the time beig and introvert. It drives me crazy. I am sensitive to noise and we have lots of that here!

    • Anne says:

      Funny, I never would have guessed you were sensitive to noise. Maybe that’s because I never see you in a quiet place? Our kids are always around making a racket!

  32. Moira says:

    I loved reading this post! I have been feeling this way so much since summer vacation started last month and both my boys are home with me I still haven’t read Quiet, but based on this post I’ll be tracking it down immediately. Both my boys are extroverts and talkers, and so are loud all day. I love their enthusiasm and how excited they get but I realized I had to get a groove of quiet downtime at different points during the day so I could recharge and keep up! It’s so nice to see that I’m not the only one who feels like this.

  33. Tracy S. says:

    I just skimmed the preview pages of “The Highly Sensitive Person” (since I can’t find it at my library) and I have a question for those of you who have read it: Is HSP usually correlated with introversion? My extreme introvert child definitely fits the type, but my extreme introvert child does, too. I must buy that book!

    • Anne says:

      Hi Tracy, I just noticed I hadn’t replied to this yet. Aron (author of The Highly Sensitive Person) says introversion and HSP types are independent variables. I’d be interested in knowing if one of the personality types (introverts or extroverts) was more likely to also be HSP, but either type can be.

  34. Hi Anne!

    I just read Quiet this summer and had the same response! HSP hits me on the nose.
    There were so many times that I found myself reading parts of it aloud to whoever would listen, because it described me SO well.
    For example: in high school, I watched the Sixth Sense with a friend and was scared out of my mind. I could not sleep in my own bed for two months, and I couldn’t be in a room by myself for two weeks. Crazy right? I would tell people that movies and books really affected me and they would say: “Oh, it’s not that scary.”
    Oh goodness.
    I’ve had to learn to protect myself, not only from those kinds of things, but also from clutter, and even too much excitement when possible.
    On the plus side, I think that being a HSP allows me to really enter into emotions, and experiences. I can get really excited about a new pair of shoes, or a lovely scent, or a friend coming to visit.
    It was so nice to know that I wasn’t alone, and that I wasn’t “just” an introvert.
    Love this.
    Thank you for sharing.

  35. Katie says:

    So we were dog-sitting my mother-in-law’s two little dogs this past week, and I about died. One is super hyper and the other is super clingy (always crawling up in your lap or sitting right against your legs) and they are both LOUD (our own dogs rarely bark). I was so frazzled. It was awful. And they’re just dogs. Can you be so introverted you can’t even handle the company of animals? I’m beginning to think T-Rex will never have any siblings; it’s too much.

    It drives me crazy when my husband leaves cabinets or drawers open. I can take a decent amount of clutter on surfaces, though I prefer to clear them off or pile them, but it’s like leaving something open that /could/ be closed and hidden away just tips me right over the edge.

    Also, when I start getting stressed and overwhelmed by too many people or too much sensory input, I get the urge to chop all my hair off. Like I can’t even stand to have hair on my head anymore.

    I did not think I was when I read your post, but upon reading my own comment I think it’s clear I’m an HSP, too. Ha.

    • Katie says:

      So what I started out meaning to say was, thanks for the post! Yay MBTI geekery! And thank you for the reminder to do what I can to manage my environment, because I definitely end up with a baby (and dog!) hangover many days. 🙂

      • Jennifer says:

        I think you absolutely can be drained from being around annoying animals! My husband has a Beagle (I will never claim that dog as mine!) and he is the The constant, loud howling of a hound dog inside a house makes me want to punt him across the room (I’m not violent but good god that makes my blood boil); the constant licking that all dogs do makes me leave the room (yuck! Sounds like someone chewing with their mouth open) and when he flips out outside and wants to come in and just scratches at the door until you do so all make me irritable all day every day. When I have a day off without my husband at home the dog is in his kennel in the garage so I don’t have to deal with him. You’re lucky your own dogs don’t bother you, it is hell to live with an animal that drives you crazy all day, every day.

  36. Katie says:

    This is so me and out of my 4 kids, not one is like me. I homeschool, so after lunch I let them know “Mom needs a quiet time” and I get a break to recharge. And, I try to only drive one place a day, too many errands drains me. Knowing this about me helps me handle everyone in a more grace-filled manner.

  37. Thank you! I am definitely an HSP. I’m so happy to give it a name other than “Mommy is grumpy when everyone starts talking at once so I’m going to hide now.” Also, I think this is why I hate blenders and vacuum cleaners.

  38. Kara says:

    This idea of the HSP is fascinating, Anne. Thanks for sharing! I’ve always felt more sensitive than many of my peers. In 1st grade, I had to be removed from a classroom once because we were watching “Where the Red Fern Grows”, and I started to sob. Could. not. handle. it. I see that I have some kindred spirits, reading through these comments. 🙂 I’ve learned to accept certain things about myself. I don’t like concerts in large venues, for example, and all the small decisions that went into planning my wedding left me feeling completely overwhelmed…If it’s been a long day, I might have a moment of panic just looking at the wide array of choices on the cereal aisle. Sometimes it seems like I feel overstimulated and vulnerable too easily. I will definitely have to read the book you mentioned. I know that this is just how God made me, and I try to take a strengths perspective. Being a HSP can certainly be a gift. I’m thankful for you and readers helping to remind me of that tonight.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, interesting. I remember dreading Halloween in my grade school days, because I dreaded the scary stories we’d heard during our library time. I’d sit in the back and try to plug my ears. Poor little HSP!

  39. Jessika says:

    Thank you. A couple other books that touch on these topics that I’ve found helpful are Simplicity Parenting and Margin. I get decision overload easily. And find that I need one very clean room in my house-sometimes it’s just one bathroom-where I can go and not see work or mess around me. It give my eyes and mind a rest. Another area that can overwhelm me is our calendar. Even seeing that I need to make a phone call can feel like there’s no free time in a week. Visually it blocks off that day. The white open square of a day with nothing in it(and really I mean no extra, since there’s all the regular stuff and we also home school) makes me so happy.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, interesting! I just picked up Simplicity Parenting from the library. 🙂 (Even though I might be the last person in the blogosphere to read it.)

  40. amanda says:

    Oh my!!!!!!!!! I sooooo needed to read this! Struggled feeling like a bad mom bc I needed time/space. We’re working on setting some boundaries (ie staying in room till 7 a.m. and quiet time in rooms). thank you for your words!

  41. Amy says:

    Wow, this is so fascinating! I’m going to have to read more about it!
    It makes sense now that I h̶a̶t̶e̶ strongly dislike clothes shopping, visual clutter, and loud crowded events (like big concerts and some receptions). So cool.

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  43. Aleah says:

    I had never heard of HSP & this makes so much sense! Ellen Painter Dollar’s post was eye-opening for me, but like yourself I’m almost an extrovert, so I was struggling to figure out just where I fit in. I am totally an HSP & going to pick up Quiet.

    This came at the perfect time. I was in tears last night after coming home from a youth camp to my four kids who missed me. After an hour, I found myself flinching at the noise as they were crowding me, on top of the chaos of the cluttered house and the laundry piled high. I cried to my husband on the phone feeling guilty for not being more happy to be home and questioned why I’m not more equipped for this life I lead. So thankful to know I’m not alone nor am I a bad mom who doesn’t love her kids enough. Thank you, this feels like the beginning of a breakthrough 😉

    • Anne says:

      Hey Aleah, “beginning of a breakthrough” sounds like a good place to be. I’m so glad you’ve found some understanding. Now go get yourself a copy of Quiet!

  44. Antoinette says:

    “I’ve long known that when all 4 kids are talking to me at the same time, it burns my fuel at about 80 times the usual rate. But it’s not just because I’m an introvert, it’s because that’s way too much sensory input.”

    WOW!!!! Is that what it is!?!?!

    I generally say its just too much going on, while I close my eyes and cover my ears! 🙂
    This is amazing and so freeing to see that my personality challenges aren’t wrong! Thank you!!!

  45. Anne-
    Wow. I have been thinking about the HSP part of Quiet recently (I also LOVED Quiet, and will have to read Aron’s book). I’ve just made a transition back to grad school after being home for the summer, and man, it is hard. I keep thinking there has to be more to it than just the chaos of moving and the homesickness and a variety of other factors, and I’m definitely suspecting that I’m an HSP. I don’t want to be presumptuous about thinking I’m such a sensitive person, which is why I’ve not really been sure about it before; but it certainly would account for a lot of things. Thanks for your post!

  46. subscribing right now… i have met my bloggy soul mate.

    You described me to a T. the only times I yell or lose it at all have to do with walking into a room that’s been destroyed and messy and leaves me overwhelmed. 🙁

    but as a HSP, I promise not to bombard you. I totally get the visual thing. I keep telling my family that it’s the visual stimulation I can’t handle… it’s the not having cleared of surfaces… the colors… the STUFF everywhere… it overwhelms me and leaves me having panic attacks.

    I’m taking this new term with me to therapy next time… going to pin her to the wall and ask her about it.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

      I’ve loved reading through the comments here. I had no idea there were so many HSP kindred spirits out there until this post went up.

  47. Caroline says:

    Just found you and like everyone else, have just put a hold on Quiet at my library. I will be interested to read more about HSP as I have found myself much more drained after a day home since welcoming child #3 (I also homeschool.) and find myself yelling much more than I’d like. It is usually over picking up the house, their room, being quiet, etc. Like others have mentioned, I do not watch Law & Order or any of those shows, it affects me too much. Thank you for all the insights into how I can better arrange my days to help me. We already do quiet time after lunch, but I find myself wanting 2 hours a day and feel like I want more! It helps when I keep the computer totally off during the day. I am easily distracted. Thank you again!!

  48. Mia says:

    I’m a HSP and so are my children. Reading “A Highly Sensitive Child” by Elaine Aaron has helped me to understand them. Otherwise I would feel like all three of us are crazy. What I find very exhausting are comments of other people in parks, on playgrounds or from teachers in kindergarten. Every week I hear from them – why are your children so sensitive, why are they so shy, why are they so quiet. I almost feel like they are telling me – why can’t they just be normal? That makes me feel sad and like it’s my fault they are like that. One time a kindergarten teacher even asked me – are you a very strict parent since your daughter is so scared of children and so quiet?

  49. Melissa says:

    Such an insightful post and follow-up comments! I took my daughter out of public school the end of her 7th grade year to homeschool because she was having such a hard time in that chaotic environment. She has always been a quiet introvert (but so very creative) and from preschool through 4th grade was in a small Christian school where classmates somewhat shielded her “don’t invite her to your birthday party. She won’t come not because she doesn’t like you, she just doesn’t like parties”. When she was in public school for 5th grade I received many calls from the school counselor because she was so quiet and withdrawn. By the end of the year they encouraged me to have her tested fro Autism. We spent the money and she endured the testing and I felt the doctor felt she had to produce some kind of diagnosis so she was labeled “mildly Autistic”. We went through many teacher meetings and IEP meetings for 6th and 7th grade before someone suggested “Selective Mutism” as her “problem”. She’s now beginning her 10th grade year (still homeschooling) and I honestly feel it’s taken her this long to heal from everything that came before.

    All of that to say it seems like she is HSP as well and it’s been so helpful to read others’ comments describing their triggers. I actually checked out “Quiet” from the library some time ago, but had to return it without reading it because there were too many holds on it to renew. I think I shall get back on that waiting list!

    Thank you so much for this post and to all of you who took the time to comment!

  50. nancy says:

    Right after reading quiet, I wrote to Susan Cain and told her that her next book needed to be about parenting as an introvert. I find the craziness of life with young children overwhelming at times, precipitating a desire to run out the door. My husband says that I should write this book. Every time my introversion bumps up against the call of parenting, he says, “you should put that in your book!”

  51. Andrea says:

    I’ve just discovered your site and am loving it. This post made me feel like you might be a kindred spirit (I have a 6yo, 4yo, and 1yo and am rather sensitive/introverted myself) who has put her finger on something very important in our home – that I didn’t quite manage to realize after reading Quiet myself.

    Here’s my question for you, though. After the kids are up and grown, will you regret having sacrificed so many professional opportunities by choosing to homeschool? (Is this answered somewhere on your blog?)

    • Anne says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words.

      And believe me, that’s my question, too. It’s not answered here on the blog, exactly, but it is muddled through at great length.

      • Andrea says:

        Thanks for the kind and thoughtful answer. I’m asking, of course, because you make homeschooling sound both doable and desirable for someone who is, maybe, a bit like me (which is nothing short of astonishing).

        My son is in a wonderful private school, and we recently had the realization of just exactly how crazy 3 kids with a private school tuition would be… and now we’re looking again at our local public school. I’d like the best possible education for our kids and – from my pov – that’s not the public school approach. Homeschooling sounds much better for my kids, and financially better than private school, but I can’t shake that it’s not the best option for me (I tend to be better, more balanced/sane when I’m working) or our marriage (which also, perhaps relatedly, tends to be better when we’re both working). And so I put the question to you. Thanks, Anne. (I don’t expect a further answer, I just realized my comment was somewhat perfunctory – didn’t mean to question your choices, just asking about my own imminent ones.)

  52. Heatherly says:

    Is it possible for an extrovert to be an HSP? I know you read about it in Quiet, but I wondered if it applied to “us” as well? I’ll have to look into it more.

  53. Julie says:

    This is me!!! Clutter, noise, and 6 busy kids constantly scurrying underfoot…I am spent! I think I’m going to get a mother’s helper.

  54. Ruth Hays says:

    Dear Anne, I love your posts every day and this one really described me. I just wanted to comment on how hard it is for me at times to be a pastor’s wife and an introvert. When there is events and lots of people and noise…I sometimes just escape and go home to our quiet home. I have been a minister’s wife for 30+ years. And raised two children. I definitely have always needed space. Love, Ruth

  55. Ann says:

    I just recently encountered the idea of highly sensitive people for the first time, and I realize I am one. Finally, at age 49, I have an explanation for a lot of what I’ve been struggling with my entire life. I’ve always just thought I was an idiot who couldn’t handle life as well as other people did, so it’s been comforting to know there are others like me. My son very likely is one, too. I’m excited to be able to help him with what I’m learning, at an age where it will make a difference to the whole rest of his life. I’m also thrilled that now I can count your blog as another resource. Thanks. 🙂

  56. Jeanene says:

    YES!!! Wow…ok HSP. Well,mit certainly explains my issues. Thing is, I am not sure I can undo some of what we have done(such as me giving into my hubby wanting another dog…when we already had three. And having two four year olds who are in “I WILL break the world record for number of questions in a 30 second period!” Mode. Ugh ugh ugh. Gonna go read your other post…hoping to find ways to cope better. By the end of the holidays this year I was simply undone!

  57. Lisa says:

    What a great post, thank you! I felt like a bobble head as I read and kept thinking, ‘this is me’. My children are all adults now, but some of those days never leave you. I’m also relieved to find that there are a lot of introverts out there like me:people can be a lot of work and suck you dry.

  58. Wendy says:

    Not so much an HSP, but definitely an introvert, and I discovered a little too late to do anything about it that introversion, middle school teaching, and parenting two extroverts is an EXHAUSTING combination.

  59. Cori says:

    We read about the HSP about 10 years ago and it really helped to understand my husband so much better. Aron’s online diagnostic labels you a HSP if you answer yes to 14 or more of her 27 questions and Hubby answered yes to 24. His sister is also HSP. Two of my kids are highly sensitive to lesser degrees. This has helped to keep things in perspective. I very much look forward to looking up Quiet. Haven’t read it yet! Always looking for ways to better manage and find a happy medI’m between my extroverted personality and his highly sensitive introverted personality. I will say, he keeps me balanced. We help one another to each be less extreme. I love him to bits and am so thankful that He is gifted in this quirky way.

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