WELLNESS
10/22/2015 01:42 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2015

This Is What It's Really Like To Be A Highly Sensitive Person

No, it doesn't mean you cry all the time.

We traditionally categorize people as either introverts or extroverts, but personalities are often more nuanced than that. Research shows that roughly 20 percent of the population can also be described as a highly sensitive person, or someone who thinks and feels more deeply.

Kelly O'Laughlin, author of A Highly Sensitive Person's Life, explained to HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani how the trait -- also known as sensory processing sensitivity -- affects the way an individual understands the world around them.

"You're very observant and conscientious and you tend to be intuitive," O'Laughlin said. "We can tend to be sensitive to smells and loud noises, bright lights. We feel beauty in nature and art really intensely. We make careful decisions."

According to Diana Hereld, a psychology and neuroscience researcher at the University of California, San Diego, the trait is characterized by depth of processing, physiological arousal, high empathy and sensitivity to subtle stimuli, like the noise or light in a room.

Another characteristic of a highly sensitive person is greater emotional and physical reactivity. But that certainly doesn't mean that they cry all the time or can't function normally, O'Laughlin said. The trait is more of a strength than a weakness.

"The word 'sensitive' also can have a negative connotation to people, but when you really think about the word sensitive, what does it really mean? It means conscientious and observant and those are great qualities to have," O'Laughlin said. "Those are not negative things."

Sound familiar? Watch the HuffPost Live clip above to hear more about the trait and take this research-based questionnaire to see if you're a highly sensitive person.

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