Many people refer to themselves as introverts, empaths, or highly sensitive persons (HSPs). While these three personality types share some similarities, there are also key differences between them. In this post, we’ll look at introversion, empathy, and high sensitivity, discuss what they have in common, and explain how they differ. Whether you identify as an introvert, empath, or a highly sensitive person, or have loved ones who do, this post will shed light on how these temperaments shape personality and relationships. If this is you, understanding these traits and where they come from can go a long way to shifting your thoughts about yourself; it can change how you interact with others and how you move about the world. Read on. You might be surprised about what science has to say about all three of these personality traits.

These Traits are Misunderstood

While recent years have given more attention to these personality traits, there is still a large misunderstanding about what these traits actually mean and how they impact a person. Likewise, there is still much shame and stigma around anyone who does not look or act like mainstream culture. And, this includes those with traits of introversion, deep empathy, and high sensitivity.

Let’s face it! Our culture still idealizes the hustle-bustle way of life. Society espouses busyness, over-productivity, and a social life full of large gatherings. A culture where you should always “be on.” Being impressive equals working late, taking on too many projects, and having big groups of friends. This can feel chaotic, overwhelming, and simply too much for the introvert, empath, or highly sensitive person who has a lower threshold for stimulation and prefers a calm environment. It can make an introvert, empath, or highly sensitive person feel out of place. But, you don’t have to. If you have a quiet, thoughtful, and empathic nature, you are someone who experiences the world through what I like to call a lens of deep impassioned introspection. And, this is normal. It’s just not mainstream. If this is you, I hope this post will help you tap into and begin to love your remarkable personality. Let’s take a look at each trait.


Did you know that introverts are social people who love spending time with close friends? Introverts love meaningful experiences and connections.

Introversion and extraversion are on a continuum. We all have introverted and extroverted parts within us. And, any one of us has our own dose of each that makes up who we are. I use the word dose on purpose as there is science that backs up where you fall on the continuum. Holly Gerth, author of The Powerful Purpose of Introverts explains the research. She says our neurotransmitters, nervous system, and brain pathways all help determine where we land on the continuum. It’s not about how you socialize, it’s about how you were born and how your brain is wired. It turns out that how you prefer to socialize is an expression of your wiring.

The short of it is this: the introvert brain prefers and gets rewarded by quiet spaces, less intense activities, and energy-conserving situations. The brain pathway is longer, more complex, and internally focused. Introverts tend to draw from long-term memory and integrate the past, present, and future. This leads to deep and complex thinking. Introverts process information internally, often thinking before they speak. Their inner world is where they feel most at home. This is one of the foundational strengths of an introvert. This makes an introvert highly creative, emotionally intelligent, and intuitive, someone who is innovative and outside the box. Introverts have much value to add to relationships, the workplace, and the world. Surprisingly, research shows that 30-50% of our population are introverts.

Image of a man jumping happily in the middle of a road in the city. Work with a highly sensitive therapist in Austin, TX to uncover your unique traits.

You may lean towards being an introvert if:

1. You spend time alone to recharge and enjoy spending time alone.
2. You do your best thinking alone.
3. You are better at writing your thoughts than speaking them.
4. You dislike small talk and talking on the phone.
5. Others say you are too sensitive, too intense, or too something . . .
6. You enjoy socializing but only if it is meaningful.
7. Parties and large, loud gatherings wear you out.
8. You tend to overthink. You live in your head.
9. You prefer a small circle of friends.
10. You feel like an old soul but others see you as reserved or even boring.

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs)

Did you know that sensitivity is a personality trait? We all have it.

Sensitivity is a personality trait but some people are more sensitive than others. A highly sensitive person is someone whose brain processes all information very deeply. This includes emotions, thoughts, and all sensory input. Researchers refer to a high-sensitivity trait as Sensory Processing Sensitivity, SPS. It’s important to know that having high sensitivity is normal. It’s real, researched, science-backed, and largely genetic. Research tells us that we are born with a sensitivity level but life experiences can make an impact. If you are an HSP, you were likely born that way.

And, research says about 15-30 % of the population have this personality trait. So, if this is you. You are not alone. The bottom line is that an HSP typically processes more information around them than others. They have a rich inner world and are constantly thinking and reflecting on all the cues in the world around them. At the core they process things very deeply, intuitively make subtle connections, are highly empathetic, and are very in tune with the people around them. Their reflectiveness and emotional depth help them empathize, problem-solve, and think insightfully. HSPs also have a profound appreciation for beauty.

Understanding High Sensitivity

High sensitivity is an extraordinary trait. It is a strength but without self-care, it can also lead to overwhelm and exhaustion. When one does not understand how to manage and use their sensitivity to their advantage, there can be high levels of burnout. Additionally, many who have this trait suffer greatly from being misunderstood, different, too emotional, or too sensitive. Most have been told just that at some point (or many points) in their life. This is why it’s important to note what being a highly sensitive person is not. It’s not someone who is easily offended, emotionally erratic, fragile, someone who falls apart at the drop of a hat, or just makes a big deal out of nothing. The stigma associated with being highly sensitive can result in anxiety, depression, low confidence, and low self-esteem. This is what often brings an HSP to therapy.

Dr. Elanin Aron, researcher, psychotherapist, and author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, has spent years studying high sensitivity. She developed the acronym DOES to help understand the 4 main aspects of an HSP.

D = Depth of Processing
O = Overstimulation
E = Emotional Reactivity; Empathy
S = Sensing the SubtleImage of a man sitting on a bench reading a book on a sunny day. With HSP therapy in Austin, TX you can find support to cope with your unique traits.

Keeping in mind DOES, and ask these 10 questions about yourself if you think you’re an HSP:

1. Do I reflect more about the world, the meaning of life, my work, and my relationships than others?
2. Am I slow at making decisions, need more time, but make good decisions for myself?
3. Am I deeply moved by beauty, art, nature, and joy? Or deeply concerned by the pain and suffering of others?
4. Do I have deep personal insight and understand long-term consequences?
5. Am I highly conscientious?
6. Do I experience overstimulation and overwhelmed with too much information coming in and then when able to find a quiet place, am able to process and integrate?
7. Do others think something is wrong with me because I seem unable to take in and handle as much in any given moment as they do?
8. Do I need more downtime than family and friends?
9. Do I notice sounds, smells or tastes more than others?
10. Do I notice when someone is uncomfortable and instinctively know how to make them better?


Did you know that empaths absorb both positive and negative emotions?

Empaths take on other people’s emotions (both positive and negative), absorbing the emotions as their own. Not only are they capable of extraordinarily deep empathy as Dr. Judith Oroloff, empath expert, says, but they can intuitively sense where a person is coming from and what they are trying to say even when that person is struggling to make sense of their own thoughts. And, it’s not just emotions. Empaths can feel the physical pain of others too. Furthermore, empaths can take on the emotions of others by reading a news article, hearing a news story, or seeing a photo.

How is this possible? Dr. Orloff explains, “In empaths, the brain’s mirror neuron system – a specialized group of cells that are responsible for compassion- is thought to be hyperactive. As a result, empaths can absorb other people’s energies into their own bodies. At times it may even be difficult for an empath to tell if they are feeling their own emotions or someone else’s. She goes on to say that being an empath is an incredible gift that can lead to high creativity and greater connection with others but it can also lead to overwhelm, exhaustion, and stress, especially when absorbing negative emotions and experiences.

Knowing if You’re a True Empath

It’s important to know if you are a true empath. Being able to manage your day-to-day life and that which you absorb is key to an empath’s well-being. An empath can go from feeling extremely happy to overwhelmed and stressed just by absorbing a news story or new energy coming into the room. The challenges of our world today can be particularly burdensome for an empath. Our world today needs more empathy and certainly a true empath is a gift bringing compassion, intuition, connection, and love. If you are an empath and taking on the emotions of our times, I invite you to look at the resources a the bottom of the page and encourage you to look after your well-being with extra special care.

Ask yourself these questions? If they resonate, you may be an empath.

1. Do I frequently get overwhelmed or anxious? Sometimes out of nowhere?
2. Am I overwhelmed in intimate relationships?
3. Does my space need to be a sanctuary?
4. Am I a walking lie detector?
5. Do I have a calming effect on other people? Able to heal them?
6. Is it hard for me to walk away from someone in pain without helping?
7. Do violent and tragic events overwhelm and distress me?
8. Do I need a long time to recuperate after being with difficult people or energy vampires?
9. Do I have profound intuitive spiritual experiences with animals and nature?
10. Can I sense and understand other people’s feelings as if I am in their shoes?

Key Differences Between Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive Persons

Introversion, empathy, and high sensitivity may seem similar on the surface, but there are key differences between them. The key is recognizing they are distinct traits that may overlap in some individuals but do not always occur together. Understanding the nuances can give you more insight into how you are wired.

Here are 5 key differences to keep in mind.

1. Introversion is more about needing time alone to recharge. Introverts tend to be inwardly focused and gain energy from having time to themselves. In contrast, empathy and sensitivity relate more to how one processes external stimuli from others.

2. Empathy involves identifying with and absorbing other people’s perspectives and emotions. Empaths feel what others around them are feeling. However, this does not necessarily mean they are also sensitive or introverted. Many extroverted people are highly empathic.

3. Sensitivity refers specifically to being highly reactive to external stimuli like light, sound, touch, and emotions. Highly sensitive people tend to process everything more deeply. While sensitive people often have high empathy, the two do not always go together. Some sensitive individuals may struggle to read other people’s emotions.

4. Introverts choose solitary activities to recharge while empaths and highly sensitive people may become overwhelmed by crowds yet not necessarily crave alone time.

5. Introverts are not necessarily empathic or sensitive – they simply need time alone. You can be an empath or highly sensitive without being introverted.

Image of a woman sitting on a rock near water doing breathing exercises. In HSP therapy in Austin, TX you can work on discovering your unique traits and if you are an introvert, empath, or HSP.

Resources to Explore Your Traits

With a bit of education and some deep work, you can accept these amazing aspects of yourself and gain more confidence in who you are. If any of these traits, or all of them resonate, I invite you to check out these resources to help further your discovery about yourself:

Jean Granneman’s Introvert, Dear Community

Dr. Elaine Aron

Dr. Judith Orloff, MD

Do You Resonate With Any of These Traits?

If you find yourself anxious, staying small, feeling overwhelmed, and disconnected, reach out. I offer a space of complete safety for you. A space where you can come to accept these parts and learn to tap into the strength that comes from these remarkable traits. I find that online therapy and walk-and-talk therapy are particularly fitting for an introvert, empath, or highly sensitive person. We can find a quiet space outdoors and revel in nature or meet online.

Many of my clients with these traits love online therapy. They relish staying in the comfort of their home surrounded by touchstones, pets, and the warmth of their curated space. No hustle and bustle to get to the appointment, only a moment to create your quiet space of calm so you can think, process, and go deep.

Start Embracing Your Unique Traits With the Help of Therapy for Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive Persons in Austin, Houston, and Throughout Texas!

Seeking therapy for introverts, empaths, and highly sensitive persons can provide valuable support tailored to your unique needs. Take the courageous step towards self-care and explore how therapy at my Texas practice can empower you to navigate life’s challenges with resilience and clarity. Embrace the opportunity to cultivate self-awareness, build coping strategies, and foster a deep understanding of your strengths in a safe and non-judgmental space. Follow these three simple steps to get started:

  1. Schedule a consultation to see if Therapy for Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive Persons is right for you.
  2. Begin meeting with a skilled HSP therapist, Lysle Shaw, LCSW.
  3. Embrace your unique traits!

Other Therapy Services Offered at Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy

At Lysle Shaw Psychotherapy, I provide a wide array of therapeutic services that extend beyond introvert, empath, and HSP therapy. In addition to introvert, empath, and HSP therapy, I offer Online Therapy, Walk-and-Talk Therapy, Individual Therapy for Relationship Issues, Trauma Therapy, Spiritual and Extensional Exploration, and Jungian Dreamwork. Begin your journey toward healing and growth by reaching out. Find more articles like this on my Blog.

Image of a woman sitting in a field of tall grass smiling. Discover your unique personality traits with highly sensitive person therapy in Austin, TX.

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