Are you a highly sensitive, high sensation seeker?

There a times when I want loud noises, activity and adventure. I want to run around, listen to loud music, feel the blood pumping, scream, shout because I want the stimulation, the danger.

But other times I feel I can’t take it. I need to withdraw from the world, to find tranquility and relax.

I seem to have found myself walking a fine line. It’s both strange and unnerving that I seem to bounce between such extremes.

One moment chaos and danger is awesome, hours later, I’m stressed to the point of feeling unwell.

What can explain this?

Being a Highly Sensitive Person can explain the desire for solitude and calm. But what about he adrenaline junkies side?

Well, it turns out there are some people who are High Sensation Seekers.

What’s a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

HSPs account for about 20% over the population and are include both men and women.

HSPs are called this because they have a biological trait called Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS).

To be sensitive is to have a more reactive nervous system and is looked at in four ways.

Inhibition of behaviour, in new situations HSPs have the tendency to hold back in order to process the situation.

The have a greater awareness of sensory stimulation, more subtleties are noticed in the world around them, and within themselves like body sensations and thoughts, emotions, but it can lead to overestimation and anxiety.

Deeper processing of all this information, and comparing it to experiences from the past or possibilities in the future. It involves greater contemplation of this formation, both conscious and unconscious.

Stronger emotional reactions result in a greater intensity of emotion, which may invoke behaviours like contemplation, increased focus and attention to possible threats, and greater drive towards learning.

These are perhaps not the only traits involved but are used to help understand psychological and behavioural responses.

What is High Sensation Seeker (HSS)?

Those who are sensation seekers need greater stimulation through novelty and complexity ans seek sensation for its own sake in order to feel the emotion of the moment.

They can get easily bored, but like the hustle and bustle of activity.

What’s important to know is that it’s not just a type of person but also a biological trait that we all have to varying degrees.

It’s what makes us seek adventure, excitement. Sometimes taking extreme risks like adrenaline sports, drug taking, unprotected sex and more.

Sensation Seeking is a trait first defined by David Zuckerman in the 1960’s, and involves four components

  • Thrill and adventure seeking – which is the desire to take part in risky activities like adrenaline sports. Such as skydiving, flying or driving at high speeds.
  • Experience seeking – is about seeking new experiences and pushing personal boundaries, so can include the taking of mind altering drugs, hooking up with fringe societies and groups.
  • Disinhibition – sensation seeking through wild parties, promiscuous sex, and feeling out of control.
  • Boredom susceptibility – a low tolerance for uninteresting people, places or activities.

What does it mean to be a HSP/ HSS?

The upside to being sensitive yet need intense stimulation is that you will go out and seek these novel experiences, but you are unwilling to take extremes risks in order to get them.

We are more careful, plan better, take precautions. The result is that our thrill seeking is done in a safer way, with less chance of things going wrong.

Sensation seeking is tempered by conscientiousness, prudence, and calculated risk.

The downside is that these two drives can result in feeling conflicted. One side will win over the other temporarily only for it to be redressed later on. So you feel as though you are bouncing between two extremes, never happy for long because you will want more or less stimulation soon.

The sensitive side can seem like a burden because it seems to hold us back. Without it, you could enjoy more novelty more of the time. In society our sensitive side is less understood and accepted, so we feel we have to ignore it. I often wish I wasn’t quite so sensitive, that I could do more and be more of a risk taker.

There an article here that helps explain it further, along with a test to see to how much of a sensation seeker you are.

For me being a sensation seeker and a sensitive type has led me to play computer games with battle and danger. Watching films, TV, and novels with drama and action. Though horror is a genre that’s to scary for me. It’s about stories filled with adventure and excitement, lots of battles, romance, sex, and passion. They can leave me trembling with fear, anger or desire as I take on the role of the protagonist.

I’m not much of a traveller, but I do like hiking up into hills and mountains, even though I have a fear of heights. That feeling of danger is both thrilling and unsettling to me.

I would like to try my hand at more intense sports like surfing, kite surfing or a martial art.

I’ve also had peak experiences, where I feel so emotional I couldn’t keep it all in. The agony and ecstasy of a moment makes me feel like I’m dying and transcending at the same time. I live for those moments in some ways.

But I have to calm myself down afterward by resting. Like climbing into bed, because it’s warm, quiet and dark.

Being a sensitive sensation seeker is to walk a tightrope between too much or too little stimulation.

It’s not an easy line to walk because we are not totally in control of our circumstances.

Yet those sensitive types who need intense experiences need to learn to balance the novelty with rest periods for recovery.

I’m still not sure I am a sensation seeker, but it does explain a lot of my desires and behaviour.

Do you seek out or desire novelty and stimulation even though you react strongly to it?

How do you balance and honour the two extremes of adventure and safety in your life? Comment below.


HSP Podcast #16: High Sensation Seeking – A Highly Sensitive Person’s Life [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 14]. Available from:

Sensation seeking [Internet]. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2016 [cited 2016 Sep 14]. Available from:

Comfort Zone | May 2006 – The HSP Who Is Also A High Sensation Seeker [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 14]. Available from:

Further Reading

tmcooper. The sensation seeking highly sensitive male [Internet]. The Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) with Tracy Cooper, Ph.D. 2015 [cited 2016 Sep 15]. Available from:

Desperately Seeking Sensation: Fear, Reward, and the Human Need for Novelty [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 15]. Available from:

Aron EN, Aron A, Jagiellowicz J. Sensory processing sensitivity: a review in the light of the evolution of biological responsivity. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2012 Aug;16(3):262–82.

Leave a comment