Can a person be too sensitive?

Now, like with stupid questions, before you answer this with an obvious “yes” and move on with your life, hear me out.

With the extreme diversity in people in regards to pretty much anything (age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, language, socio-economic status, family structure, etc etc), we’re all going to have different values and establish some things as more important than others. With that, we’re obviously going to find different things offensive based off what we’ve established as normal and what goes against it; something that’s extremely rude for one may not even ping the radar of another.

I know there’s a few threads concerning rudeness and whatnot, but this is a general thread. Do you think that some people can be irrationally offended? Where should we draw the line on respecting values? Should we even draw a line? What might be seen as borderline remarks when working in diverse communities, and what should be considered acceptable?

I can give some general examples if needed, but I want to see how this plays out first.

I’d be hesitant to call somebody else overly-sensitive, but I know for a fact that I’m too sensitive, as unfortunately seen on this very board. I react poorly and over the top to perceived slights that weren’t even meant as more than a mild slight, or were just poor/terse wording rather than actual malice.

I won’t go further because I don’t want to accidentally turn this thread into The Jragon Show, but I do think that people can be too sensitive and that I’m one of them.

That’s what my abuser kept saying to me after hurting me—“You’re too sensitive!” It’s a classic abuser line.

I am in the yes you can be over sensitive crowd. The world is over sensitive as is IMO. I’ve heard two cases in the past month of said over sensitivity. They expelled a 6 year boy in NJ for pointing his finger and saying bang like he had a gun on the playground 3 weeks ago. Then a week later they suspended a girl because the bus driver overheard her plans to shoot another girl with a Hello Kitty bubble gun and then let the girl shoot her. She didn’t even have the bubble gun in her possession.

People really need to mind their business in society. Atheists stop complaining because believers practice their religion, believers stop complaining because atheist don’t. Everyone is too politically correct. If you celebrate Christmas say merry Christmas, if you celebrate Ramadan say happy Ramadan, if you celebrate Flying Spaghetti Monster Day, then say happy Flying Spaghetti Monster Day. If you don’t then don’t.

Johanna abuse is wrong. Your abuser was wrong for abusing you and wrong for saying that to you. It’s not real victims who are overly sensitive, it’s bored people who want to force changes over things that have nothing to do with them on people that have nothing to do with them that are being over sensitive.

The two previous posts demonstrate how difficult it is to draw a line when it comes to sensitivity. Where does “What you said hurt me because of my own issues” turn into “What you said hurt me because it was genuinely hurtful.” I’ve been incredibly oversensitive my entire life, and have only recently done some necessary work on reducing my sensitivity. I still have a hard time distinguishing when someone is genuinely being mean, and when it’s my own insecurity coloring my reaction, but I’m getting better at it. Even a “reasonable person” standard (would a reasonable person think this is hurtful?) can fail because communities have differing standards. What might be a terrible insult IRL might only be a mild joke or have an entirely different meaning on the Dope.

One of my friends are really over sensitive. He (they are not even a girl :eek:) gets upset over almost anything. If we get into a little debate, he gets all pissed and upset. It really irritates me because normal people would enjoy the debate and just go with it. But he just gets all upset.

He even gets upset when other people swear. I wanted to show him something funny that happened on the Message Board on my phone, and it had swearing in it, and instead of laughing (which any normal person would have done, even most sensitive girls), he got upset.

Yes there is a such thing. It’s when you realize that they’re getting upset over stupid little things, and I know maybe I am a little sensitive given my trivial pit threads, but if even I think that my friend is being overly sensitive, then we have a serious problem.

Sensitivity is a human feeling. If a human feels something, it’s by definition not invalid. So no, there’s no such thing as “too sensitive” from an objective POV. However, there *are *plenty of people that are more or less sensitive than the people around them. In which case, they should find other people to date/hang out with.

I’m with Rachellelogram. How sensitive you are is the way you are. Like most things in life it has it’s pros and cons. I think it is our more sensitive folks who make fine works of art and become good at working with other people. They make excellent healers, animal trainers, writers.

But just like every double-edged sword a person needs to learn how to live with the gifts they are given. If your sensitivity is frequently causing you distress then you need to learn techniques to modify it, shut it off on occasion or deal with it after the fact.

And you reply “No, you’re too weak to say sorry”.

My ex wore his sensitivity like a halo. I once said that if I had a heart attack, he would be genuinely upset . . . but we’d have to deal with his being upset before we dealt with my heart attack.

I used to be really thin-skinned, and the Straight Dope + Life experience has improved on that quite a bit. I now take criticism reasonably well. That said, I am still hyper-sensitive to negativity. Too much of people not getting along and I start to get depressed. Too much bad news and I start to get depressed. Being around a melancholy person will bring me down as well.

I used to lament this about me, but then I realized that this sensitivity is probably why I feel empathy for other people. And I like that about me, and wouldn’t change it. So I guess I have to accept the fact that I am more easily hurt than others, because that’s the price I pay for being able to care.

There is absolutely such thing as being ‘‘too sensitive,’’ but I think the definition varies depending on who and what you’re talking about. I don’t think people should be so sensitive that they try to control others’ behavior - freaking out when they hear a curse word is a really good example. Or being unable to experience daily life without having your issues ‘‘triggered.’’ I was once on a mental health forum with a woman who self-identified as having dissociative identity disorder, and there was a rule in this forum you couldn’t use triggering words (like ‘‘abuse’’ I guess, or whatever.) But there was this woman who, whenever she heard the word ‘‘mother’’ she would start behaving like a four year old. And she expected everyone to refrain from using the word ‘‘mother’’ so as not to trigger her sensitive self. At some point you have to recognize that your sensitivity is your own problem and not the world’s problem.

I too am a sensitive person - and it has definitely caused me problems in life (mostly in work settings). I am trying to get a grip on how to react appropriately to things that really upset me - and I realize I don’t even understand why I’m getting upset yet. It’s a process, what appears to be a longer than expected process - but at least I’m starting to try.

It’s definitely something that I feel is my responsibility - if I am upset about something someone else says or does (depending on the circumstances) I’m the one that needs to 1. understand why is it upsetting to me 2.Decide if I’m going to respond and 3. What the appropriate response is.

That said - there are also insensitive butt-heads out there who should do some of their own self-searching before opening their big obnoxious mouths…Goes both ways I guess.

NO. Why? What have you heard? Did somebody say something to you about me?? OMG, what did they say?!

Depends on what you mean by “invalid”.

I’ve encountered people with the definite view that their sensitivity entitled them to absolute veto power over the plans of a group. “No, we can’t go to that restaurant that everyone else likes because two years ago a waitress there was snippy to me.”

Calling this invalid and proceeding with little regard for it is (for all concerned) a better strategy than indulging it.

Trimmed post but, yeah, exactly.

Sometimes being extra sensitive is a good thing, sometimes its a neutral (it just is what it is) but it does become a negative when the sensitive person externalizes responsibility for their feelings, blaming the whole universe for something that’s really inside of them personally, and uses it to control others.

I also find it ironic when the sensitive person feels hurt at some perceived and unintentional slight, and lashes out by intentionally insulting and judging others. Then falls back on “oh I did that because I’m soooo sensitive.” Sensitive? Only to yourself!

Bingo! I’ve known several people who not only consider themselves “sensitive” but also feel that the self-identification excuses any insensitivity they display towards others. Of course, I’ve also known those whose extreme sensitivity has led them to be very empathetic and caring. Guess which type I’m more likely to indulge?


No, I am not too sensitive and how dare you suggest so.

[People can be too sensitive, as there sensitivity can have a debilitating effect on their interactions with others. On the other hand we all have emotions and they are there for purpose and therefore shouldn’t be ignored. As Johanna says accusing someone of being overly-sensitive can be a way of trying to stifle a legitimate grievance. Like many things in life it’s about finding a happy balance, which actually can be very difficult]

Conversely, claiming sensitivity can be a form of abuse: When a person uses their claimed sensitivity to demand absolute control, as Xema said, that’s a form of emotional abuse. I recently found an example of this on Tumblr (quelle surprise!):

And, of course, the reply:

So, there’s a line between calling out body shaming and fat people jumping on anyone who dares to try and lose weight in their presence. The former is laudable, the latter is abusive, or at the very least controlling and manipulative.

Is that real sensitivity or is it a conscious tactic? I don’t think it’s always a conscious tactic, but more of a defense mechanism from someone who can’t tolerate certain thoughts being expressed around them. So it’s real, but it comes from a very unhealthy place, and it can be used to make others unhealthy as well.