Do highly sensitive persons display hypersensitive narcissism? Similarities and differences in the nomological networks of sensory processing sensitivity and vulnerable narcissism

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



BACKGROUND: Individuals with high sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) ("highly sensitive persons") are thought to be easily excitable and overwhelmed, highly attentive to aesthetic impressions, and particularly sensitive to sensory stimulation. Public discourse suggests that those who describe themselves as highly sensitive see themselves as fundamentally different from others, and view their personality as a gift and a burden. From a clinical personality perspective, high sensitivity could be considered to have substantial overlaps with hypersensitive narcissism, or generally vulnerable narcissism.

METHOD: We investigated the associations and shared nomological networks between high sensitivity and hypersensitive narcissism in two studies using convenience and representative samples (n 1  = 280, n 2  = 310).

RESULTS: There is evidence for replicable associations between SPS and hypersensitive (.53 ≤ r ≤ .54) as well as vulnerable narcissism (.44 ≤ r ≤ .54), associations were not attributable to general neuroticism. Nomological networks were similar and pointed to a neurotic-introverted personality profile with reduced personality functioning. Latent class analyses further pointed to substantial and practically relevant person-level covariance.

CONCLUSION: Sensory processing sensitivity and hypersensitive narcissism are substantially related constructs. For clinicians, this points to the importance of being attentive to narcissistic self-regulatory strategies in individuals presenting as highly sensitive.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-254
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

External IDs

Scopus 85135063958
unpaywall 10.1002/jclp.23406
Mendeley 445c9847-7a12-3f8e-bb8c-fb5d7bf931c8



  • highly sensitive person, hypersensitive narcissism, narcissism, sensory processing sensitivity, vulnerable narcissism

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