I think I've been called "oversensitive" by most of the people I know - sometimes disparagingly, sometimes affectionately. Most people who know me well have observed that I have a really hard time in crowds or cities - spending any extended period of time in such an energetic environment leaves me physically shaky and weak. I've always described it as the "sponge" effect - I soak up what's around me to an insane degree. I plug my ears when loud things happen, like braking busses or jackhammers. In virtually any party situation, I can interact with the crowd for some limited amount of time, after which I always need to unwind, and retreat to my room to sit in the dark. I am completely unable to watch violence or tension on TV or in movies; during these scenes I usually plug my ears and shut my eyes; even when watching completely tame shows I find myself tense and stiff and really on the edge. Even if I *like* watching them, they do me in.
These weird traits have been interpreted in various ways. I think some people think I'm kind of faking it, like a lot of middle school girls fake being afraid of bugs just so they can all squeal in "fear" at the sight of one, which in some twisted way connects people socially. Others see it as a very negative thing; the result of my not watching TV as a child. Still more feel they have to be very careful around me, for fear of "setting me off" - that's not a great way to say it, but many of my friends do realize that I notice and respond to little things VERY quickly.
Well, it turns out there's actually quite some information about people like me. It's all over the web - search for Highly Sensitive Person or Intuitive Empath, and you can look through lists of traits that describe me in a nutshell. Most surprising of all was this site, in which the essayist also describes herself as a "giant sponge", a description I've never heard anybody else use.
I'm pretty suspicious, generally, of hokey spiritualist personality descriptions, in which the page seems sincere until you get to the bottom, and then they tell you that you're "most like the Elephant/Cockroach/Spiny Lobster" or "destined to be psychic" or "exhibiting extrasensosupranaturalistic mental techniques" or some other weird mumbo jumbo. In those cases the writer is usually somebody who has adopted an Indian pen name, puts a lot of sentimental .wav music files on their site, and has a picture of him or herself engaged in a little-known religious practice.
The author of the article linked above is an MD. She also asserts that people's bodies "are made of flesh and blood, but they're also composed of energy fields", and a section of the article is about Energy Vampires, who drain intuitive empaths of energy. Does this sound believable to you?
Think carefully. Personally, I have enough experience being *me*, complete with Issues in all their glory, to realize that a strict modern Western medical perspective is not enough to explain why I often feel the way I do, even though I am neither physically sick nor clinically depressed. But I find it incredibly irritating that people who try to explain these emotional tendencies and traits often use language like "Energy Vampires", which in most peoples' view robs the thesis of any credibility. This woman describes me very well, which by its very nature is bound to mean something to me - but her book categorizes people in to boxes like Drama Queen, Sob Sister, and Blamer. Why, once you've liberated a few confused souls from thinking they are incurably weird, must you go on to further categorize? Identification of a trait, articulating it so that you can state who you are to those who care about you, is important. Knowing that you are a Sob Sister, while your neighbor is a Drama Queen, and therefore you two really can't quite relate, is NOT.
I know, and my friends know, that the way I feel is CLEARLY influenced by the way people around me feel, to a very profound degree, and that I easily pick up on how people are feeling. It is also true that the more people there are, the more influence pours in, and I tend to get overwhelmed. But this doesn't have to be mystical, folks. It doesn't need to involve vampires. By describing it, you don't have to make a religion out of it. It's just how some people are.