Whatever your age, if you are neurodivergent, there’s a good chance that you will have been described as oversensitive at certain times, maybe often. By teachers, parents and other relatives, by partners, friends, employers and co-workers.

The great thing (for others) about describing someone as emotionally oversensitive is that it shifts any responsibility away from them. They can be rude, thoughtless, they can bully, mock, condescend, ignore, punish – all of this reaffirming to them that they are behaving in acceptable ways towards us. And if our response is one of anger, tears, walking out, meltdown, arguing etc, if we can be described as being too sensitive, they are off the hook completely, especially if they can get others on side.

I spent at least 30 years truly believing I was oversensitive. I believed the words of those who I trusted and respected. Some of my family members have also suffered as a result of facing the accusation of oversensitivity.

What we are is sensitive. Not too sensitive. We are often empathetic, straightforward and honest and we believe what people say to us, and if this is hurtful, then we will feel hurt. If we cry at others’ pain, or our own, that’s surely a sign of our humanity?

We may have sensory hypersensitivity – not something we have any control over (other than to develop coping strategies). This isn’t wilful, and it’s quite different to being emotionally oversensitive, though it is often lumped under the same banner.

When someone describes us as oversensitivethey are, not very subtly, saying that you are too sensitive compared to them – the level of sensitive that they consider to be ‘normal’. Conversely, if we appear emotionless during times of trauma, we are considered cold and unfeeling. So which is it to be? We are neither oversensitive nor unfeeling. We are simply different to them.

We may be rejection sensitive, again, a very human response. No one enjoys that feeling, whatever their neurotype. But life has taught us that rejection is not unusual for us. It’s really not unreasonable that so many of us have become hyper-vigilant as a result.

So the next time someone accuses us of being oversensitive, let’s have a comeback ready. Something as simple as, ‘Actually, I’m just the right amount of sensitive for me, and apparently you are just the right amount of insensitive for you. Goodbye!’