What is RSD with ADHD?

Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is a condition that causes extreme emotional sensitivity and pain. That pain is caused by the perception of rejection or criticism, especially from friends and loved ones. 

It’s fair to say no one likes to experience rejection. As humans, we all want to be liked and accepted. So, when you feel like your loved ones or friends say or do something that suggests the opposite, it can be extremely painful. However, when someone with RSD perceives rejection, it can make their life almost unbearable.

People with ADHD can be more prone to experience RSD because they often anticipate rejection. Unfortunately, that anticipation can lead to other mental health issues, including anxiety and excess stress. 

Let’s take a closer look at the connection between RSD and ADHD and how many people with both conditions cope. 

Does ADHD Cause RSD?

The short answer? Yes. RSD is a common symptom of ADHD, largely due to the structure of the brain. It’s both neurologic and genetic. It can be a more prominent symptom in adults with ADHD than in children. Research has shown that people with ADHD cannot regulate internal experiences and criticism easily. That’s why it’s so common for people with the condition to feel overwhelmed by things like sudden changes or harsh stimuli. That same internal dialogue issue contributes to RSD. When someone cannot regulate their emotional experience, things like rejection feel much more extreme and nearly impossible to process.

Symptoms of RSD

Unfortunately, RSD goes undiagnosed far too often in adults with ADHD. It’s important to be able to recognize some of the common symptoms, including: 

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Unrealistic expectations for yourself
  • Fear of failure

You might also experience extreme emotional outbursts after rejection that make you feel like you can’t control your emotions. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for people with RSD to avoid social settings.

How to Cope

If you have ADHD and regularly experience the symptoms of RSD, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope and keep moving forward without living in constant fear of rejection. First, understand what you shouldn’t do. One of the most common ways of coping includes becoming a “people pleaser.” In doing so, you can lose your own identity as you give up your sense of self to do what everyone else wants.

Others cope by avoiding risks or trying anything new. If you only stay inside your proverbial “bubble” and don’t step outside of your comfort zone, you’re less likely to get rejected, right? Unfortunately, these mechanisms aren’t sustainable or healthy. They’ll keep you from leading a fulfilling life and enjoying the people around you.

The first step to beating RSD is to find a provider who understands these difficult dynamics. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’ve experienced any of the symptoms listed above. Unfortunately, RSD isn’t officially recognized as a medical condition, and limited research means that not every healthcare provider will be able to treat you properly. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion when it’s necessary and find a provider who is neurodiversity-affirming and trauma-informed in their approach.

When it comes to treating RSD, medication can help. If you’re currently not taking any medication for ADHD, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about options. In addition to medication consultation, you may benefit from getting treatment in therapy from a therapist that specializes in ADHD. Good counseling can teach you the necessary skills to be more mindful and present, so your symptoms might not feel as severe. 

If you’re dealing with ADHD and you’re concerned about the effects of RSD, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help as soon as possible. You don’t have to keep living with the fear and effects of rejection.

Be well,

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