Books,  Lifestyle,  Mental Health

Is It Me or Is It the ADHD; Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Is It Me or Is It the ADHD?

Receiving a late diagnosis of ADHD means that I have spent a lot of time wondering if parts of my personality are actually quirks that just I do or if they’re actually parts of my ADHD. It’s been an interesting journey for me and because of that, I thought it would be interesting to create a series on this blog to discuss some of these things and to continue to answer the age old question; is it me or is it the ADHD?

**Please note I am not a psychologist but am merely speaking from my own experiences**

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

As I was diagnosed with GAD and OCD, I always assumed that my brain always jumping to the worst possible outcome was related to this. Having learnt more about ADHD, I have now come to realise that this is actually something called RSD; or Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

A short explanation is that RSD is an extreme emotional response to received and perceived criticism. 

However, the reality is that it is a lot bigger than that. RSD can cause a multitude of issues for people. In my own life, I have found that RSD has stopped me from applying to new jobs and opportunities, it means that I can actively avoid certain situations for fear of rejection, and it also means that I am almost always expecting the worst outcome. I am expecting to be rejected and I am arming myself internally to be able to deal with the fallout that this rejection will bring. 

For years I assumed that this was a part of my OCD and was simply just an avoidance tactic I was implying.
After all, you can’t get hurt if you don’t try, right?

person sitting down holding leg; what perceived rejection may look like

RSD is a difficult beast to live with, even when you do know what it is and how it affects you. Because you have no control over the emotions that befall you when it occurs, you also have no control over when it happens. Because it includes perceived rejection, it means that we could be having the most wonderful time and then if we take someone’s sentence the wrong way, it can change our mood instantly. 

An example of perceived rejection can be someone telling you that they think you are incredibly talented but it’s a shame that no one sees it. On the surface, someone is praising you and most people might bask in that praise but for someone with RSD, all they hear is that they’re not doing enough with their talent. Of course the person who said this does not mean this but those with RSD see rejection everywhere, we’re expecting it. And with this feeling of rejection, we will have an intense emotional reaction. We may become angry at the person who said it, or more than likely, we will become angry or upset with ourselves. We will become low and wonder what we’re doing wrong and why we can’t just be enough. 

photo of text anger on wood background

Another way this can affect our lives, and this is something that I personally struggle with, is fearing that if we make a small mistake at work or in a social situation, that there will be dire consequences. We fear that we will be fired or that we will ruin friendships. It is the kind of rejection fears that can lead people to not enter into social situations or not tell their employers that they’ve made a mistake in the first place. 

The biggest issue with RSD is feeling like you are constantly on edge. It’s feeling like something can go wrong at any moment and that when it does go wrong, it will go wrong in the most horrendous way. 

While there is no cure for RSD, I have found that understanding more about it and realising that it is something I suffer with, has been hugely beneficial to myself and my mental health. I am aware that I will continue to have issues with my emotions surrounding rejection and perceived rejection but now I can name those emotions and work through them. Sometimes this means waiting until they pass. Sometimes it means talking it through with friends or my therapist, and sometimes it means working against my brain to apply for the opportunity, or make the phonecall or go to the social event.

So if you have ADHD and feel like you struggle intensely with rejection, please know that you are not alone and as always, there is nothing wrong with you.

For more information on Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria please do check out these very informative and helpful websites:

ADDitude
CHADD
Psychology Today

Bee x

2 Comments

  • jennielyse

    Thanks for talking about this. I don’t have ADHD, but I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder almost two years ago and I deal with RSD a lot. In fact, I recently lost my best friend because she thought I was throwing tantrums (I wasn’t yelling or screaming; I’d just withdraw into myself and feel rejected after something she said) and she didn’t want to be around that anymore. I don’t blame her and at the same time, we’ve been friends for 10 years and it’s only now that I’m in intensive therapy and I’m working through my issues that she decided she can’t handle me.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this too. It’s hard. I’m glad you’re aware of it now so that you can challenge those feelings. I wanted to let you know my experiences above so you know you’re not alone. I think that’s the biggest thing with mental illness is feeling alone and like no one understands. I hope you can continue to find ways to move forward. {{{HUGS}}}

    • Blue

      Hi Jennie,
      I’m sorry to hear about the end of your friendship. And I’m also sorry you also have to deal with RSD. It’s definitely helpful to know we’re not alone. Sending hugs your way as well.
      Bee x

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