Hello to all my ADHD peeps and ADHD loved ones living with ADHD today I am going to talk about rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) which is a fancy way of saying not handling rejection well.
If you have never heard of rejection sensitive dysphoria that is okay because I am going to explain it a little bit, most people typically just call it RSD for the sake of making it easier to talk about, I will do the same and call it RSD.
RSD itself is not a diagnosis, it is more so a way of describing a difficult symptom that affects a lot of people with ADHD, and when I say a lot I mean we are talking about 99% of the population that has ADHD and approximately 33% of people with ADHD say that this is one of the worst parts of having ADHD.
A big thing with ADHD is a continuous desire of trying to make people like them. If we feel like we can’t create a situation where people like us a lot of us will avoid this situation because putting ourselves out there feels more dangerous than it does for the rest of the population. I think an easy way to explain this is think of a time you had to read out loud in front of the class. You are doing a great job, you are doing a really with those long words and your pronunciation is perfect, then it happens. You mess up a word and you start fumbling over every other word because you start getting frustrated. I think most of us can agree that anyone inside this situation would be embarrassed, but after a day or so you would forget about it and it wouldn’t mean much. Having ADHD is not like that and this is where ADHD can act very insidious and can absolutely crush your self-esteem over and over again. With ADHD that moment can make you afraid of speaking in public again because you are afraid of ridicule. While in class you may sit in your seat terrified that you are going to be called on again. You start thinking thoughts that are fully irrational. You hear someone else in class reading and you hear them make a mistake and you start to believe that people are thinking about you because you messed up.
If you don’t have ADHD this may sound weird, but for people that suffer with a more extreme RSD this is a real fear that they live with. You start to try and avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable, and this is why anxiety is often comorbid with ADHD.
Okay so you get embarrassed easily, how many issues can that create in real life. You would be surprised; RSD is more complicated than a simple embarrassment after making a mistake in public. RSD manifests in multiple ways, one of the big ones that causes a lot of issues for people is feeling like someone is rejecting you even though they are not.
I will give a little bit more of an embarrassing example because I do experience RSD from time to time. I think that overall I have gotten good at dealing with RSD and not letting it control my life, but there are still times that it gets the best of me. To help bring this to life, a personal example of this was on my Pacific Coast road trip with my wife this summer. We were headed towards Olympic National Park. We had been travelling for a week or so at this point and we saw a big billboard for a drive through park that had all sorts of animals and apparently waving bears. Let me ask you this, how many times in your life have you seen a bear wave to you? You don’t pass up opportunities to see something like that. My wife had also seen videos of it and was super excited to have a bear wave at us. So we ended up making a detour to this park. It was a pretty cool park we ended up seeing all sorts of animals. Just to name a few we saw bison, bears, llamas, yak and deer. In this park you could feed animals and while you were going through in your vehicle the animals knew that you had food so they would come up to you, and for a lack of better terms, they would end up mugging you for all the food you had. I ended up getting yak spit all over my driver side door.
The whole experience was really cool. We ended up seeing the animals we wanted, but a few bad things did end up happening. One my wife was very very excited to see a bear wave at her, but they didn’t. The other thing that happened was, I kid you not, a deer ate my apple watch cover. I ended up just getting this watch cover the day we left for the trip, probably seven days earlier. I felt like an idiot let me tell you, never in my life did I think I would be robbed of my apple watch cover by a deer. Well, it happened, and my wife will swear by this entry if need be.
I ended up taking my watch off and my wife took over driving. My wife was upset about the bear not waving at her because that was one of the big points of the side-track and she had been very excited about that. So my wife was driving and she hadn’t turned the radio on when we got in the car, and she didn’t really say much unless she was asking about a direction or something like that. I didn’t think about the whole situation, and that she was just quiet because she was disappointed not that she was mad at me. So I ended up just kind of building up and feeling worse and worse because I thought she was being quiet because I was an idiot and lost my watch cover because I was being careless (communication is key don’t forget that point).
We made it up to Olympic and I felt horrible I didn’t want to really do anything because I started to get the idea that the trip was a mistake. I should have never gone on this road trip because all I do is mess things up. My wife tells me a lot of the time that I throw things to extremes and I try to work on it, but when I casually throw things as extremes its actually what my brain does naturally. I ended up getting extremely upset and I finally lost it I became emotional and it all finally boiled over. I ended up becoming extremely sad and we had to take a break. Thankfully my wife understands my ADHD and is good at taking the time to listen and help make me feel better and we were able to figure out the miscommunication. Then I was able to enjoy the rest of our day exploring the amazing national park.
The end of that story is a little anti climatic, but the point of it is even someone who is usually pretty good at controlling RSD, it is still able to come out and when it does come out it can be extremely intense, and this is why learning about ADHD and the symptoms that are created is so important.
What could I have done to improve this situation? I think one of the very simple solutions in right in front of me. Work on communication no matter who you are dealing with. It is very easy to misread situations when you have ADHD and it is important to make sure that you are gathering the information that is in front of you instead of jumping to extremes. It is easy to believe that people are upset with you and to blow a situation out of context because you are worried about displeasing someone. This will take practice, I’m still not the best at this, but I like to think that I am working towards talking about what is going on in my head. I think the most important part of improving ourselves is learning and understanding what makes us do the things that we do and growing from them.
The next part that I want to talk about is the signs of RSD that you may or may have not noticed in yourselves while going about normal day to day life. I will then try and help to explain how you could go about trying to make sure that we are doing what we can to avoid letting RSD cause more issues than it should.
One of the biggest cornerstones of RSD is becoming easily embarrassed. It is very understandable to be embarrassed about things with ADHD. Always remember that you are not alone. People are most likely not judging you. You are a unique individual, and you are amazing, there is nothing to be embarrassed about we all make mistakes and learning from those mistakes is what is important. If we never attempt new things because we are afraid of failure or being embarrassed in front of other people, we can’t grow. Take things slow and do something outside of your comfort zone, if you end up failing laugh about it and make sure to surround yourself with a great social circle of people who love and support you. We may not always have the greatest number of friends, but I tend to think that we make great closer friendships and relationships.
The next one I want to talk about is getting angry or expressing other emotions inappropriately when we think that someone has wronged us. It is very easy to get upset and start pointing fingers away from ourselves because we already feel like there is a piece of us that is not fully clicking. We know that we have all the pieces for success and doing wonderful things, but it always feels like something is just holding us back from that. This also makes it very easy to be frustrated with ourselves, now imagine living with a constant frustration that you can’t relieve. You would most likely do anything you could to relieve that tension and a lot of people end up snapping and they lash out on other people. Please try not to lash out on other people our support circles are so vital to our well-being, think before you speak and articulate yourself. I am not great at communicating in the moment, and I think it is easier to write down what we want to say, and this ensures we don’t do something rash. Write it out or wait a little bit of time and take a walk and make sure that you are really thinking through your points because things can’t be improved unless you are making articulated points.
A big one with RSD that I know a lot of people live with is feeling like a failure because you are not able to live up to other people’s expectations. I am going to preface this one with a disclaimer this may not work for everyone, but I have become pretty carefree. Be yourself. You have to live your life and that is not always going to make everyone happy or impressed. If you are happy working a 9-5 job do it. If you want to work part time and work on a skill and that makes you happy and you are not stressing yourself out for money, do it. To be completely blunt and PG at the same time – screw ‘em. You are the one that has to live your life, if you are happy with how things are going do you boo boo. There are exceptions to this obviously, like I said disclaimer. Do things that are good for your physical, mental health, and spiritual health.
This is just a introduction to this issue, RSD is a big problem that affects a lot of people with ADHD. If you are really struggling with RSD, there is nothing wrong with that, but make sure that you are seeking help. One of the big things that has been seen to help with RSD is therapy. The one issue with therapy is the fact that RSD is usually a on the spot reaction to something happening, but therapy can help you develop strategies on helping you deal with a sudden RSD attack. Other things you can do is appropriately handling stress, you have to take care of your needs to be the best you and one way to do that is eating well, getting sleep, and living your best life.
If this is something that affects you don’t feel bad because a lot of people with ADHD deal with this and know that there are strategies to help you out and there are always resources to help you. Thank you so much for your time and I hope you have a wonderful day.
Until next time this is living with ADHD.
Resources because we do research before spewing stuff on the internet.
The fact that I wrote a whole article on RSD and then decide it’s a good idea to throw shade at an imaginary antagonist is the most ADHD thing I have ever done.