Jesse J. Anderson


Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Hello friends,

What does Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) look like to you?

If you aren't familiar, RSD is the strong emotional reaction that can occur from any (real or perceived) criticism, rejection, discouragement, tease, etc. To the person experiencing the RSD, it can feel like a complete betrayal—a withdrawing of love or respect that causes deep pain.

Often, this results in an explosive reaction, either externally via some sort of angry outburst, or internally as a feeling of instant and extreme depression.

"The pain is so primitive and overwhelming that people struggle to find any words to describe it," say Dr. William Dodson. "They can talk about its intensity—awful, terrible, catastrophic—and cannot find words to convey the quality of the emotional pain."

I asked friends on Twitter and Instagram how they would describe their experience with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and here's what they said:

I'm not just upset it didn't work out, I'm now thinking of everything that ever didn't work out and spiraling thinking how much of a failure I will always be. @mxiety​

Minor perceived slights that last for months on end. @andymatthews​

Like 4 walls of reality just absolutely crash around me at the smallest thing. Worst feeling in the world. Usually accompanied by a panic attack. Also blind panic and need to justify or explain myself because of deep shame and embarrassment. Physical pain/sickness. @bavvmorda​

I really, really don't care except when I do. @roshow​

My rsd is painful to the point that I make myself as small as possible to avoid any kind of criticism, real or perceived. @SophisBlessed​

I tried my best and failed, so I guess my best isn't good enough then. @ToadKingStudios​

The rejection causes me to intensely scrutinize everything about myself. "What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? Is this a pattern or just bad luck? Could I have changed this outcome if I'd X, Y, Z?" It feels very personal and like I failed as a person. @ToadKingStudios​

Hiding in the coat room to avoid social situations where I might (my brain assumes will) be judged and/or called out for some random thing I might have said that no one actually noticed. @TheNerdyBroad​

When being rejected for anything, even in non obvious ways causes an almost visceral reaction that sends your entire self perception spiraling. @KodyPerrine​

Rumination in the wee hours with insomnia. Nursing self recriminations and replaying the event on mental tape. It's awful. @nancywgonzalez​

One person's simple observation of how I'm doing something wrong is the same as telling me I am awful at everything I try to accomplish in life. which isn't true, but it's the way the brain works. @cactusbooties​

Perpetual anticipation of being shamed. @DillsFTW​

Overthinking the word (and emoji) choice of every message you send so you don't sound indifferent or overzealous. @mrsammysmith​

It's like having very sensitive skin. Other people can take punches and don't even get redness, but if you poke me the wrong way I'll get an ugly bruise that hurts a lot and lasts for weeks. @NBloodhorde​

Panic, desperation, a sense that you are completely out of balance. My understanding of it (thank you Thomas Brown and William Dodson) is that it is vastly different from hypersensitivity to criticism. ​@gossettkristi​

Like being punched in the chest. @DaysAdhd​

In the moment? ALL THE SHAME. For the next few hours/days, depending? Normal life, punctuated by ALL THE SHAME. Whenever I finally realize that it's just RSD (assuming I did OK and that's all it is), it helps tremendously. @ccsdevio​

As you can see, you aren't alone if you're experiencing the pain that comes with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

So what can be done to cope? Here are a few strategies that can help:

Time separation. The extreme feelings often fade rapidly when space is created.

Reminder of past relationship. Past evidence usually shows that the inciting person doesn't actually desire to cause harm.

Reduce stress. Neglected mental/physical health will only accelerate strong, negative reactions.

Stay focused,

Jesse J. Anderson


🎙️ Your Brain's Not Broken with Tamara Rosier (ADHD Essentials Podcast) (37 min) I really enjoyed the most recent episode of Brendan Mahan's podcast interviewing Tamara Rosier. They talk about her upcoming book and what she has learned about ADHD from her clients and her family.

📝 ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria This week's newsletter was inspired by my atomic essay on how ADHD and RSD coexist and can cause so much harm. But there is a bright side with Recognition Responsive Euphoria.


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