What Is It Like Living With Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?
Whether it be my ADHD, depression, and/or borderline personality disorder taking its toll on my day to day life, I must always stay aware and up to date on myself and the science around the things I feel.
Having stumbled upon the novel idea of rejection sensitive dysphoria, I feel like I have finally found an appropriate way to describe a very haunting part of my psyche. That part is what I had simply referred to as the product of being abused by my family, friends, and acquaintances but now I have a convenient phrase that offers others a simple and relatable explanation.
What is it?
Rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD) is, essentially, an extreme emotional reaction to perceived and/or experienced rejection. It is, generally, felt more prominently within individuals diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.
Is It a Real Disorder?
Having just recently stumbled upon the idea of rejection sensitive dysphoria I immediately questioned the validity of such a simple phrase that uses a contentious word like, "dysphoria."
You see, when I saw the word dysphoria I felt like this must be some way for people to pass off extreme emotions as normal and acceptable behavior. I was only half right, however, because it was a way to pass off extreme emotions but only within the context of simplifying it for others to understand. It is still under great scrutiny from the medical community and is not, in fact, a literal disorder that can be diagnosed right now.
Don't let the fact that RSD is not actually a disorder/diagnosis deter you from the validity of learning about the descriptor itself. RSD could be a great clinical term for describing an intense, abnormal, and unreasonable emotional response to perceived and experienced rejection!
After consulting a practicing clinician on the term and how it could apply to me, they suggested I expand upon it in my writings so that others are made aware of the condition in a relatable context.
Asking myself how to go about explaining RSD without being completely convoluted, I figured that the best place to start would be by explaining what it feels and looks like before, during, and after it occurs.
What Does It Look and Feel Like?
It would not be accurate to say that RSD is a recurring event so much as it is a constant self-instigated and propagated mentality around your own sense of rejection. When you wake up and decide to do something, already the idea of rejection within your day is playing a part in your decision making. Rejection can be from another person, or it can come in the form of failing tasks of varying importance.
Interactions With Others Make Me Nervous
For me, personally, rejection sensitivity dysphoria comes to the forefront of my perceptions whenever I think about speaking to or hanging out with other people. Just the thought of interacting with other people puts butterflies in my chest; not because I fear people, no, but because I fear my own shortcomings that only I can perceive.
Basically, I worry so much about what other people think that I judge myself before they can, I beat myself down for every little flaw, then I project that insecurity onto the world around me regardless of whether it is there or not.
Most recently I was going out for a hike with a group of individuals I had never met, and I backed out at the very last second because I had received one of those, "thumbs-up," emojis to a message I had sent. I have always, and will always hate the stupid thumbs-up emoji because I find it absolutely condescending and to be a blow-off for whatever is being said or asked.
Rather than present this to the sender, because I was scared I'd be judged for mentioning my distaste and lack of understanding for their thumbs-up, I just didn't show up to go hiking.
The Thoughts Stay With Me for Days
The RSD doesn't end there though; it is still playing a huge part in my everyday thoughts and actions because it was, in fact, traumatizing for me to know I pulled out of a hike for no good reason. Compounding the issue is ignoring the further messages I've received asking where I was, why I didn't show up, and letting me know they hope to see me next time. I'll most likely dwell on these thoughts for some time to come, and even as I write this I'm only building the RSD into a monster.
The internet being what it is, and life as an author being what it is, I'm scared to speak out publicly on my thoughts and experiences. I do so anyway because I know that I'm better than anyone who seeks to use it against me, but nonetheless I continue to feed a monster that I'm also trying to defeat. Luckily, that is just what I'm doing better than feeding, defeating these silly feelings by confronting the monster publicly and at every turn!
The head-on approach!
Rejection sensitive dysphoria would seek to have you hold yourself back, and bottle up everything you feel to your own detriment. I say fight it directly! Put yourself out there, open yourself up to great rejection, and then conquer that fear by recognizing how little consequence there is to accepting yourself for who you are!
How Do You Overcome It?
I'm an unflinching proponent of treating the self without medication and doctors, but that doesn't mean everyone is and there is no shame in seeking the advice and assistance of a clinician for any and every problem you are facing.
If you're the type to desire and/or need the help of a clinician, they might recommend pills to lower your blood pressure and/or anything to assist in the emotional aspects of ADHD. It's important to speak with a medical or mental health professional before taking any medication.
Rejection sensitive disorder is so widely associated with ADD and ADHD that your best option is to treat your other disorders while also trying to tackle RSD through clinical therapy.
If you are like me, however, and you want to face this dragon on your own then you could probably benefit from the methods that help me in overcoming RSD with great success. These are a few tips and tricks I use to overcome RSD:
- Open yourself up to public criticism willingly, and take control of every situation before it can take control of you.
- Focus on being proactive rather than reactionary in your emotional responses.
- Do not prepare yourself for rejection in every social situation, and instead try recognizing how inconsequential most interactions are.
- Turn every self-criticism into a compliment; rather than asking yourself, "Why do you have to be like this?" you could observe all the constructive things you've done that day.
- Let yourself take a break from life, and let things fall by the wayside without worrying.
- Confront people with how you feel and explain the way they make you feel regardless of context, seeking to understand them as much as you want their understanding.
- Taking positive steps to recognize and adjust physical insecurities like getting in good shape, and progressively moving toward realistic goals for self-image.
These are just a few things that I do, and they all work quite well. They could be summarized concisely as throwing caution to the wind and embracing the RPD for what it is, allowing you to confront the issue and the world you perceive as the issue at the same time.
As a final note for overcoming rejection sensitive dysphoria, make sure that you take into account that there are more people who will appreciate you being honest about your insecurities than those who will reject you!
You Aren't Alone in Your Struggle!
If you take anything constructive from this article at all, then I would like it to be this sentiment right here. You are not alone, and you deserve to have your feelings heard, understood, and accepted. It is upon you, however, to make those feelings heard, and I know just how scary that can be.
The next time you feel that RSD kicking in, those feelings like you need to hide away and avoid failure or rejection from others and yourself, say something about it to whoever you can. There is no shame in seeking acceptance and understanding or even requesting a helping hand back into reality away from your feelings, from those your mind is telling you to avoid. This is also a great way to build support systems for not only yourself but those of us out here who feel the same way you do.
When you go out of your way to let people know how you are feeling, that your emotions are beating you down because of the way you are perceiving the world, those that you tell are an addition to the awareness that we all need. People can be cruel in their responses, but in exposing yourself in such a way you may just be showing strength to the one remaining silent about their struggle with RSD.
So, in closing, I ask you to be loud and proud of who you are and the struggles you are facing. Show the world that those of us who fear rejection are braver than those who would reject us! More importantly, show the world how strong you really are by overcoming your rejection sensitive dysphoria!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.