Don’t Let RSD Get the Better of You

At one point or another, everyone will deal with some form of criticism, judgment, rejection, and such. It may come from a coworker, classmate, family member, and a variety of different people. It is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. 

However, for kids and adults with ADHD, these situations can have a deeper impact on us. Not only do we feel more intensely, but these situations does have an impact on some kids and adults with ADHD. Some become more sensitive in these types of situations. 

Yes, some of us do. The littlest thing can cause it. 

It Is Called …

Dr. William Dobson, a psychiatrist and specialist in adult ADHD, studies this and refers to it as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). 

RSD is the extreme sensitivity or emotional pain, caused by feelings of rejection, falling short, failing, or criticism. At times, ADHDers with RSD can perceive criticism or rejection even where there are none. It can easy to take a word or gesture out of context. 

Whether it is real or only perceived, the judgment/criticism can be just as difficult to handle, when RSD is involved.

Dysphoria is a Greek word that means ‘unbearable’. This would be a good way to describe how it feels when dealing with RSD. 

​According to Dr. Dobson, the average ADHD child usually receives 20000 more ‘negative messages’ throughout their life, compared to the neurotypical child. So it can be easy to see why ADHDers may perceive criticism or rejection, even where are none. 

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some signs and symptoms that those with RSD will experience.

– Easily Embarrassed.

–  Anxious or uncomfortable in social situations

– Overly critical of themselves

– Fear of Failure

– Extreme emotions when experiencing criticism or rejection

– Tendency to assume the worse case scenario

– Avoid social situations and isolate to avoid rejection

– Low self-esteem

There are definitely quite a few ways of knowing when someone has rejection sensitivity dysphoria. These are just some examples.

Some of these symptoms are similar with other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and social phobia. This can be easy to get RSD confused with some.

Why Do Some ADHDers Have RSD?

The majority of teens and adults with ADHD experience RSD. Nearly 1 in 3 say that RSD is the most challenging thing about ADHD. 

No one knows for sure whether RSD is genetic or if it stems from something else. However, there are a few theories.

1. Negative messages as a kid: As I mentioned earlier, ADHD researchers estimate that kids with ADHD receive more than 20000 more negative messages by the age of 12 than their neurotypical counterparts. Receiving that much criticism as a kid can have a negative impact.

2. Being labeled as lazy. A lot of ADHDers may be called and labeled as lazy. There are several reasons why people think this of ADHDers. One reasons is that ADHDers have an easy time hyperfocusing on things that interest them. It can be hurtful to be called lazy, as it makes it seem that our behaviour and actions are intentional. It is in fact the complete opposite. 

These are just theories. As researchers continue to learn about RSD, more information will be learned and known on this topic. 

What Can Help?

Much like ADHD, rejection sensitivity dysphoria cannot be cured. However, there are some ways to treat it and manage it. 

Here are some methods:

1. Therapy. This can be a beneficial way to find ways to manage RSD. It can also help with ADHD symptoms.  

2. Medication. For some, ADHD medication and antidepressants help manage ADHD symptoms, feelings of sadness, and such. 

3. Education. The more you know about ADHD, RSD, and how it affects you, the better. Education on the subject can help understand how our brains work.

4. Self-care/Relaxation. Making time for self-are and finding some relaxation techniques can us become more aware of how we feel. Taking care of ourselves is a necessity. 

5. Support. Making sure that ADHDers have the right people in their lives that support them can make a huge difference in our lives. 

These are just some ways that can help people that struggle with ADHD and RSD. 

Final Thoughts

Rejection sensitivity dysphoria is a struggle for those with ADHD. Some may have a more challenging time with it than others. Not everyone with experience the same way.

At the end of the day, RSD is something that we need to talk about. It is another way that emotions can be a challenge for those with ADHD.

Author :


  • I really enjoy reading your blog. I never head of RSD. I feel like that blog was interesting.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed.

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