Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – What Is It?

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria – What Is It?

Key points:

  1. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is an intense emotional reaction to rejection or failure, characterized by feelings of shame, embarrassment, and inadequacy. It can manifest as anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms.
  2. Individuals with ADHD neurotypes are particularly prone to RSD due to difficulties regulating emotions and reading social cues. RSD episodes can result from an imbalance in the brain’s emotional processing and may be linked to trauma.
  3. Regular RSD episodes can lead to physical and emotional issues, impacting overall well-being, self-esteem, and relationships. Support and understanding are crucial in helping someone experiencing RSD, including listening without judgment, providing reassurance and practical assistance, discussing long-term goals, and encouraging professional help if needed.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is an intense and debilitating emotional reaction to perceived or real rejection. It is most common in the ADHD (deficit hyperactivity disorder) neurotypes and can have a significant impact on individuals lives. So, lets discuss what RSD is? So, why are the neurotypes of ADHD particularly prone to it? And, how to support a friend or loved one, child when they are having an RSD episode.

What is RSD?

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is a type of emotional sensitivity. It is characterized by an intense reaction to feelings of rejection or failure, often triggered by negative experiences. RSD can manifest itself as an emotional overreaction that can be seen as disproportionate to the situation at hand. It often leads to intense feelings of shame, embarrassment, or inadequacy.
These feelings can manifest themselves in the form of anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks. In extreme cases, individuals may experience intense physical symptoms such as palpitations and tightness in their chest.
That being said, RSD is not an illness or disorder. Rather, it is a collection of symptoms that occur in response to certain triggers. Additionally, research suggests that some neurotypes, such as those with ADHD, are more prone to experiencing RSD than others.

Why are the neurotypes of ADHD particularly prone to RSD episode?

RSD is thought to be primarily linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and occurs in both adults and children. RSD episodes can cause intense feelings of sadness, loneliness, helplessness, anger, and/or anxiety. This suggests that it is related to how a person’s brain processes emotional stimuli.

Many people with ADHD are particularly prone to experiencing RSD episodes due to the difficulty they have regulating emotions and read social cues. RSD episodes are thought to stem from an imbalance in the way the brain processes and regulates emotions. There may also be links between RSD and trauma, as those who have experienced traumatic events may be more likely to experience RSD episodes

RSD makes it difficult to make decisions or to complete tasks due to the fear of making a mistake or failing in some way. Children with ADHD are especially prone to extreme emotional responses and may feel overwhelmed or defeated when faced with any failure at a given task.

The consequence to regular RSD episode to a person

While the symptoms of RSD can vary from person to person, regular episodes can lead to a range of physical and emotional issues, including depression, fatigue, insomnia, stomachaches, and headaches.

They may react with intense emotion, respond defensively, or feel unable to process what has happened. This can lead to further feelings of loneliness and despair. It can result in lasting damage to their self-esteem and relationships.

These symptoms can interfere with daily functioning and relationships, as well as negatively impact overall quality of life. Any kind of criticism or negative feedback can become easily overwhelming, and this can lead to an increase in self-doubt and feelings of isolation.

Furthermore, those with RSD episodes may avoid social situations or activities for fear of being judged or rejected. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of RSD in order to provide proper support and care to those struggling with these episodes.

How can you help someone having RSD episodes?

If you know someone that is experiencing Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) episodes, it’s important to provide them with support and understanding. The following are a few ways you can help someone who is going through an RSD episode:

  1. Listen without judgement – RSD episodes can cause intense feelings of shame and embarrassment. It’s important to listen without judgement and let your loved one know that you care about them and want to understand their feelings.
  2. Reassure them of your support – Reassure your friend or loved one that you will be there for them during their difficult times. Let them know that they don’t need to feel ashamed or embarrassed and that it’s ok to express their feelings.
  3. Offer practical assistance – Offer practical assistance if necessary. This may include things like running errands for them, helping them with tasks that they might find challenging, or just being around for moral support.
  4. Talk about the long-term – While it’s important to acknowledge and validate the current difficulties they are facing, also try to talk about the long-term plan and remind them of the positive goals they are working towards.
  5. Get professional help – If necessary, encourage your loved one to seek out professional help. Mental health professionals such as therapists and counsellors can offer specific strategies to help cope with RSD episodes and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to it.
    By providing emotional support and offering practical help, you can make a huge difference in someone’s life who is struggling with RSD episodes.


  1. “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron: This book explores the concept of high sensitivity and how it affects individuals emotionally. It discusses the challenges faced by highly sensitive people, including the experience of intense emotional reactions and offers strategies for managing and embracing sensitivity.
  2. “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood” by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey: While not specifically focused on RSD, this book provides valuable insights into ADHD, including difficulties in regulating emotions and challenges related to social interactions. It offers guidance on managing ADHD symptoms and developing strategies for success.
  3. “The Emotionally Sensitive Person: Finding Peace When Your Emotions Overwhelm You” by Karyn D. Hall: This book explores the experience of emotional sensitivity and offers practical strategies for managing overwhelming emotions. It provides insights into understanding and regulating emotions and discusses techniques for building resilience and improving relationships.
  4. “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker: Although not directly related to RSD, this book focuses on complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the impact of trauma on emotional regulation. It provides insights into the interplay between trauma, emotions, and relationships, offering guidance on healing and developing emotional resilience.

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