How to manage Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)
We're all in this together!
Welcome to the new subscribers!
January was a hell of a month! I turned 30 and seemed to have caused a kerfuffle online.
Some of you may have seen my feature in the BBC on ADHD Tax that made the front page, and sort of went viral in my personal life.
I kid you not.
The article went platinum in my work office, with past coworkers, church folk and friends. So many texts, emails, notifications, and phone calls.
Is this how primetime Lindsay Lohan felt?
If you’re chronically on Twitter, you would’ve seen the grim comments underneath the BBC’s tweet.
Some of the comments could’ve given me my 13th reason why.
But you know what!? It’s been so many years of me being open and vulnerable sharing my experience on Adulting with ADHD and I won’t let it get me down.
This is a great segway into how I plan on managing RSD this year.
Shall we begin?
What is RSD?
I like to describe RSD as the bane of my life.
But RSD tends to refer to extreme emotional sensitivity related to:
The perception that a person has been rejected or unfairly criticised.
When you’ve been rejected or criticised.
➡️ PERCEPTION - For me, ‘perception’ is usually a result of miscommunication, assumptions, personal insecurities, or misreading of a person or situation.
➡️ ACTUAL - You can’t help how some people will treat you. But what we can work on is how we respond/react when we experience RSD as a result of actual rejection/criticism.
RSD can feel like a gut punch, intense pain, a rain of shame, like you’re going to internally implode, etc.
🤚 Asking instead of overthinking
Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they seem. This is coming from an ex-professional catastrophizer.
Assuming, overthinking and ruminating can amplify feelings of RSD.
Scenario: At work, you provide an update on something you have been working so hard on to your manager.
Situation: During the call, she asks a few questions and makes some suggestions, but thanks you for the work you have done on it so far - delivered in a friendly tone.
My RSD: I feel deflated after the call, I assume she thinks I have done a bad job. I then start to experience self-doubt and frustration with myself and also anxiety. I log off and ruminate about the call which results in a migraine.
I have been in this scenario a couple of times.
🧠 On one occasion, RSD got the better of me. I turned to a friend/colleague for reassurance but the feeling lingered for a long time.
🧠 On another occasion, I asked my manager on the call “Just to clarify, you’re happy with what I’ve done so far and I’m on the right track?” “And I just need to incorporate your suggestions?”
Her response was exactly what I needed and I didn’t experience RSD.
Since then, I remembered that we all have different communication styles and cultural backgrounds can play into that. Asking questions at work is important for my peace of mind.
🚫 Avoiding or removing triggers
In 2024, I am protecting my peace.
Have you ever had a friend who was jealous of you, negatively commenting on everything you did?
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who gave you backhanded compliments or talked down on you?
Have you ever had to sit around a table with toxic family members?
It’s shit, isn’t it?
I have encountered all types of people which has enabled me to pick up on these orange/red flags early on. It’s hard because many of us tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but we end up getting burnt.
I have left my people-pleasing era and I love that for me. I respectfully decline invites, let people know when I’m not interested and I set boundaries.
It wasn’t easy: getting burnt, therapy and developing self-love got me to this point.
💢 I’m not applying this way of thinking to people in abusive/toxic relationships, people dealing with trauma, or trapped in an environment, etc 💢
Whether it’s perceived or actual rejection or criticism, our feelings are valid. We’re human, it’s ok to feel.
However, we don’t talk enough about the dangers associated with RSD including how we cope.
Some of us tend to lash out, isolate, self-harm, turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, drink away our feelings, or spiral into low moods.
Some of you are nodding along saying “mhmmm” because we can all relate, right?
🙃 Coping with RSD
Some of these might seem obvious, but many of you are learning about RSD for the first time or thought that you had it all together before reading this post - no judgment, this is for me too!
Cool down method - Choose one or several methods to help you pause instead of instantly reacting. e.g. Going outside, putting on music, a cold shower, screaming into a pillow. It can be anything.
Therapy (if you have access) - I have used a previous employer’s free therapy service to speak to a therapist about a guy I was dating. I felt rejected and I was spiralling and I needed an objective opinion. I was reassured it wasn’t all in my head - sounds ridiculous but I needed it.
Nothing is too small to speak to a therapist about.
Talk about it - Reassurance from someone can go a long way. Speak to a friend, ask on a Reddit forum, ADHD Facebook Groups or Twitter. Holding it in can eat away at you.
Prayer/Meditation - Taking a moment to be still by praying or meditating can help you to feel at peace. Sometimes I’m too riled up to pray but it’s an option.
Vices - I must admit, whenever I had a bad RSD day at work, it was straight to the pub for me, or a drink at home. I’ll talk about this in a future newsletter but I replace alcoholic drinks with gum, sweets or a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Process - I allocate a few minutes to process and work through how I am feeling. Avoidance or Dissociating wasn’t a good way of dealing with my feelings.
I don’t have all of the answers and I’ll probably experience RSD now and again. Don’t be too hard on yourself, life is complicated and emotions are part of being human.
➡️ If you’re new here, I created ADHD flashcards that explain each ADHD trait, examples for adults and coping strategies on how to navigate traits > here.
I hope this was helpful! How do you cope?
Happy Black History Month! Look out for posts across all socials.
Rach, with ADHD