When I first read about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria I was like “Wow. That’s exactly what I experienced.”
There’s still a lot of research being done about RSD* and while it is not something that you can be diagnosed with, it is a way to describe symptoms and it resonates with a lot of people – specifically those with ADHD, Autism, social anxiety, and a history of trauma.
No one likes criticism or rejection but for people who experience RSD the emotional impact of rejection or criticism goes to the extreme to the point that it negatively affects your relationships, your job, or your life. It’s much like anxiety – everyone has moments of anxiety but it becomes a disorder when it interrupts your life and the symptoms are uncontrollable.
As far as treatment goes – that’s a little bit more complicated. It’s best to talk to your doctor or therapist to come up with a plan that works for you.
I think RSD played a huge part in my life in my 20s.
My 20 year-old-self had huge mood swings whenever there was criticism or perceived rejection in my job or in my relationships. One time my boss gave me a small amount of criticism and I quit my job on the spot. Thankfully she was able to coax me back but I remember thinking that small comment meant that I sucked as an employee and it wouldn’t matter if I left anyway.
I have struggled to take criticism for as long as I can remember. A huge part revolves around social anxiety because it makes me hyper-aware of how other people perceive me and my brain always tells me that the perception is bad. As I’ve grown older with a ton of coping skills (especially positive self-talk!) and therapy under my belt, I believe what used to be rejection sensitive dysphoria has mellowed into sensitivity to rejection for me. I’m still awful at taking criticism or rejection and it can sometimes cause me to spiral but I’m pretty good at regulating myself now.
I wanted to share this to let you know that if it’s something that you struggle with you are not alone!
Here are some things that might help but therapy is always the best place to start!
- CBT or Cognitive-behavioral therapy: It helps you understand why you feel the way you do and then works on changing your thought patterns.
- Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Sometimes you need something to pull you back from your racing thoughts of “I am the worst, suckiest, person in the world and should disappear.” Mindfulness helps you do that by focusing on staying in the moment. Sometimes just that minute of breathing exercises can bring us down a bit and re-center ourselves.
- Positive Self-Talk: This is the big one. It might feel like everyone else is rejecting you and being overly critical of you but you have the power to talk back to those thoughts and even if it’s just a small quiet voice saying, “Hey, you’re doing okay. It’s okay to make mistakes.” It can make the biggest difference. Maybe your brain a kind place to be even when the world feels the opposite.
- Grounding Techniques: Grounding techniques, much like mindfulness, gives you the time and space to let your brain settle a little. It can help you manage what you’re feeling in a way that is less intense or destructive. can help you redirect your focus from your internal world to what’s around you in the present moment. This can be helpful in managing intense emotional reactions.
- Emotion Regulation Skills: For me, DBT was hands down one of the biggest things that helped me overcome a lot of RSD traits I can’t recommend it enough. While I always, always, encourage working with a professional, a lot of DBT skills can be easily learned and integrated into your life.
- Understand RSD: Call out those thoughts. Learn how to spot when it’s RSD and learn how to recognize when your brain is spiraling. You might not be able to do anything about it but as you build up coping skills and self-talk it slowly starts to get easier to manage.