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ADHD & Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD): 4 Ways to Dominate Your RSD & Feel Confident

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Are you struggling with chronic feelings of depression, low self-worth, or fear of rejection?

If so, it may be a sign that you are dealing with Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). RSD is an especially difficult emotional experience associated with ADHD and it can make everyday life overwhelming.

It's important to understand the warning signs and how to manage your emotions in order to cope effectively.

In this post we'll cover what RSD is, some common symptoms associated with it, and offer 4 life-changing strategies for overcoming these debilitating effects so that individuals living with ADHD can live their best lives.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is very common in individuals with ADHD.

"RSD is characterized by extreme emotional sensitivity to being criticized or rejected, whether real or perceived rejection."

-Steven Gans, MD

We ADHDers are often very self-critical. Some might even consider themselves to be perfectionists.

After a lifetime of trying to fit in with neurotypical standards while living with ADHD symptoms, many ADHDers develop low self-esteem and can be quick to defend themselves.

When pairing our high expectations for ourselves with RSD our emotions surrounding rejection can feel painful, overwhelming, and even traumatic.

Common RSD causes:

  • Being teased for our symptoms, friendly or not

  • Receiving criticism or feedback, even constructive

  • Overanalyzing an awkward moment or picking apart something we said

  • Feeling like we were left out or not invited on purpose

  • Change in tone of voice

  • Not receiving returned affection

When we experience RSD, we may react with...

  • Rage

  • Incontrollable tears

  • Emotional outbursts

  • Defensiveness

  • Fight, flight, or freeze

RSD can make us feel like everyone thinks the worst about us. Long-term, this can cause avoidant behaviors. We may avoid forming new relationships, bail out on commitments, skip appointments, and miss out on life-changing opportunities!


  • Simply being aware of what RSD is and when, why, and how it occurs for you is a huge step towards better managing it.

  • Ask the person to clarify their intent.

  • Take a break, get some space, and come back

  • RSD can throw us into an emotional spiral that is incredibly difficult to pull out of. Practicing grounding techniques can be a huge help in regulating emotions.

Here are some examples of grounding techniques you might want to try:

  • Splash face with cold water

  • Focus on 5 second inhales and exhales

  • Identify things that you can see, hear, feel, and smell around you

  • List kind or encouraging words your loved ones have said

  • Practice positive self talk

If you're an adult ADHDer struggling with emotional regulation, consider checking out our Healing ADHD Emotions program! Join this 8-week group journey to heal the past and develop emotional regulation skills for life.

Rooting for you,

ADHD Coach Brooke

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