Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is incredibly difficult to live with. It is an extreme emotional response to either real or perceived criticism or rejection, commonly experienced by neurodivergent people (though originally coined by Dr William Dodson as specific to ADHD). I wrote about what it is here.

I am very lucky to be receiving ADHD coaching with Leanne Maskell, the founder of ADHD Works and author of the brilliant book ‘ADHD: an A to Z’. I have learned so much from her, her book and online RSD course, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve uncovered about myself and learned about managing RSD!

So, how am I learning to manage rejection sensitive dysphoria?

I am understanding what RSD is.
Understanding that it is an extreme emotional response to criticism or rejection is the first step. Then, I am practicing recognising the RSD tornado – the trigger, the catastrophic thought and the impulsive action which occurs as a result. I acknowledge the physical feelings and consciously recognise it as RSD.

I am asking myself if my brain is just trying to protect me in the best way it knows how.
Identifying what is behind the RSD helps. Some of the things I’ve identified are:

Difficulty regulating emotions

Childhood bullying and feelings of inadequacy growing up

High anxiety


Fear of failure

Wanting to be liked by everyone!

I am trying to work out what RSD is trying to tell me.
What is it showing me that I care about?
What is the worst case scenario that I am worried about? If that happens, what next? Then, what next? How can I prepare for the worst case scenario?

I am asking myself these four questions, from Byron Katie.

Is the thought true?

Can I absolutely know that the thought is true?

How do I react when I believe the thought?

Who would I be without the thought?

I am choosing to believe (or trying to!)that someone likes me until they give me concrete proof that they don’t like me. We can’t prove anything – we just attach meaning to it. So we might as well choose what to believe. Things are never as personal as they feel. (My absolute favourite piece of advice from Leanne).

I am considering the following…

How much will this matter next week, next month or next year?

The situation from a neutral perspective – what would I say to a friend experiencing this?

How the last time I felt this way, everything worked out okay.

I am reminding myself that…I am not the most important person in the world to the person I think has been ‘off’ with me, and it is likely that their mood was affected by something else, just like mine is. And, sometimes, I just need to go to sleep, because I usually feel a bit better the next day and things won’t seem as bad as they do now!

I am trying to be kind to myself.
I thank my brain for trying to keep me safe and protect myself from hurt, then respond by telling my brain that I want to be in charge and I don’t need it to protect me anymore.
I try not to judge myself for negative emotions that I feel I shouldn’t have, such as jealousy, anger, anxiety or sadness – because distress can stem from how we interpret and judge our emotions rather than their actual presence.

It is obviously not easy, but every day I am learning and trying. And every day it gets that tiniest bit easier.

Are there any ways that you have learned or are learning to manage RSD, if RSD is something you resonate with?

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