ADHD Rejection

Navigating Rejection Sensitivity in Adults with ADHD

Adults with ADHD often experience heightened rejection sensitivity, a condition where perceived or actual rejection triggers intense emotional responses. This heightened sensitivity is linked to ADHD's emotional regulation challenges, causing feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in social or professional settings. Understanding this aspect of ADHD is vital for developing coping strategies, such as cognitive-behavioral techniques, to process and manage these intense emotions. Recognizing and addressing rejection sensitivity can significantly improve interpersonal relationships and overall emotional well-being for those with ADHD.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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ADHD & Rejection: What Goes Through Our ADHD Brain?

Let's have some personal talk. Have you tried applying to your dream job and later on got rejected? Have you been so over the moon in love and get dumped suddenly without your partner giving you any reason? Or did you try to join a party and leave early because you feel like you don't belong there? Neurotypical people can also go through these universal life experiences featuring rejections, 😭 but some people with ADHD might have more difficulty processing them and might even get too emotional from experiencing them.

ADHD Rejection

Several mental health professionals state that some people with a recognized diagnosis of ADHD might have more difficulties in handling their emotional responses than neurotypical individuals. You see, compared to "normal" people, the mental health of those with ADHD tends to be overly sensitive 🥺, particularly when they receive negative feedback or thoughts, such as rejections. 

The emotional dysregulation of some adults with ADHD includes a tendency to over-respond to negative stimuli, such as feeling out of place, being rejected, or getting dumped. Their emotional responses to these heart-breaking events cannot be contained well enough because of their heightened sensitivity to things. Some people with ADHD might overthink, and their brains might not stay calm because of the rejection. Their central nervous system may continue to over-analyze these events while they are feeling emotional pain. 

ADHD Rejection: I'm sure they were making fun of me.

It’s quite common for people with ADHD to experience emotional dysregulation and struggle to contain their emotional issues. The overwhelming emotional response to adverse events is referred to as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, a term coined to describe the mental health conditions that a person may experience should he or she be subjected to being teased, criticized, or rejected. Generally, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria or RSD leads to extreme emotional sensitivity and pain as a result of such stimuli. 

Let’s learn more about RSD. 

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is a term coined by Dr. William W. Dodson to describe the mental health condition of individuals with ADHD who struggle to accept rejection. RSD IS NOT a recognized neurodevelopmental disorder. In fact, it is a non-clinical term describing the effects of individuals' incapability to process their heightened response to perceived rejection - real or imagined. The response can sometimes cause intense anger, intense fear, or low self-esteem. 

ADHD Rejection: Sorry it's full...see you uptairs!

The perceived feelings of rejection can be more intense and overly critical in neurodivergent people. Those with adult ADHD might feel more sensitive to rejection than those who don't have the condition. Feelings of unworthiness and having lower self-esteem are common for them. If they keep dwelling on these, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.😔

Extreme Emotional Sensitivity to Rejection of People with ADHD

The difficulty in handling overwhelming emotions is NOT considered as part of the official ADHD symptoms according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Still, for many people with ADHD, this characteristic is anxiety-provoking

ADHD Rejection: Why do they all hate me?

The extreme emotional sensitivity of people with ADHD towards rejection can be traced to multiple factors. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria can be caused by other associated symptoms of ADHD, such as overthinking, social awkwardness, fear of failure, or impulsivity

ADHD Rejection: It's nice! Maybe a bit bulky...

Here are some instances when ADHD and RSD aggravate each other.

  • The acceptance of rejection among some adults with ADHD might be challenging due to their hyperactive mind and practice of overthinking what went wrong during the process. In romantic relationships, the sudden disapproval of their partner might trigger a downward spiral of thoughts. They might wonder if they're good enough for their romantic partner who broke their heart, and it can lead to a state of mind that is full of fear, shame, or sadness.
  • In an actual social setting, people with RSD tend to be people-pleasers and may continue to mask their ADHD traits for fear of social rejection. As a result, they might be more exhausted and drained out 😵, leading to another set of problems.
  • Some people with ADHD tend to be overly self-critical. This tendency can lead them to find faults within themselves. As a result, they might feel sad or hopeless because they think it's their fault for not being good enough.
  • The stereotype of ADHD can also contribute to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Some people judge us that we aren't good enough which can cause an occasional outburst of non-sense energy and clumsiness. This can cause low self-worth and fear of failing or disappointing other people.
ADHD Rejection: It was ugly anyway!
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Defense Mechanism: Building Up The Social Wall

Due to experiencing the emotional pain brought by Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, some of those who struggle with ADHD develop coping skills to protect their mental health from other disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder. The rejection sensitivity that a person feels can also cause a social phobia to the extent that they shut themselves from the outside world. They might feel shunned and isolated, and as a result, they might feel the urge to withdraw and prevent themselves from the instantaneous rage that may happen if they don't contain their emotions.

ADHD Rejection: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

If being a people pleaser doesn't work for them, some adults with ADHD cope by limiting their relationships or interactions to people who truly know them. The perceived or real loss of one's own relationships can trigger negative emotions in them. They might be afraid of being rejected, making it hard for them to build new relationships with people they don't know. 🛑

Handling Rejections and Intense Emotions Effectively

There are different approaches for an adult with ADHD to handle their emotions well. And these are not limited to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. The Cognitive-Behavioral Approach, Mindfulness Meditation, and other forms of mindfulness can help people monitor their emotions better. The advice is to establish an everyday schedule that helps foster self-awareness and regulate the emotional misery they feel daily.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria might be a vicious cycle unless intervened upon. Having the right coping skills and receiving the right treatment plan can be life-changing. The ability to strengthen one's mental state can help lift burdens of emotional pain. With the right support group and medical attention, and even participating in peer-reviewed studies, managing ADHD can be “lighter” for those who are willing to get up from the intense emotional cycles. Those that don't neglect early signs of this condition can find solutions in their lives. Those with a higher risk factor of this rejection sensitivity can still manage their symptoms if they undergo psychotherapy 👩‍⚕️ or take FDA-approved medications upon the advice of a mental health professional.

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ADHD and Rejection: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

Are people with ADHD more sensitive to rejection?

Experts say people with ADHD may be more sensitive to rejection, a condition referred to as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. While neurotypical people also experience sadness with being rejected, those with RSD often have a harder time bouncing back from such instances.

Is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria only occurring in people with ADHD? 

At this point, it’s hard to say if RDS only occurs with ADHD, considering it is not a recognized medical condition nor is it a clinical term. However, the person who coined it, Dr. William Dodson, mentioned that it appears to be one of the emotional conditions only occurring in ADHD.

What can help people with ADHD if they develop RSD?

There are many avenues people with RSD can take to have better coping mechanisms after experiencing rejections. Therapies, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Approach might help. Some Mindfulness Meditation techniques can also.‍

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