ADHD Rejection Sensitivity

Hello friends,

One of the biggest revelations to me about ADHD was learning about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, a term popularized by Dr. William Dodson.

People with ADHD are often hypersensitive to criticism and rejection, feeling an intense internal pain that can lead to an extreme and even explosive reaction.

The pain [from RSD] is so primitive and overwhelming that people struggle to find any words to describe it. They can talk about its intensity—awful, terrible, catastrophic—and cannot find words to convey the quality of the emotional pain. — Dr. William Dodson

The feeling of rejection, criticism, or withdrawing of love can feel like a deep betrayal. Only when time has passed (usually after a regretful angry reaction) do we realize the thing that was said really wasn't as big of a deal as it felt in the moment.

For me, the reaction always seems to be anger, but others may instead find that criticism will make them burst into tears, or completely shut down.

Discovering the idea of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria was such a huge revelation for me because it validated the way that I felt.

I knew that my reaction was not appropriate—at least in hindsight—but people never seemed to understand that it wasn't an over-reaction to how I felt. The intensity of the way I felt was not aligned with the reality of what happened, but it was still true to my own experience.

This didn't justify the extreme reaction, but it helped me to finally feel understood, rather than my experience being dismissed as an overreaction.

I've written some before about ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, including a few strategies I've found helpful when that feeling strikes.

Stay focused, Jesse J. Anderson

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