Relationships aren’t always easy. No matter if you think you found your perfect person or not. You may constantly question yourself. You also may feel the need to read into what they’ve said to you.

Dealing with criticism or rejection isn’t easy. There are very few people in the world who can actually admit that they enjoy being criticized or rejected. Some people may seem like they handle criticism well. It’s common to second guess or wonder what could have gone differently after receiving tough criticism.

Rejection can come in all forms of different relationships. Someone may experience rejection from their own friends. They may feel left out from not being invited to hang out with them. A partner could break up with you. Your dream job may send you a rejection email instead of an offer of employment. These are all common experiences of rejection.

Connections are an essential part of the human experience. They’re just as common and necessary as food, water, and shelter. So what is someone supposed to do if they do receive harsh criticism or rejection? But the connection doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, things don’t work out or two people just aren’t a good fit for one another.

Here’s how to manage rejection-sensitive dysphoria in relationships.

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Man in Black and White Shirt Lying on Bed

Rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is the emotional response that someone has to a perception of being rejected or criticized. It’s an increased sense of emotional pain when someone feels that they’ve failed or disappointed themselves or others.

The Cause

There isn’t an exact or known cause of RSD. The belief is that RSD can be caused by the structure of someone’s brain. This could be due to the regulation of internal communication. In individuals with ADHD, the brain isn’t as regulated or active compared to someone who doesn’t share this condition. This alteration in the regulation of internal communication is what causes individuals struggling with ADHD to have trouble processing information from their senses alone. Another believed the cause of RSD is genetic factors. Since ADHD can be caused genetically or runs in families as well, RSD is also believed to have a genetic connection.

The Signs and Symptoms

These are some of the most common signs and symptoms of rejective sensitive dysphoria:

  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear of failure
  • Low self-esteem
  • People pleasers
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-conscious
  • Unable to control emotions

If RSD is left untreated, it can lead to worsening mental health issues that can negatively impact someone throughout their lifetime.

Who Does Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Affect?

There isn’t a lot known about RSD. Research is still being conducted. The exact number of people who are impacted by RSD is unknown. There also isn’t a lot of information out there on who exactly experiences it. Despite that, individuals who have ADHD or other neurodivergent traits are more likely to have RSD compared to individuals who do not have these types of conditions.

How to Manage RSD

No one actually enjoys dealing with criticism, failure, or rejection. Individuals with RSD have a harder time dealing with these types of feelings. Luckily, there are some lifestyle changes that you can implement on your own end to try to reduce some of those signs and symptoms. This is how you can build upon the necessary skills for better managing RSD:

  • Give yourself grace
  • Implement self-care practices
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Practice mindfulness techniques
  • Show yourself some appreciation
  • Think before you react

Next Steps

If you or a loved one is struggling with signs or symptoms of RSD, you’re not alone. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating RSD. There are a variety of different approaches. Therapy can be a great solution for someone struggling with these feelings of inadequacy or not being good enough. A therapist will be able to provide insight into someone’s overwhelming feelings and introduce skills for managing their emotions, impulses, and responses. Reach out to us today to learn more about anxiety therapy.

About the author(s)

Owner and Clinical Director Karen Conlon Head Shot

Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.

About Cohesive Therapy NYC

At Cohesive Therapy NYC, we believe that you have an immense amount of inner strength and resilience, even if it is yet to be discovered. Cohesive Therapy NYC is a private group psychotherapy practice in New York City that focuses on treating adults who struggle with Anxiety, Trauma, Chronic Illness, and the adult impact of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). Cohesive Therapy NYC therapists see clients all throughout New York State (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, and statewide) using online therapy and are also available for in-person visits in their NYC offices, located at 59 East 54th Street, New York, NY 10022. We specialize in helping people who are dealing with anxiety, relationship issues, chronic illness, and digestive and adult trauma related to childhood family dynamics. We all deserve a chance to be well and have support.