Everything You Need to Know About Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Last Update on November 18, 2020 : Published on November 18, 2020
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Rejections are not easy to deal with. But, some people have a more intense emotional reaction to it than others. While some of us can deal with it gradually and effectively, people with certain conditions find it as a troublesome phase. This phase when rejections and related emotions go unbearable is known as rejection sensitive dysphoria.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria is an extreme form of emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception of being rejected or criticised by important people in life. This term was coined by Dr. William Dodson to understand this experience. In Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, the word Dysphoria is Greek for “difficult to bear.” RSD can be internalized or externalised.

Also Read: How To Manage and Cope With Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

1. Internalized Emotional Response

There is a sudden change from feeling perfectly fine to feeling intensely sad that results from RSD. It is often confused with rapid cycling mood disorder.

2. Externalized Emotional Response

An individual might show rage towards the person or situation that is causing them pain. Which is often seen in the light of anger.

The Cycle of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: What exactly happens?

RSD starts with an intense mood shift which results from an episode of any of the triggers (like rejection, criticism or others). This new mood sweeps in and matches the individual’s perception of the trigger. Which results in either of the two outcomes:

Internalization: The individual might experience depression symptoms.

Externalization: It may result in rage and anger towards the situation or person.

Surprisingly, the mood returns to the normal quickly. However, due to this an individual experience multiple episodes of mood dysregulation in a day.

Also Read: Seasonal Affective Disorder In 2020: How To Prepare Yourself?

Symptoms of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: What are the Cues?

There are certain behaviour outcomes that are closely related with rejection sensitive dysphoria. This includes:

  • Sudden emotional outburst following real or perceived criticism or rejection.
  • Frequent negative self-talk.
  • Poor self-perception.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Withdrawal from social situations to avoid criticism.
  • Perseveration and rumination.
  • Relationship issues resulting from a feeling of constantly attacked and responding defensively.

Signs of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: Am I Sensitive To Rejection?

Rejections do hurt everyone at a different level and we are sensitive towards it up to an extent. But, when it comes to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, the extent of this sensitivity is beyond measure and often results in unwanted and uncontrollable emotional reactions. SO, how can one check here where the sensitivity towards rejection is under control or falls under the Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

  • Even the smallest change in the tone of someone makes me catastrophize and worry over what I did wrong.
  • I am constantly trying to not disappoint anyone. For that I am constantly working at unrealistic hyperfocus levels.
  • Sometimes I make fun of myself to protect me and safeguard myself from not being taken seriously.
  • I avoid socialising and going outside to hide my faults.
  • Every time I face criticism, I forget who I am and I start to focus on my negatives alone.
  • I feel lost for words when I am confronted or hurt. My heart starts to beat fast.
  • My emotions go unbearably strong and unstoppable. Sometimes I just don’t feel like experiencing them at all.

Note: These signs are just for you to keep a self-check, they are not meant for diagnosis purposes. If you can relate with most of them we recommend you to seek professional help on an immediate basis.

Also Read: Top 10 Online Therapy and Counseling Programs 2020

Causes of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: Where is it all coming from?

The cause behind rejection sensitive dysphoria is not believed to be caused by a single factor. Although, the exact reasons are not yet fully known some of the possible explanations are:

  • Certain cases have shown that RSD can be passed down through families. Some people are genetically predisposed to RSD.
  • Having a history of rejection or neglect early in their life. This can result from having over critical parents which impacts how they view themselves.
  • Having neglectful parents or sour parental relationships might result in low self-esteem and intense fear of rejection.
  • Sometimes the instances of being bullied by peers or being rejected by a romantic partner at early stages of life
  • There is a strong connection between RSD and ADHD or autism. Emotional dysregulation being an important indicator of these conditions, RSD is majorly found in people who are undergoing them.

Popular FAQs on Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

1. Why only ADHD or ADD people experience rejection-sensitive dysphoria?

Rejection is unbearable for all. But, for people with ADHD or ADD gets more hurt from the emotional response than others without the condition. They are unable to control their emotional responses or hypersensitivity.

2. What are the triggers of rejection sensitive dysphoria?

The intense mood shifts are generally triggered by one of the following:

  • Rejection
  • Criticism (even the constructive one)
  • Persistent negative self-talk (perceived or real)

3. What are the best treatment approaches for rejection sensitive dysphoria?

Till now there is no therapy-based treatment approach for RSD. However, certain medications have shown to work in bringing some relief. Surprisingly, the one treatment approach that has worked like wonders is healthy coping strategies. If you learn the right coping mechanism you will be able to deal with the signs and symptoms of RSD.

Now that you know everything about rejection sensitive dysphoria go check on your loved ones and try to understand them at a deeper level.

If you are struggling with ADHD, ADD, or autism, understand that these unbearable emotional responses are just a symptom of your mental health condition. They don’t define you. So, giddy up and start working on them before they start interfering with your normal functioning.

More power to you!!!

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. Rashmi Kandhil
    Rashmi Kandhil

    Very nicely explained article about rejection sensitive dysphoria.

  2. Maggie

    Thank you for telling us about rejection sensitive dysphoria and solutions.

  3. Kerin

    I had a doubt that I was also facing something similar but thankfully, this article opened by eye.

  4. Forb

    Great and comprehensive information

  5. Chris Smith
    Chris Smith

    Is it a kind of disease or a behavioural symptom?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On