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ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria


Dysphoria in Greek means “difficult to bear”

Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria “RDS” is a new topic where research is ongoing. Not all health professionals consider it a real condition and because there are no official symptoms ascribed to RDS yet, it is difficult to diagnose. Further complications arise because it presents so closely to depression, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and social phobia.


Nobody likes rejection, teasing, or criticism even if we accept this is an unavoidable part of life. Some people manage to shake it off and deal with it better than others who experience an overwhelming emotional response, beyond what is normally observed or expected. These people can experience extreme rejection, from what could have been a completely innocent comment, or they can experience a small disagreement as something quite severe.


If we consider RSD within the framework of the recognized emotional issues of someone who has ADHD (the inability to control emotional responses and hypersensitivity) then we can see how RSD could potentially be a mine field. Some health care workers believe RSD is exclusive to people with ADHD and see it as serious condition which results in both low mood and low self-esteem; they do not see it as simply an oversensitivity.


When RSD is internalised, it can potentially result in a low mood and withdrawal from difficult situations. When RSD is externalised, it may present as sudden outbursts of anger and rage. The anticipation of rejection and public humiliation, in extreme cases, could result in complete social phobia and isolation. RSD may also be triggered by the person’s own sense of failure in meeting their high standards.


Whatever the outcome of the debate on RSD, hypersensitivity is an accepted part of ADHD and the sooner one gets support, the better, for future emotional health, wellbeing, and success.

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