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ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria

Updated: Jun 28

Ever wonder why you constantly feel left out, excluded, not well-liked or loved? Is this a fact or a perception? You are not alone, there is a reason. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Emotional dysregulation is a real struggle for those of us with ADHD, manifesting as a difficulty in controlling and expressing emotions without becoming overwhelmed. This is especially critical in the entrepreneurial world, where rejection, criticism, and failure occur daily. 


Don’t feel like reading? Listen to the episode. 

What Is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)? 

RSD is this incredibly intense emotional experience triggered by perceived rejection or criticism, making you feel like you've been hit by a train. Unlike mood disorders that can drag on, RSD episodes hit hard but don't linger as long. Still, they leave a profound impact on your mental and emotional state. 


Now, let’s be clear—RSD isn't the same as anxiety. Anxiety involves baseless fears and apprehensions, while RSD stems from actual or perceived experiences of rejection and criticism. As ADHD Entrepreneurs, this distinction is crucial! Knowing that our intense (often impulsive) reactions are rooted in actual (real or perceived) experiences can help us better manage and perhaps even anticipate these episodes. 


The ADHD brain feels raw and intense emotions that flow without an off switch. Constructive feedback at work might lead to a disproportional feeling of failure. We might even end up rejecting ourselves or giving up when our high standards aren't met. YES! Rejecting ourselves – sit on that for a minute. This becomes a vicious cycle that hampers not just our personal lives but our businesses too. 


The Impact on Our Lives and Businesses 

Being acutely sensitive to rejection can make social interactions a mental health battlefield. Every returned email, every critique, feels like another hit. A punch in the gut. It affects our ability to form real and genuine connections, sapping our energy for networking and social engagement—critical components for entrepreneurial success and mental well-being. 


To cope with this whirlwind of emotions, many of us adopt strategies like people-pleasing, striving for perfection, or giving up when we don't feel good enough. Although these strategies help in the short term, they often lead to long-term detriments, like burnout and a loss of self-worth. This is why it’s important to find healthier coping mechanisms. 


When we face rejection after rejection—from investors, clients, or partners—the toll it takes is enormous. The emotional extremes feed into a cycle of burnout, making it even harder to regulate and manage our emotions and keep our ventures afloat. With the ADHD brain, there is a lack of inhibition or control over these emotions, which means the impact is even more pronounced. 


Managing RSD: Treatments and Techniques 

Medication: A Double-Edged Sword 

This week’s podcast guest, Dr. William Dodson, talks about effective medications for RSD. He mentions monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and alpha-2 agonists that have shown promising results. These medications can significantly reduce the intensity of RSD episodes, though fine-tuning the dosage is key. 


While about 80% of those with the ADHD brain respond well to these treatments, it's crucial to remember that medication alone isn't magic. The goal isn't to change who we are but to help us become the best versions of ourselves. 


A Strategic Approach 

Understanding and recognizing RSD is the first step toward managing it. Sharing your experiences in a like-minded community brings not only validation but also validation and actionable advice. Our podcast emphasizes this sense of community to ensure that none of us feel alone in this journey. 


Identifying when there is a “potential” to face criticism or rejection can help you prepare emotionally. Create strategies to deal with it in real time, or, at a minimum, talk to yourself. They may be perceived statements of rejection. This proactive approach can sometimes make the emotional hit less intense. Like in business, a well-laid-out plan can save you from unnecessary crises. You can react under control without having to process the situation under high emotions. 


Empowerment Through Knowledge 

For those seeking reliable resources, Dr. Dodson recommends the Attitude Magazine website, Previously a magazine, it is now a comprehensive website offering free, authoritative articles on ADHD. Each piece is reviewed every few years to maintain its relevance and accuracy, making it a goldmine for anyone looking to understand their ADHD brain better. 


Practical Tips:

  1. Schedule Downtime: Plan breaks just like you would schedule meetings. This time off is crucial for managing emotional highs and lows. 

  1. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal time to minimize emotional burnout. 

  1.  Partners: To stay grounded, engage with someone who understands your struggles with RSD, be it a mentor or a peer. 


The Path Forward 

As ADHD Entrepreneurs, our intense emotions and reactions don’t make us flawed; they make us unique. Society may not always understand us, but within our community, we can support each other in finding strategies that work. 


Our nervous system thrives on novelty, interest, challenge, urgency, and passion (NICUP). Understanding this fundamental aspect can help us create environments and strategies that play to our strengths rather than our weaknesses. 


Don't be afraid to reach out. I’d love to hear from you and all about your experience with RSD. Send me an email!  


Further Exploration  

The ADHD Transformation Program has launched and it’s working wonders. Clients have shared how it’s changing their lives. Curious to learn more? Visit our website for more details. Remember, ADHD is only a part of you, not all of you.   


Let’s build a community together! Sign up for our newsletter, listen to a podcast, check out our YouTube channel, or share this blog with somebody you think will appreciate it. Talk soon! 



I'm André

...also known as The Impulsive Thinker. I'm a professional engineer, advocate, and podcaster with the special ability to devour and simplify complicated information to solve complex problems. Click here to get my full story.

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