At Life Tree we work to find the successful treatments using behavioral therapy and/or medication to bring relief to those dealing with ADHD symptoms. ADHD is not always the hyperactive kid bouncing off the walls and often, especially in adults, is more of the inattentive type. ADHD often co-exists with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD).
What is RSD?
RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception (not necessarily the reality) that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. RSD can also be triggered be by a sense of falling short or failing to meet their own high standards or expectations of others.
The emotional response hurts much more than it does people without the condition. For people with RSD, the universal life experiences with rejection, criticism or failure are much more severe than for neurotypical individuals and can be highly impairing.
When this emotional response is internalized it can imitate a full, major mood disorder complete with suicidal ideation. The sudden change from feeling perfectly fine to feeling intensely sad that results from RSD is often misdiagnosed as rapid cycling mood disorder.
When this emotional response is externalized, it looks like an impressive, instantaneous rage at the person or situation responsible for causing the pain. In fact, 50% of people who are assigned court-mandated anger-management treatment have previously unrecognized ADHD.
RSD is always triggered by the perceived or real loss of approval, love, or respect and can cause adults with ADHD to anticipate rejection, even when it is anything but certain, causing hypervigilance about avoiding it. This may be misdiagnosed as social phobia. People have difficulty finding the words to describe this pain. They say it’s intense, awful, terrible, overwhelming.
How People Typically Cope With RSD?
1. They become people pleasers. They scan every person they meet to figure out what that person admires and praises. Then they present that false self to others. Often this becomes such a dominating goal that they forget what they actually wanted from their own lives. They are too busy making sure other people aren’t displeased with them
2. They stop trying. If there is the slightest possibility that a person might try something new and fail or fall short in front of anyone else, it becomes too painful or too risky to make the effort. These bright, capable people avoid any activities that are anxiety-provoking and end up giving up things like dating, applying for jobs, or speaking up in public (both socially and professionally).
3. Some people use the pain of RSD to find adaptations and overachieve. They constantly work to be the best at what they do and strive for idealized perfection. They may be driven to excel above others to be above reproach or ridicule. They lead admirable lives, but at what cost?
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