How To Explain Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria

Do you experience rejection sensitivity dysphoria but aren’t sure how to explain it? Don’t worry, you are not alone! It’s tough to understand what is going on when you are “in it” so I can sympathize as to how hard it is to explain it!

Here’s how!

Rejection sensitivity dysphoria is when you feel both physical and emotional pain because you experience real or perceived rejection.

Hold up, perceived rejection?! We experience emotional and physical pain when we think that someone is rejecting us. The truth is, they may not even be “rejecting” us! Quite often there is a gap in communication; a lot like playing broken telephone!

So, what exactly qualifies as rejection?

I reached out to my Instagram community and here are the responses people shared with me:
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As you can tell, rejection comes in different forms. The key, is to figure out where rejection pops up for you!

Let’s break down what rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD) is:

  1. Both physical and emotional pain (intense pain).

  2. Flood of emotions because of actual or perceived rejection.

What it looks like

We, as human beings, are extremely adaptable! We don’t want to experience the intense pain that accompanies RSD so we adapt and come up with coping skills. Here is what RSD can look like with or without the coping skills:

  1. Easily embarrassed (in my opinion, this is from the perceived rejection)

  2. Emotional outbursts, such as anger or crying.

  3. Low self-esteem
    When you are living your life based on the reactions of others, how can you expect to have high self-esteem? If you are acting on what you think others want from you, you will never know for sure that you are “right” and will continuously be looking for approval (which will almost certainly be accompanied by “rejection” or disapproval).

  4. Anxious (especially in social situations). This includes withdrawing from social situations entirely.

  5. Problems in relationships

    My personal interpretation of this is that in some cases people with RSD develop the coping skill of becoming a people pleaser. They develop this coping skill to avoid the emotional and physical pain of rejection. Their mentality is “if I am constantly being and doing what the other person wants, how can they reject me?”
    The key: own your decisions!! Working with an ADHD coach really helped me to even decide what my decisions are!
    People pleasers tend not to get their needs met and then have outbursts and feel rejected/hurt because they do not voice their opinions and what they need. I noticed this pattern in myself and am so, so glad that I finally realized how important it is.  (Don’t miss my blog post next Friday “Why Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria makes relationships so hard”.

  6. Feel like a failure because they haven’t lived up to other people’s expectations.
    Whew. This one is ginormous for me. I used to do A LOT of comparing and would feverishly try to live up to perceived (there’s that word again) expectations that I imagined others wanted of me. I did not know what I wanted for myself because I had never truly respected who I was and what I wanted; I was going with the flow of what I was “expected” to do.

  7. Sometimes think about hurting themselves
    I’ve never told anyone this but I’ve been there. That said, I never actually went through with anything. What got me through it was the phrase “If things are SO BAD that I want to die, why not do…” (it was usually something that scared me like completely move myself across the country to a new experience). That phrase really got me through because it was kinda like “if things are already at their worse then what do I have to lose by doing _____”. Plus, the thoughts terrified me and I did whatever I could to get them out of my head.

  8. Perfectionism; set high standards that they often cannot meet 
(information courtesy of WebMD)

Here’s the hitch

Everyone is different! That was a lengthly list of where and when RSD could pop up. Please keep in mind that some of the points may affect some people and others not at all. The idea is to figure out which points affect you so that you can be mindful of them and hopefully manage your emotions and then effectively communicate what you’re experiencing (including what support you need).

An example from my life

I am currently in RSD mode! I’m feeling very “low” and am catching myself saying and acting based on RSD. I have been with my boyfriend for 3 months now and we are about to spend a full week together! (His parents are going away and we are “house sitting” and watching his dog). Ahhhh, isn’t that exciting! Well, it should be! I am fucking terrified. In reality I really am excited; it’ll be so nice to spend a full week together without time constraints on the time that we are together. Here is how RSD is kicking my ass:

  • I am scared that he doesn’t actually want to spend the time with me and I have somehow talked him into having me over for a full week. Wrong!

  • Yesterday I heard myself saying to him “You still okay with spending the full week together?”
    See what I was doing there… I was getting him to reject me so that I could just “get it over with”. When in reality it is the last thing that I would ever want. Stop it, brain!

  • I am also thinking that after spending a FULL WEEK with me he will get super bored or find me annoying and not want to be with me anymore. Well… can’t answer that yet! 😉

It is soooooo exhausting to be constantly talking myself out of this shit storm that my RSD creates for me. It’s like I am in a never-ending battle with myself. Butttt guess what! I have the power because I know what my brain is doing; it’s trying to protect me. But guess what brain! I know what you are doing and am going to continue to be mindful and challenge you

The key to unlocking rejection sensitivity dysphoria is communication!

If you happen to be experiencing all the strong feelings of rejection then take a look inside yourself. Figure out what is going on:

  • How are you feeling without the fear of being rejected?
    • I like to journal or verbally process (talk it out with a friend) to really understand what is going on.

  • Was there miscommunication along the way?
    • Can this miscommunication be fixed?
    • Were you and the other party involved on the same page?

It may not be easy for you to take a step back so ask a friend and talk it out. Please make sure to choose your friends wisely. If you hear them saying you are overreacting or something along the lines of that.. they may not be the best person to help. What you need is a sounding board to get your feelings out, sort through them and see if there was possibly some miscommunication.

When you figure out where rejection is popping up for you then you can:

  1. Figure out what support you need from others.
  2. Learn how to catch yourself when you are telling yourself stories like “they don’t like me”.

All that said, here’s how you can explain how RSD affects you as an individual:

  1. You now know what RSD is and how to explain it as a whole. Try writing down how you would explain it to someone.

  2. You are aware of the ways that RSD pop up in people’s lives.

  3. Figure out how RSD affects you and where it pops up in your life.
  4. Girls, keep in mind that it often shows up during PMS! (As if we don’t already have enough to deal with…).

  5. Decide what support you need from those around you.

  6. Try your best to overcome any fears you may have and explain to your loved ones and those who matter what you are going through!

Remember, I’m always a short e-mail or message away! If you are stuck, don’t go through this alone!

I found out about RSD back in Feb 2018. Here is the post I wrote about it: “She’s not just a pretty face” 

**I found a great article on WebMD of all places… It helped me to explain a few pieces of this article!

Next Friday: Why Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria makes relationships so hard

6 thoughts on “How To Explain Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria

  1. Hi Alyssa!!! Why do you think we perfect?? I am definitely guilty of this and I know it is something I use to try to gain control or whatever, but I can’t see how the rejection sensitivity and perfectionism are linked… is it that I tell myself if I do something perfectly that others won’t be able to reject me??

  2. I hadn’t heard of RSD until someone commented on my Instagram about it. I relate so much. When I perceive rejection, I often go into black and white thinking like either about myself (I’m so dumb, awkward, etc. Or I wish I would just die already) or about the other person, making them out to be bad. Even over the smallest thing! It a defensive method I’ve been noticing and trying to correct. Great post!

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