ADHD and something important I don’t see spoken about on here
!Warning, this is a super long post so you might wanna get a cup of tea before diving in!
After being on here a while and looking through the posts, not realising I’ve sort of been in search of something in particular rather than having to post about it. But, I couldn’t find anything so here goes.
RSD or Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria is a condition that comes along with ADHD. There’s still research being done about how it’s caused and how to treat it. I, personally, was unaware of it being a thing until my Psychiatrist suggested I may be afflicted by it.
Through some research I found many websites talking about it, and many ADHD centred communities chatting about it too. Which is why I thought talking about it here will help not only those with ADHD, or parents of children with ADHD.
So, to begin with. RSD is rather well named as it’s very much exactly what it translates out to. Sensitivity to Rejection that is extremely hard to bear. (And I am definitely in that group that feels it is). During a RSD episode the rejection perceived may not even be real possibly reacting to outside things that have led to negative comments before.
Many theorise that RSD could be caused by the environment in which someone with ADHD grows up in, as well as it being part of the genetic trait that may cause ADHD itself. It’s unsurprising when studies have shown that children with ADHD receive an average of 20,000 more negative comments about themselves than other children. These can be in the form of neglect, bullying, humiliation, by peers or by family, or really anyone they may encounter. According to WebMD RSD affects up to 99% of Teenagers and Adults with ADHD, and 1 in 3 of those surveyed say it’s the single worst part about living with ADHD.
Since I can’t speak for everyone else with ADHD, nor am I even close to an expert, I’m gonna talk about how RSD has affected my life.
I’m writing this as I come in and out of a rapid succession of RSD episodes that seem to grow in intensity as they arrive. At 25 I find myself unable to handle even the slightest drop of perceived criticism. Temper tantrums and crying fits are common. I have no energy or self-esteem left and each relationship I have becomes strained and stretched in many ways.
It’s hard even to write this as my mind works up ways in which this post could lead to more rejection and negativity. The thought that someone may turn on me, telling me it’s not real and that I just need to get over it. Or the thought this post could be ignored without a single interaction. At this point I’m not sure what’s worse.
Living with ADHD has its blessings and curses.
The imagination I have is wonderful and vibrant. I’m naturally curious and enjoy finding answers to the many questions swirling around my head. I have hundreds of ideas and I don’t get bogged down in details. The natural optimism I have has got me through quite a lot too!
Then something happens. It could be no fault of anyone else. It could be no fault of my own. A message left on read, a silly comment, something being passed over. RSD takes hold and starts the chain reaction. It dulls everything. ‘They think it’s stupid!’ it says, as the perceived action ripples in my brain. ‘Why did you think that would be a good idea!?’ it pokes and prods like a school playground bully. ‘Don’t you see that everyone hates you? You’re nothing! It screams as the tears start and I feel my heart sink into my stomach. As it smothers me, my behaviour turns. I feel meek and small. My anger boils over and I feel my fists clench. Muscles tighten and it all bursts out as someone asks me a normal question.
I can hear myself sounding angry and dismissive, wanting to grab those words and pull them back but it’s too late now. Embarrassment flows over me as I’m told not to be so stroppy, and I lock myself away. My Executive Dysfunction prevents me from starting anything that may break me out of this episode. I end up sitting there, crying, paralyzed. I want to reach out for help but god forbid I come off as needy. ‘I always come off as needy’ I think as I backspace texts to people that I know deep down would be happy to support me.
After a few hours I feel more settled. I’ll wash my face and attempt to indulge in an activity I enjoy. The episode, no matter how long it lasted, has left a mark on the day that’s not easily overcome.
I’ve had episodes like this for as long as I remember. Sometimes I remember what set me off too. The day I got my GCSE results and my parents offhandedly said I should have tried harder. The moment my A-Level biology teacher told me I wasn’t cut out for a life in science. When my University Tutor compared my artwork to an artist I disliked. The comments I received from an ex-friend during my constant (and seemingly never ending) job search. Even when my ex-boyfriend took three hours to answer a text.
That’s only a drop in the ocean. The things that stuck hard in my memory. Things may seem stupid to to others hit me the same way as devastating news.
I’ve taken to not showing anyone outside my friend group my artwork. Only one person is allowed to see my creative writing. My ideas stay deep inside, protected. It’s really no wonder I seem dull to those who don’t know me.
As I’ve grown older the episodes have become more and more common. Feelings that I have failed those I care about are intense and the thoughts I’ve ruined my life get harder to navigate. I hope for the sake of my future I’ll get into therapy soon. Although I’m terrified I’ll be rejected there too.
My message to parents is exactly what I have always wanted my parents to know.
Please, please, please, cover your children in positivity (ADHD or not). Love them openly and wholeheartedly. When they’re interested in something, encourage them. Answer their questions. Feed their curiosity. Tell them they’re wonderful, that you’re proud of them. When they share an idea, no matter how ‘silly’ or fanciful, ask them to explain more about it. If they have a plan to make it reality, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Let them talk for hours on their special interest. Show them the unconditional love that all children deserve. And don’t let it burn out as they grow older. Push them to do their best in productive, positive ways. You will get just as much out of it as they do. If your child has ADHD this may even prevent the horrors of RSD.
If anyone has any tips on how to possibly deal with RSD, that would be amazing. If anyone with ADHD has any stories about their own RSD feel free to post. It’ll be interesting to hear from people on this topic.