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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

It feels as if we encounter new terminology related to mental health every single day. I've noticed more people talking about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (or RSD) recently. The people at 'Well + Good' pride themselves on helping to define and demystify aspects of mental health and wellbeing. I shared my views with them so that they could explore further - what is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and some tips for coping with RSD.

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

When people use the term Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, they are usually referring to the intense and severe emotional responses that someone might feel when they are rejected, or when they perceive themselves to have been rejected. It’s not an official diagnosis, rather a way for people to understand and acknowledge the emotional dysregulation that they might be experiencing.

Imagine a situation where you might feel rejected. Maybe something has happened at home or at work. Think about how it feels, you might feel angry, sad, frustrated, embarrassed or some of these feelings all at once. It seems that with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, these experiences are more intense and more severe. It’s overwhelming.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria isn’t necessarily a blanket response to every situation, and it will feel different for every person. Certain situations - or people - might trigger more intense feelings of rejection than others. It’s the intensity of the feelings, and the way that they spiral, that marks Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria out as being different from other experiences. It can manifest in a myriad of ways. We might feel depressed or anxious, wanting to withdraw or hide away. We might attempt to ignore or reject all our feelings, leaving us feeling numb and disconnected. We might be prone to outbursts of anger. Or we might develop behaviours that help us to ensure that we will be liked or accepted. This can lead to ‘people pleasing’ or perfectionism, as we work hard to avoid triggering rejection.

Tips for coping with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria:

  • Communication. Think about it. If knowing about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria makes it easier for you to manage and understand your feelings, then telling others about it will help them to understand and show you the compassion that you need.

  • Mindfulness. Staying present can help all of us to regain perspective, calm negative thoughts, and feel more in control. Find the techniques that work for you. This could be breathing, grounding or meditation. Or it could involve a pencil and paper, writing down your feelings and noticing what’s happening for you.

  • Track your triggers. Notice if there are specific people or interactions that trigger your severe emotional responses. Consider lifestyle factors too, are your responses more intense when you are tired? What about your food and drink intake or your exercise patterns. I’m not suggesting a causal link between nutrition and RSD. But it’s useful to notice if your emotional responses also track any physical changes.

  • Notice your body and breath when you’re feeling an intense emotional response to rejection. If you can tune in to the physical sensations that accompany these emotions, you can devise ways to soothe yourself. You can massage a clenched jaw, stretch out a tight neck, or open your chest by breathing deeply.


Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves. In counselling we build a relationship where we can look at how you're feeling, so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in everyday life. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

Click here to view the original article on the Well + Good website.

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

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