Being rejected is something that is universally disliked. It can make people feel unwanted and unwelcome, but for individuals with rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD), the experience of rejection, whether real or perceived, can be devastating. Those with RSD tend to overreact to rejection, such as feeling excluded or criticized or facing negative opinions. This can lead to feelings of failure, outbursts of anger, or a rapid drop in self-esteem. It has been observed that RSD is closely associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, it is essential to note that having ADHD does not automatically mean someone also has RSD.
As one might have guessed, RSD can have a crucial impact on seeking and/or keeping relationships. Dating is complicated for those with RSD due to the hyperfocus placed on any feeling of rejection (Why did they not text me back?). They fixate on what they might have done or said wrong, jumping to extreme conclusions instead of considering other possible explanations. These individuals require constant reassurance from their partner(s) that everything is good in the relationship and routinely second-guess their actions and behaviors. The fear of not being 'good enough' contributes to them withholding their true feelings from their partner(s), at times escalating conflict with exaggerated anger that feels harsher than the situation called for at the moment.
How Does RSD Manifest in the Lifestyle?
Those with RSD, myself included, have a love/hate relationship with the lifestyle and frequently experience a rollercoaster of emotions. We love the lifestyle because of the affirmations received from others. Still, we sometimes hate the lifestyle because it can evoke feelings that are not very becoming when you want to have sex, establish relationships, or create lifelong friendships. Fox and I tell everyone that I have big emotions and might cry during a play date as a precursor for what might happen during play.
Allow me to explain why I cry during playdates; perceived rejection!
I am not being rejected, but you can't tell that to my brain or my emotions. Everything happens so quickly that I often can't control it, which can contribute to some very awkward situations, especially when naked. It took me years to figure out what was going on with me, but when I learned about RSD, my entire world changed, and while I still get emotional, I can process it quickly and get back into the experience without the whole playdate being ruined.
Some events have sent me into a tailspin and ruined play dates. Full disclosure, many of you will read these and think that I am just being dramatic. Some tell me I need to toughen up or grow thicker skin and trust me when I say that if I could, I absolutely would, but my brain doesn't work that way. And that is OK.
I openly share my experiences with you because you might sometimes feel the same way. You may be triggered by a couple not texting you back after a beautiful play date, and you find yourself contemplating what you did wrong or critically evaluating your performance, picking out every little thing you might have done that wasn't well received. Sometimes, people waste hours or even days thinking about what they might have done wrong when nothing was wrong. This fixation can make one appear needy, emotional, and hot-headed, creating tension with play partners.
What Can You Do If You Think You Have RSD?
While reading this brief article, you may have felt I was talking about you or someone you know. I want to offer hope and reassurance that you can put strategies in place to help alleviate these harsh feelings that arise from the perception of rejection. Most importantly, if you have RSD, don't hesitate to contact a mental health professional and seek help creating strategies specifically for your needs and desires. The following suggestions are mere suggestions and should not replace seeking professional help.
Dr. Stephanie Sigler