Rejection Sensitivity and ADHD

by | Dec 23, 2021 | ADHD Symptom Control | 0 comments

rejection sensitivity

The holiday season often brings with it a multitude of celebrations, family gatherings, work parties and social obligations. Even though things might be a bit different again this year, we will still interact with colleagues, loved ones and often complete strangers over the next few weeks. 

Which could be a recipe for disaster as we are all most likely overwhelmed and exhausted.

Why? Because one of the pieces of ADHD that is not often talked about is how nearly every adult who has ADHD has some form of hyper-awareness of the negative opinions of others, or rejection sensitivity (“RS”). It can even be severe enough to lead to a diagnosis of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (“RSD”).

Here are some examples of how rejection sensitivity and ADHD plays out:

When you’re at dinner with your family and Uncle Jim asks a question about work – the job where you just got reprimanded – it may feel like he’s thinking of you in a negative way. That he already knows you got in trouble…or assumes you did. And you automatically get angry and defensive.

Or your supervisor says, ‘So you’re taking Friday off?’ and you launch into an assumption that they feel you aren’t working up to your potential and don’t deserve to use your allotted personal time so you cancel the day off and stay at work.

You grab another cookie at dessert and get a look from a cousin…who obviously feels that you shouldn’t have that extra sugar cause it’s not good for you or you’ve put on weight…launching you into self-hatred and recrimination.

Or your significant other texts you a reminder to grab eggnog on the way home (cause you forgot to buy it AGAIN over the weekend) and you arrive home hurt, offended, and feeling unloved.

Any of this sound familiar? 

Rejection sensitivity can affect your life in so many ways and lead to:

  1. Emotional outbursts – where you are easily embarrassed, overly emotional, overreact, angry and have thoughts of revenge.
  2. Rumination – you play a message or situation over and over in your mind that someone doesn’t like you or feels negatively about you. The thought dominates your thinking. You just can’t let it go. 
  3. Social withdrawal – One way to stop the negative feelings is to avoid situations where you might get hurt. Can’t be rejected if you aren’t putting yourself out there for it.
  4. People pleasers / Perfectionism – you try to be the most charming person in the room so you’re liked or work extra hard to do things to not upset anyone. 

Want to know something? Ready for a hard truth? Most people really aren’t thinking about you. They just aren’t. They don’t sit around and dwell on what you feel are your negative faults. Or keep track of your failures. Or figure out how they can ‘stick it to you’ or upset you.

But it is good that the majority of people in your life are too focused on thinking of their own stuff to be paying attention to you! It means that your interpretation of their body language, actions and words was wrong. 

That most likely…

Uncle Jim was just making dinner conversation and doesn’t even remember where you work…

Your supervisor was confirming the details because they were thinking of taking a day off… 

Your cousin probably wanted to eat that particular cookie…

And your significant other was craving eggnog and was too tired to go out and get some. 

Their. Actions. Had. Nothing. To. Do. With. You.

Now you are welcome to use that mantra – nothing to do with me – over and over again during the holiday, but I invite you to tune into Episode #24 of the Kick Some ADHD podcast for some strategies and techniques you can use to help minimize the effects of RS and help you take a more healthful approach to our relationships with others.

Click here to listen to Ep. 24: Are You Overly Sensitive or Are They Really Rejecting You?

And let my co-podcaster David Johnson and I know what has helped you with your rejection sensitivity or if you have any questions in the comments! 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday!


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