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Quiz time! Let’s say you’ve finally stored up enough chutzpah to fire off that emotionally vulnerable DM you’ve been putting off.

The recipient sees it immediately. You witness the lil’ response ellipse cloud pop up as they type up a response. But suddenly…

It stops and goes cold.

You haven’t received an answer back in hours. Do you:

  • A. Patiently await their thoughtful response.
  • B. Hit ‘em with a cute follow-up GIF after a day or whatever (they probably did that thing where they only responded to the DM in their head and forgot to actually reply).
  • C. Realize they hate you, have always hated you — will hate you until the heat death of the universe — and begin the painful process of drafting a bridge-scorching double DM. This relationship is over, Sara!?

Anyway, if you answered “A” or “B,” you seem well-adjusted and can keep reading if you want, but just know I’m jealous and annoyed.

If, however, your brain is as anxiety-addled as mine and you were player “C” through and through, you might be experiencing a lesser known ADHD symptom known as rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD).

All clowning aside, experiencing this is excruciating at times. And letting it go unchecked can have some heinous consequences on one’s life.

According to a study in 2009, RSD can be summed up as “the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely react to rejection.”

To me, it’s like a reverse superpower: There is no ego-based molehill I can’t magically transform into a mountain. And then even the mountain hates me and is just being nice to me because it feels sorry for me!

It manifests in me being a try-hard people-pleaser when I’m insecure, or an anxious rabbit ready to bolt from anything that scares me when my boundaries are at all threatened. These are symptoms that Dr. William Dodson covers in more detail in an article for ADDitude magazine.

Either way, not great for me and the people who have to deal with me.

Clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, in a 2019 piece, makes the clarification that this isn’t yet considered a disorder of its own (and isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, the DSM-5) but is rather a “constellation of symptoms that are often associated with other conditions” like ADHD, neuroticism, and low self-esteem.

Do you identify with any of the characteristics associated with RSD?

  • the thought of rejection brings on the ‘puke feels’
  • your entire sense of self-worth depends on what other people think of you
  • you set standards for yourself that are, uhhh, steep
  • you’re constantly bracing for impact in situations where you could be rejected — or fleeing from them
  • trying and failing to fit in anywhere is a constant, physical discomfort
  • you lash out aggressively when you perceive rejection or disrespect

“Oh no,” you might be saying, “rejection is something I personally, for me, do not enjoy experiencing! Do I have this?” Maybe — maybe not!

Experts like Bonior make the distinction between RSD and other anxiety conditions, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD), with when and by whom one is triggered.

Someone with SAD is more likely to feel this debilitating discomfort and anxiety in the lead-up to a potential rejection with people they don’t know well. A person experiencing RSD, however, is just as likely to feel the existential dread of rejection from someone they’re close to, whose response they should be able to guess, and they’ll feel the enormous sanity-melting despair and rage after the event takes place.

It’s less about nervousness of the unknown and more of the shame-filled depression you surely deserve!

All that said, this is nuanced and you’re gonna wanna talk to a medical professional-type to get to the bottom of it.

Let’s say you do just that and ding-ding-ding! It’s RSD! What’s recommended to treat it?

  • Therapy, darling. Whether cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, or any other compatible psychotherapeutic experience, we need to get you talking about your feelings on rejection. Let me know if you, too, experience the farcical feedback loop of: “How do I word my feelings about rejection to my therapist treating me for RSD without them judging me?!”
  • Medication. For those of us who experience the physiological effects, and especially for those of us who have other co-occurring anxiety disorders, medications may be a good fit. In my case, I do especially well on a regimen that includes Wellbutrin. I’ve also carefully tried other meds and gotten loud and insistent when they weren’t working out. You deserve to explore this without judgment or stigma either way.
  • Going offline. I know this sucks: be thoughtful about how much time you’re investing in social media. They can mutate the dynamics of acquaintances and loved ones alike, and these relationships can also be harrowing for people with RSD.

Finally, be accountable to yourself. Admit when you know you’re wrong. Don’t suppress your feelings trying to spare ‘em for someone who would never return the favor.

DELETE HIS PHONE NUMBER.

Now, I’m gonna go do literally anything that isn’t DMing Sara again to ask why she hasn’t watched the latest “Dragula” yet. I SEE YOU SAW THE DM, SARA, STOP WATCHING “THE WIRE” FOR THE FIFTH TIME.


reed brice

Reed Brice is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. Brice is an alum of UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts and was the first transgender person to ever be cast in a professional revue with The Second City. When not talking the tea of mental illness, Brice also pens our love and sex column, “U Up?”