- What is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria…and Do You Have It?
- WHAT IS REJECTION SENSITIVITY DYSPHORIA?
- WHO’S AT RISK FOR RSD?
- RSD IN THE BRAIN
- DO YOU HAVE RSD?
- 5 HELPFUL TIPS IF YOU’RE HYPERSENSITIVE TO REJECTION
- 1. Don’t believe every stupid thought you have.
- 2. Learn the 18-40-60 rule.
- 3. Accept that teenage children will reject you.
- 4. Stay connected.
- 5. Take care of your brain.
- Rejection Sensitivity
- Rejection Sensitivity Context and Background
- Rejection Sensitivity Evidence and Implications
- Status-Based Rejection
- Rejection Sensitivity Measure
What is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria…and Do You Have It?
Rejection hurts. Whether it’s getting turned down by yourcrush, being criticized by your boss, or getting picked last for the basketballteam at school, getting rejected sucks.
Most of us are able to shake it off andmove on with our lives. For some people, however, being rebuffed—or simplyperceiving rejection—can trigger severe emotional reactions.
This is calledrejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD).
WHAT IS REJECTION SENSITIVITY DYSPHORIA?
People with RSD experience an overwhelming emotional response to real or perceived rejection, criticism, judgment, or being left out.
They may lash out in anger, dwell on negative thoughts, feel hopeless, think they’re a failure, or feel their self-esteem plummet.
Their moods may drop so rapidly and dramatically, it can feel major depression and can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
As a result of these intensely distressing feelings, peoplewith RSD tend to avoid social situations, become perfectionists, develop an extremefear of failure, and adopt people-pleasing attitudes. Because the symptoms andconsequences associated with RSD are similar to those seen in many other mentalhealth conditions, it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
WHO’S AT RISK FOR RSD?
RSD is real, and it can affect anyone, but it is morecommonly seen in people who have:
- Anxiety: People with anxiety are generally more sensitive to criticism, and they tend to be people pleasers. Prior to the pandemic, over one-third of Americans struggled with anxiety. Now with the threat of COVID-19, economic losses, social unrest, and greater uncertainty, well over 50% of people are feeling anxious.
- ADD/ADHD: Scientists have found a strong connection between people with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) / attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and RSD. In fact, it is estimated that almost all ADD/ADHD sufferers also experience hypersensitivity to rejection. ADD/ADHD is a brain-based disorder that is associated with an array of behavioral and emotional symptoms, including short attention span, distractibility, poor impulse control, irritability, being easily stressed, and a sense of insecurity. ADD/ADHD tends to amplify emotions, including those related to rejection.
- Autism: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain disorder characterized by social communication problems, abnormal social skills, and learning and behavioral issues. People with ASD often have trouble understanding social cues and difficulty recognizing and expressing emotions. Combined with heightened sensory reactions, this adds up to extreme hypersensitivity to criticism.
Research in Clinical Psychology Review has also found that people who are highly sensitive to rejection are at increased risk of depression, borderline personality disorder, and body dysmorphic disorder.
RSD IN THE BRAIN
According to brain imaging research in Social Neuroscience, people with higher levels of rejection sensitivity experience activation in specific regions of the brain when looking at faces displaying disapproval.
At Amen Clinics, which has built the world’s largestdatabase of functional brain scans related to behavior, people who arehypersensitive to rejection tend to have overactivity in certain regions of thebrain, such as the basal ganglia (the brain’s anxiety center) and anteriorcingulate gyrus (the brain’s gear shifter). Too much activity in the basalganglia is associated with heightened anxiety. When there is hyperactivity inthe ACG, it is linked to getting stuck on negative thoughts and worries, “I’m going to say the wrong thing and everybody will laugh at me.”
DO YOU HAVE RSD?
How can you tell if you have RSD? Only a professional whoperforms a comprehensive examination including functional brain imaging and labtests to help identify possible root causes for your symptoms can give anaccurate diagnosis. However, if you recognize yourself in the following traits,it’s worth investigating RSD further with an integrative neuropsychiatrist.
- Overwhelming emotional reactions to any form of rejection
- Extremely sensitive to the mere possibility of rejection, fear of failure
- Perfectionism, or setting higher standards for yourself than for others
- Quickly feeling intense shame and guilt when your actions don’t live up to your expectations
- Lashing out with anger or rage in response to criticism, judgment, or exclusion
- Social withdrawal as a way to avoid rejection
- Approval-seeking behavior
- Low self-esteem, or needing validation from others
- Overreact or misinterpret facial expressions
5 HELPFUL TIPS IF YOU’RE HYPERSENSITIVE TO REJECTION
If you’re struggling with rejection sensitivity, here are 5strategies that can help.
1. Don’t believe every stupid thought you have.
If you get stuck on thoughts—such as, “I messed up and gave the wrong statistic during my work presentation, now everybody thinks I’m stupid”–you can stop the loop by challenging your thoughts. Learn to kill the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that make you feel rejected. Ask yourself if your thoughts are really true and talk back to them.
This is especially true if you have suicidal thoughts. Many people have thoughts of taking their own life, but they don’t act on them. One study in 2008 found that over half of all college students had suicidal thoughts during their lifetime. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling.
And if you hurt yourself, you’re teaching your kids that this is how grown-ups solve problems.
2. Learn the 18-40-60 rule.
If you’re overly sensitive, remember this. When you’re 18, you think everybody is judging you, and you care deeply about what they think of you. When you reach 40, you no longer care what anybody thinks about you. Once you hit 60, you realize nobody has been thinking about you at all because most people only think about themselves.
3. Accept that teenage children will reject you.
You may feel hurt when your teen pushes you away, but this is a normal part of life. During adolescence, teens have the psychological tasks of creating their own identity separate from their parents and developing independence. Accepting this fact of life can help you cope with the rejection.
4. Stay connected.
Isolation and loneliness are not good for people with RSD. Rather than retreating from people, find ways to stay connected.
5. Take care of your brain.
Fueling your brain with healthy foods, healthy behaviors, and healthy thinking patterns can help you handle criticism in a healthier way.
Rejectionsensitivity dysphoria, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, autism, and other mental healthissues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is moreimportant than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is ly tomake your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.
Everyone desires acceptance and diss rejection from people who are important to them. Some people, however, are more concerned with rejection, a quality known as rejection sensitivity. Thus, rejection sensitivity refers to a trait that makes some people different from others.
Rejection-sensitive people (un, or more than, other people) come into new situations feeling anxious and expecting rejection. For example, when Kate attends a party where she knows only the host, she gets sweaty palms (i.e., indicating high anxiety) and doesn’t think anyone will want to talk with her (i.e., rejection expectancy).
Rejection-sensitive individuals also perceive rejection in situations more often than others do, tending to read rejection into others’ actions and words. Luke is a reserve player on the school’s basketball team. Sometimes when his teammates only pass him the ball a few times in a game, he believes they don’t him.
Rejection sensitivity also shows itself in how a person reacts to a rejection. Rejection-sensitive people often react to rejection with strong hostility and aggression or severe anxiety and withdrawal. Anna gave her professor low ratings on the teacher evaluation form after she found out she didn’t do well on the final.
Jake didn’t leave the house all summer after his girlfriend broke up with him. The rejection sensitivity model was developed to explain all of these elements—expectation of rejection, perception of rejection, reaction to rejection.
Rejection Sensitivity Context and Background
Psychology has long emphasized the importance of a relationship of trust between children and their primary caregivers. One of the most influential models of the link between early relationship experiences and later interpersonal functioning is John Bowlby’s attachment theory.
This theory suggests that early experiences cause children to create mental representations (i.e., ideas or images of what close relationships are ) that influence subsequent social interactions. If they can trust their caregiver to meet their needs, they form secure representations.
If their needs are met with rejection through the form of unavailability or nonloving responses, then they will become insecure and unsure in their relationships. Other researchers have proposed that these early relationship representations carry over into adulthood, particularly in intimate relationships.
Early experiences of rejection can lead to rejection sensitivity as an adult.
Research on rejection sensitivity illuminates how insecure attachment may play out in everyday life. Anticipating and fearing rejection influence people’s thoughts and feelings, which in turn influence their behavior in social situations.
In general, rejection sensitivity is correlated with low self-esteem. However, rejection sensitivity involves insecurity about relationships with others more than about the doubt about one’s worth as an individual.
Rejection Sensitivity Evidence and Implications
Research has documented support for the various links of the rejection sensitivity model.
Studies of childhood experiences have established that anxious expectations of rejection are associated with exposure to family violence, emotional neglect, harsh discipline, and conditional love by parents.
Experiments have shown that anxious expectations of rejection predict a readiness to perceive rejection in others’ behavior. Perceiving rejection predicts cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions that damage significant relationships and can trigger withdrawal or aggression.
These reactions of hostility and depression may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy (a prediction that becomes true through its influence on people’s thoughts and behavior).
This is because rejection-sensitive people perceive rejection in ambiguous situations and overreact to it, making it more ly that their partners will actually reject them. Rejection sensitivity can also hinder people from forming close, meaningful relationships.
When combined with other factors, rejection sensitivity may put people at risk for clinical syndromes such as depression, social anxiety, and borderline personality disorder.
Rejection sensitivity was originally conceptualized as a tendency to believe potential rejection was caused by personal characteristics. Further work has expanded rejection sensitivity research to address rejection group membership such as race or gender.
If you believe you may be or are rejected because you are a member of a stigmatized minority group, this can affect how you interact with members of the majority group or social institutions such as schools or workplaces.
One study showed that for African American students entering a predominantly White college, higher levels of race-based rejection sensitivity were associated with less racially diverse friendships, less trust that the school had their best interests in mind, more anxiety about seeking help from teachers, and lower grades by the end of the year.
Similarly, recent evidence suggests that women who are sensitive to being rejected because of their sex may have more trouble coping well in environments that have traditionally been dominated by men, such as math or engineering.
Rejection Sensitivity Measure
The original Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ) assesses anxious interpersonal rejection expectations using 18 scenarios relevant to a college student population.
The measure asks participants to imagine themselves in various situations in which they need to ask something of a valued other, such as, “You ask someone you don’t know well out on a date.
” They are then asked to answer the following questions:
How concerned or anxious would you be about how the other person would respond?
Very unconcerned 1 2 3 4 5 6 Very concerned
How do you think the other person would be ly to respond?
I would expect that the person would want to go out with me.
Very unly 1 2 3 4 5 6 Very ly
The expectation answer is reverse scored (subtracted from 7) so that higher numbers mean more expectation for rejection. Then for each scenario, the anxiety number and the expectation number are multiplied, and an average is taken across the 18 scenarios. This total RSQ score has a possible range of 1 to 36, with higher numbers indicating greater rejection sensitivity.
The original RSQ has been adapted for an adult population and for group-based rejection sensitivity in the form of the RS-Race questionnaire and the RS-Gender questionnaire. The RS measures can be found http://socialrelations.psych.columbia.edu/.
- Downey, G., & Feldman, S. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1327-1343.
- Social Relations Laboratory. Columbia University Department of Psychology. Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://socialrelations.psych.columbia.edu/.