Five Ways Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Could be Impacting Your Marriage

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Don’t remember anyone mentioning an intense fear of rejection being a core feature of an ADHD marriage? Unfortunately, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is also left out of most relationship books, unless they’re about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). And even then, it’s a footnote. The lack of RSD awareness and how it impacts longer-term relationships––such as a marriage––means many ADHD people and their spouses suffer in silence. So, wherever anyone is in their ADHD journey, it pays to have a name for why you fear your partner doesn’t like you based on the tone of their voice. For many ADHDers, RSD can be at the root of a lot of marital concerns, be it people-pleasing out of thin air or avoiding being assertive entirely. So let’s start taking RSD out of the footnote section and put it front and center, shall we?

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

For an ADHD adult, the pain of receiving criticism or rejection is often much higher than a non-ADHD person. This is called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria or RSD. Some examples of RSD are emotional pain experienced when friends do not text you back, fear when your boss emails you want to talk (even despite a good job performance), or intense fear or guilt during minor disagreements with a spouse. The difference in rejection sensitivity for an ADHD person vs. a non-ADHD person is the despair that follows, combined with the impairment. Because of this, many ADHD people who experience RSD will avoid taking risks for fear of failure or rejection.

Feeling like a “bad [fill in the blank]”A couple hold coffee cups while looking out a window. Learn how a therapist in Columbus, OH can offer support with relationship concerns by searching for an adult ADHD specialist in columbus, oh.

Never feeling like you’re “enough” for anyone in your house? RSD often intensifies the normal guilt that comes along with their simply not being a playbook to being a good parent, partner, or [fill in the blank]. The reality is, ADHD people are often amazing parents and loving partners.

However, RSD intensifies their fear, guilt, and shame that everyone in their family is mad at them for every little hiccup of forgetfulness or piece of disorganization in their day. The problem is that these intense feelings can make functioning even harder.


People-pleasing is another way ADHDers cope with RSD. They often try to predict what others want from them and then do their best to play that role. The downside? Losing sight of yourself and your own goals.

Struggling with extended family

Since RSD impacts boundaries, managing relationships with extended family can be difficult. Many ADHDers have a mother-in-law or a fathers-in-law. These can be complex relationships; for many, they consist of at least some criticism from time to time. However, with RSD, the fear of being criticized might lead to avoidance, people-pleasing, or both.

A couple appears to argue while looking at a phone. This could represent the concerns of defensiveness that a therapist in Columbus Ohio can address. Learn more about the help online adhd treatment in columbus, oh can offer today.Defensiveness

RSD activates the fight-or-flight response. This means when the fear of criticism is ignited, many ADHD folks express frustration as a means of self-protection. However, to others, the degree of defensiveness doesn’t fit the situation and can lead to more isolation and negative communication cycles.

Going from zero to 90

A common trait of ADHD is the lack of a pause button. Many ADHDers report that emotions run quickly and it’s hard to compartmentalize their feelings. However, if the underlying feeling is triggered by RSD, then those feelings may be expressed in a way the ADHDer regrets.

Turning inwardA couple smile while holding coffee cups on the same couch. Learn how a therapist in Columbus, OH can offer support with relationship concerns by searching for an adult ADHD specialist in columbus, oh.

Many ADHD people know about avoidance, wanting to run away and hide as fast as possible, but not being able to really break down why. With RSD, the trigger is often the fear of criticism or rejection. This means in the face of perceived negative feedback, an ADHD person might make themselves small and avoid directly sharing how they feel entirely.

Overcome Rejection Sensitivity with a Therapist in Columbus, OH

You don’t have to relate to others with as much fear of rejection or negative feedback. ADHD treatment focusing on RSD can help you find real understanding and solutions. Our Columbus, OH-based counseling practice has caring adult ADHD specialists. To start your journey with one of our adult ADHD specialists, follow these simple steps:

Other ADHD Services Offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling

We offer various mental health services beyond adult ADHD treatment at our Columbus, OH counseling practice. Focused Mind ADHD Counseling understands that as an adult with ADHD, you may also benefit from anxiety treatment for ADHD, counseling for men with ADHD, adult ADHD testing, or depression counseling for ADHD. You can also view our blog for more resources and helpful info. We look forward to connecting with you!