Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria in the Workplace: An ADHD Specialist Explains the Often Overlooked Impact

A woman looks away from three coworkers appearing to laugh about her. This could represent the stress of criticism that RSD treatment in Columbus, OH can help you overcome. Learn more about how an adhd therapist in columbus, oh can offer support by searching for “what is RSD columbus, oh” today.

Do you fear performance reviews even if they’re positive? Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)––an intense fear of real or perceived criticism––might be one of the most powerful traits impacting Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) people in the workplace. In fact, many ADHD adults report it is the key factor influencing their career advancement, specifically their ability to take professional risks, take action on goals, and even manage workplace relationships effectively. What’s more, an ADHD adult with RSD might avoid feedback entirely and end up overthinking their interactions with others for hours…and hours…and hours. Despite the intense emotions surrounding the fear of rejection, ADHDers are also known to “mask” or hide their emotional reactions from others, leaving support nowhere to be found. All of this can make untangling the true impact of RSD in the workplace difficult. In order to learn how to improve work performance and satisfaction, it’s important to better understand the connection between ADHD and RSD from an ADHD specialist.

Never Feeling Good Enough

ADHD can create a cognitive bias toward failure. Why? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that a child with ADHD could receive 20,000 negative comments by the time he or she is age 10. This results in anticipating failure or negative feedback no matter how high of a performer they are.

Feedback-Dependent ConfidenceA woman covers her face while a person hands her a paper at her work desk. Learn how RSD treatment in Columbus, OH can offer support by contacting an adult ADHD therapist in Ohio or searching for what is RSD Columbus, OH today.

ADHD individuals can also get good feedback in the workplace, which can make them feel on top of the world. However, if they get a whisper of criticism, an individual with ADHD might begin to feel not good enough again. This creates a roller coaster of confidence, fear, guilt, and shame spirals (which can often lead to anxiety or depression).

Always the Sidekick, Never the Hero

As a result of RSD and not feeling good enough, an ADHD individual might find themselves in a constant state of being overlooked for the job they really want. For example, team lead but not manager; director but not AVP, etc. Sometimes, this can be a direct result of avoiding visibility in the workplace.


When our brain is flooded with stress hormones around the anticipation of negative feedback, our bodies are going to have a reaction. While this might mean expressing anger for some individuals, it can also mean a simple tendency to overly defend oneself in conversation. For example, if someone asks for clarification of one’s work in some way, an ADHD individual might overly explain their initial position.

A man smiles while talking on their phone and pointing at his laptop. This could represent the benefits of overcoming the fear of rejection at work. Learn more about how RSD treatment in Columbus, OH can offer support by contacting an ADHD therapist in Columbus, OH today. Fear of Failure and Risk Aversion

Many adults with ADHD have big dreams: starting their own companies, changing roles at work, or even starting new organizations or clubs, etc. However, if one anticipates criticism, they also anticipate failure. The intense fear of failure then leads to simply letting dreams pile up.

Where does RSD come from?

RSD is not part of the diagnosis of ADHD. Rather RSD is a description of a common symptom of ADHD experienced by most ADHD individuals. It has been described as the deep emotional pain in the face of potential criticism. So painful in fact, that the word “dysphoria” is Greek for “unbearable.” In fact, many individuals with ADHD explain how RSD is so intense, they can barely form the words to describe how they feel. Many agree that RSD is a part of ADHD and emotional regulation issues.

Strategies for Managing RSDA woman stands in front of her desk while smiling and looking outside. This could symbolize overcoming work stress and rejection fears with the help of RSD treatment in Columbus, OH. Search for an ADHD therapist in Columbus, OH to learn more today.

Developing coping tools is also possible. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ADHD treatment, effective tools for ADHD and RSD, some can include:

  • Building awareness of RSD, including triggers and signs you’re experiencing RSD
  • Learning mindfulness tools to manage emotions
  • Finding the right supports who are validating and supportive

Begin Adult ADHD Treatment in Columbus, Ohio

Looking for more individualized support? You don’t have to fear rejection forever. ADHD-focused therapy that centers around managing life in a way that works for you can help you feel good about yourself and your actions. Our counseling practice in Columbus, Ohio has caring therapists who specialize in ADHD testing and ADHD treatment.

To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  • Fill out the contact form to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.
  • Meet with one of our caring therapists.
  • Stop feeling worried about what others might think. Start showing up with confidence.

Other ADHD Services Offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling

Adult ADHD treatment is not the only service we offer at our Columbus, OH counseling practice. At Focused Mind ADHD Counseling, we offer a variety of mental health services, including ADHD testing. As an adult with ADHD, we know you may also benefit from anxiety treatment for ADHD, counseling for men with ADHD, or depression counseling for ADHD. You can also view our blog for more resources and helpful info!