It’s true that ADHD adults can be more susceptible to feeling rejected and feel the rejection more intensely. But there are proven strategies to work with these feelings to reduce the intensity and times you feel rejected. Listen to see how you can do this.
- Feelings of rejection can be stronger for ADHD adults.
- Some ADHD adults may have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and need medication to treat this condition.
- ADHD adults not suffering from RSD can work on shifting their mindset to manage their sensitivity to rejection.
- It is also necessary to consider any comorbid conditions in designing a treatment plan.
- Some may find it helpful to work with a therapist or ADHD coach to address their rejection sensitivity.
New Insights Into Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria by Dr. Dodson
Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
While you may be more susceptible to feeling rejected because of your ADHD, adopting certain strategies will help you work with these feelings so they don’t hinder you from being and doing what you want.
You’ve tuned into Scattered, Focused, Done – Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD adults like you, who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins. And I’m glad you decided to join me today on this journey to reimagining productivity with ADHD. So you can get what is important to you done without trying to do it like everyone else.
There are many contexts in which you may feel rejected. It might be when you don’t get invited to a party, are turned down for a job or someone doesn’t talk to you at a networking event.
You may also feel rejected when you don’t feel listened to, someone teases you, even if they intended it to be good natured, or it seems someone is ignoring you. In all of these instances, whether real or perceived, you don’t feel accepted or included. Regardless of the other person’s intention, you feel rejected. And this may have snowball effects, as you may end up saying or doing something in response, that’s just not in alignment with your values or your goals.
While many ADHD adults are sensitive to feeling rejected for reasons which I’ll cover in a bit, there are some for whom feelings of rejection are intensely painful, even physically so. These ADHD adults may have rejection sensitive dysphoria, which ADHD expert Dr. William Dodson defines as:
… a manifestation of emotional dysregulation, a common but misunderstood and under researched symptom of ADHD in adults. Individuals with RSD feel unbearable pain as a result of perceived or actual rejection, teasing or criticism that is not alleviated with cognitive or dialectical behavior therapy.
This last bit is important to understand if you think you have RSD. That is, while you may have heard that cognitive or dialectical behavioral therapy works well for ADHD adults, and it does for many, neither is sufficient to treat RSD. Rather, as Dr. Dodson notes, 60% of adolescents and adults with RSD will benefit from medication. He also notes that there are some for whom the episode does diminish more quickly when they get involved in an activity of interest.
And, if you think you might have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, I encourage you to please read more about it and talk to your provider about possible next steps to treat it. I also included a link to an article about RSD by Dr. Dodson with the podcast on my website.
But the rest of this podcast will more generally address rejection sensitivity in ADHD adults.
Before exploring how your ADHD may impact your feelings of rejection, it’s important to note, as you probably already know, that many ADHD adults have comorbid conditions that may contribute to rejection sensitivity. But it’s somewhat of a chicken and egg problem. Left untreated from ADHD can lead to depression and/or anxiety. And depression and anxiety can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
For example, more than a third of ADHD adults have social anxiety. Those who have this condition are almost constantly in fear of being seen as less than and rejected by others. Depression, another common comorbid condition for about 20% of ADHD adults, can contribute to feelings of rejection, as your perception is certainly skewed when you are depressed.
So it’s important, when thinking about addressing your sensitivity to rejection, that you consider the conditions that may be contributing to this. So you’re making sure you are creating the most helpful treatment plan. That is, a holistic treatment plan to treat both your anxiety, your depression, and your ADHD, as well as any other conditions you may have are really important in addressing feelings of rejection that may be a byproduct of these conditions.
I’m sure that makes sense to you. I’ll get to suggestions of what might be included in this treatment plan later in the podcast. But now I want to look at how your sensitivity to rejection may be related to your ADHD by looking at a hypothetical example.
You and Bob have struggled to work together on a project. And now he’s looking at you weird at a meeting. You’re convinced he’s really mad at you and thinks you are incompetent. This thought takes hold, and you don’t/ can’t in the moment consider other possible reasons he seems to be sneering at you. You just can’t shake it.
One possibility is related to the limited working memory capacity in ADHD adults, which can result in a strong thought and resulting feeling from taking over your working memory, as you just don’t have the space to consider alternative explanations for the incident, in this case Bob seemingly sneering at you.
And once that thought takes hold feelings of rejection arise. These feelings might become more severe for you because your amygdala, which is the part of the brain that triggers your emotional response, is also overactive in the ADHD brain. And because the prefrontal cortex, which is in part responsible for regulating your emotions, is underactive in the ADHD brain.
So the floodgates open. And in the middle of the meeting you might blurt out. Maybe you see where this is going. So you end up blurting out to Bob in the meeting, “Why are you looking at me like that?” Oops!
Sure, when you’re feeling rejected, you may respond defensively and say, or do something impulsively you later regret, like as an example with Bob. Alternatively, you may suddenly withdraw from situations where you are feeling rejected and then perhaps avoid those situations, whether in social or professional settings. In addition to these external responses, you very likely have internal responses to feeling rejected, such as negative self-talk brought about by feeling inadequate and rejected.
Over time this may have contributed to low self-esteem and low self-confidence. But you can turn this around so you can stop feeling so crummy about yourself. Yes, that’s a clinical term. And respond to these incidences in a way that really is an alignment with your values and allows you to pursue your goals.
Knowing your brain isn’t always going to help you out to regulate your emotions, the first step is to practice recognizing the cues, wherever that tension resides in your body, when your emotions are getting heightened and you might say, or do something you’ll later regret.
And then give yourself as much time as you need to just be at least until your prefrontal cortex is back online. And you are in a better place to consider your options, rather than your amygdala running the show. Depending on the context, this could be a few minutes, hours, or even days, really. As long as it’s not an emergency take the time you need so you can both take care of yourself, have self-compassion, and be intentional about how you want to respond.
You also may decide you need help addressing your feelings of rejection, as well as creating a plan to address them. Maybe all you need is a friendly ear from a friend or family member.
You might also decide you need the help of a therapist, maybe a cognitive behavioral therapist, to help you address your dysfunctional thought patterns and associated emotions that contribute to your feelings of rejection.
Alternatively, or in addition, you might seek out the help of an ADHD coach who can help you both address your fear of rejection in various contexts, as well as help you proactively craft and implement a plan to address how to respond when you are feeling rejected.
You may also find in time that you need a content expert, such as a career or business coach to up your game so to speak and improve in areas where you are getting rejected.
Of course, you may still get rejected, but at least you can put your best foot forward. Whether you seek out help or not, it’s important to understand what rejection is and what it’s not. I know. I know. You may be thinking right now, “Marla, believe me, I understand rejection.” I know you understand what it feels like. But have you thought about rejection as a matter of opinion. And that as much as you might plan to minimize the chances of being rejected, you will be rejected, as well as the rest of us. Consider how your perspective might change if you viewed rejection this way. You might see that you have very little control. Because it’s most often not about you. But rather about the other person’s perception. For example, you go into an interview, you have great credentials, you have prepared like nobody else.
You think the interview went well when you go out and then you don’t get the job. Or you meet someone at a party, have a great conversation and seem to have a lot in common. Yet, they say no when you ask them out for coffee. Ouch! Or a proposal you offer at a meeting at work gets a great reception from your colleagues, but your boss turns it down. It feels pretty bad and can be hard to slough off these, for sure.
So then how do you respond to real or perceived rejection?
Sometimes it makes sense to ask why. Then you may choose to change your request to get a possible yes. Or if you can’t get what you want from this person or place, you may use this information to get what you want from a different context. So in the case of Bob, you could ask him later if he had any concerns. And if you are feeling really brave, you could point out the way you thought he looked at you. Then he could let you know that because of the high pollen count, his allergies were acting up and others have said that about his eyes as well.
Another option when responding to rejection is to ask for something less or different than your original request. For example, after asking your boss why he rejected your proposal, you may choose to change your proposal based on his feedback.
Another option to rejection is to make the same request, but in a different place or to a different person or under different conditions. You get it. So you continue asking people out for coffee. And just chalk up the rejection of that one person at the party to, you know, you just weren’t their jam.
And sometimes the answer to rejection is to just keep on asking, as is the case in applying for jobs, which can be a numbers game, as you know. Sure, you usually are asking different people. But regardless if you’re willing to put yourself out there enough times, you’ll eventually, hopefully, get a yes, a job offer.
The last option is to just drop the request. For example, will you and your colleagues may think your work proposal is off the charts brilliant. As it turns out, it’s just not a priority for your boss. And you decide maybe it’s not worth the time and energy to convince him otherwise.
While rejection is definitely an opinion, it can also wreak havoc for you if you don’t learn how to work with these feelings when they arise. What are you going to try this week so these feelings don’t throw you for such a loop and prompt you, perhaps, to say, or do something you might later regret?
That’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me and stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with ADHD, please do check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today’s podcast, which I hope you have, please also pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might benefit. And, until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done, and I’m Marla Cummins wishing you all the very best on your journey to Reimagining Productivity with ADHD.