Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
Hello. My name is Alex. I am 25 years old, and I am terrified of being rejected. It is natural to not want to be rejected, but I am legitimately afraid of rejection. What makes this worse is the fact that I expect to be rejected.
Like many people with ADHD, I suffer from rejection sensitive dysphoria. This is my story and how it has affected me.
What Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Is
Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a hypersensitivity to rejection. When a person with RSD (whether they have ADHD or not) is rejected or perceives they have been rejected, they have an extreme reaction to the rejection (real or imagined). In severe cases, this can mimic the symptoms of depression.
If I have not heard from a friend in a while, I will begin to question that friendship. I will think that person does not like me and wonder what happened. Even though I know people just get busy sometimes, I begin to analyze myself and wonder what I did or what it was about me that drove them away. The reality almost always is that we just haven’t been able to connect and the friendship has not come to an end. Yet, RSD makes me think I have driven yet another friend away.
Staying in Relationships Too Long
Hindsight has shown me that I have stayed in relationships longer than I should have because I do not want to be rejected. I stayed with my first girlfriend for several months longer than I should have. It was clear I was not a priority in her life, but I liked having a girlfriend too much. I should not have dated my second girlfriend, but I was so desperate to have a girlfriend that I dated her any way. My third girlfriend put pressure on me to be someone I was not. It was not a healthy relationship, but I persisted with it until she dumped me. I rarely got to talk to or spend time with my fourth girlfriend. This bothered me, but I did not break up with her. She broke up with me. These were all relationships I should have ended or never have started, but I was dumped in each relationship (with the exception of my second girlfriend). I continued those relationships because I did not want to be rejected, but that is exactly what happened to me.
Expecting to Get Dumped
Whenever I am in a relationship and especially in the early stages of a relationship, I expect to be dumped. I imagine texting something normal to woman to whom I am attracted and with whom I am cultivating a relationship and receiving a reply that says, “Actually, can you stop talking to me?” This makes things unnecessarily difficult. Any delayed response to a text sends me into rumination about being dumped yet again. Even when things are going well in a relationship, I can still have my doubts. I will try to tell myself things are great and that I do not have to worry, but my memory will remind me of all the times I have been rejected before. “You don’t want to be blindsided again!” my memory says. This creates excessive worry.
In February of 2018, the girl I was dating broke up with me. I was convinced I was going to marry her, so to say this breakup was hard is quite the understatement. What did not help matters in this case was a hospitalization that occurred at the end of February that gave me plenty of time to think. Even after my three-day stay in the hospital, I was still not feeling up to doing much, so I spent a lot of time with my thoughts. This led me to utilize my brain’s natural ability to analyze. My brain is very good at analyzing things, a little too good sometimes. My brain craved a solution for my emotional pain and found it necessary to examine all possible solutions. This led me to come up with a plan to end my life as painlessly as possible. I did not want to commit suicide, but my brain wanted to find a painless way out, just in case I ever did decide I wanted to take my own life.
Luckily, these thoughts subsided after a day or two because I had a breakthrough. I was able to move past the breakup and look to the future with hope. Soon after, I felt drawn to another woman. Still a tad nervous based on how my previous relationship had ended, I cautiously began to get to know her. After about a month of getting to know her, I asked her out. After six months of dating, things fell apart, and she dumped me. A few hours after she broke up with me, I could not stop identifying all of the things in my house that could be used as a noose, and I drove to a mental health facility for an evaluation. I did not want to kill myself, but I could not stop thinking about it.
One lesson here is to communicate well with those who are close to you. Be vulnerable. Tell them how you feel, and figure out where things stand. Do not ruminate over imagined rejections. Know the truth, and react accordingly.
Another lesson is to practice good self-care. When you have been or you imagine you have been rejected, talk to someone about it. Don’t let rumination overtake your life. You need to protect your mental health. This might mean getting a therapist. There is no shame in asking for help.