“Too Sensitive” or Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria?

– Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC


Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) is characterized by an intense fear of rejection, often leading individuals to perceive rejection even in situations where it doesn’t exist or isn’t intended.

RSD is not officially recognized as a distinct disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, it’s a concept extensively discussed in psychology and is closely associated with conditions like borderline personality disorder (BPD) and social anxiety disorder.

Unlike occasional feelings of disappointment or sadness after rejection, RSD can significantly impact various aspects of life, including relationships, work, and self-esteem.

Understanding RSD is crucial for both those experiencing it and their loved ones. In this post, we’ll delve into the nuances of RSD, its effects, coping strategies, and avenues for healing.


Understanding Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria


RSD is a nuanced and often misunderstood disorder that affects an individual’s ability to cope with perceived rejection, criticism, or disapproval. It’s quite normal for humans to avoid rejection and be disappointed or sad after feeling slighted. However, for individuals with RSD, these emotions are dramatically heightened.


Some common indicators of RSD include:

  • interpreting neutral social cues as rejection
  • anticipating rejection even in situations where it’s unlikely
  • constant hypervigilance for signs of rejection in social interactions.
  • overreacting to perceived slights with intense anxiety, anger, or depression.
  • avoiding social situations to avoid potential rejection.
  • feeling unworthy or inadequate due to perceived rejection.
  • difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of rejection.




The causes of RSD can vary widely among individuals.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Traumatic or challenging experiences during childhood, such as neglect, abandonment, bullying, or criticism from caregivers or peers.
  • A naturally more sensitive temperament, making an individual more prone to experiencing intense emotional reactions to perceived rejection.
  • RSD can co-occur with various mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, borderline personality disorder, and social anxiety disorder. These conditions can increase sensitivity to rejection and criticism.


Coping Strategies


There are several strategies that can help individuals cope effectively with RSD:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • CBT is a widely recognized therapeutic approach for treating RSD. It focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns about oneself and others in order to help individuals develop a more balanced perspective on rejection.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Training:

  • DBT offers skills tailored to address the emotional dysregulation and interpersonal difficulties often associated with RSD. Through DBT, individuals can learn assertiveness and effective communication techniques to improve interpersonal relationships and reduce misunderstandings.



Seeking Mental Health Support

If you suspect you  may be struggling with Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, seeking professional help is essential. Consider scheduling an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center . Our therapists specialize can develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. — Meet our team to learn more!


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