Rejection Sensitivity

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    I come to this forum with something that has been weighing on my heart. I have struggled with a sensitivity to rejection for a long time now (anxious when I don’t receive a text message, hyper vigilant to facial expressions and words, etc.). It seems to come in waves and I only have a few periods where it truly has a hinderance on my life. I am ready to overcome this sensitivity. I want success in relationships and want to grow, and grow within my close friendships. What advice do you have for someone who struggles with accessing the sense of acceptance within themselves? What wisdom can be gained from this sensitivity to rejection?

    Thank you so much in advance for your responses!


    • This topic was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Rocco.

    Dear Rocco:

    This is my understanding: you are greatly afraid of rejection because you already experienced it and it did hurt a lot. What you have feared ever since is that pain you already felt when rejected as a child.

    Find that original experience (or a series of experiences) of rejection early in your life, sometime in those formative years of childhood, process that emotional experience, and you will connect your fear now to the past, freeing your present time from the fear. It will take months of hard work to accomplish this, with some help from a quality professional psychotherapist, for you to see significant, lasting progress.

    *Young children experience emotions intensely. You may think now, as an adult, that the past event of rejection must be a huge event, so to explain how intensely you feel about rejection. But what happened can be something as “small” as this: a parent attending to another sibling repeatedly while ignoring you.




    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by anita.

    Hey Rocco,

    what you’re describing actually sounds like Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) which is an actual phenomenon closely tied to other phenomenons like anxiety, ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism (among many many others). I’m calling these ‘phenomenon’ because things like ADHD, Autism, and learning disabilities are not diseases, they are different ways your brain is wired.

    I would NEVER presume to say you fall into any of the above categories, but either way, it may be helpful to know that there are thousands of people who share this. ADHD alone has almost a 100% rate of also having RSD.

    I have ADHD, and I definitely have RSD. For me, it means I have a hard time “just brushing it off” and I have a really hard time taking criticism sometimes, especially if it’s public. It feels like public humiliation, even when in reality it’s just a normal  amount of “this isn’t right yet”. It’s affected my anger response mostly, I want to break down and cry because it feels like a total rejection of me as a person, and that upsets me so to fight it I end up fighting the criticism. Not the most helpful obviously. It also affected my relationships, because I was so scared to tell the other person “no” that I ended up in some really bad situations well outside my comfort zone. I’m also hyper-aware of how I might appear to other people, and it means I can have a hard time getting out of my head socially enough to enjoy myself. I have a friend who also experiences it, and for him it absolutely destroyed his self-esteem. He’s amazingly talented, but he thought he was terrible at the one thing he wanted to do and it prevented him from pursuing his passion for a long long time. He also let people treat him badly over and over again, because he was afraid of them leaving, or that they’d realize he was so terrible.

    For both of us, honestly was the best way to deal with these periods. I have an amazing partner and one particular close friend that I can be totally 100% honest with when I feel like that. it’s meant that I can go to them and say “I’m feeling really really needy can you reassure me?” or even “do you still love me? Do you still want to marry me?”. That trust means I don’t carry all the fear on my own, and it’s helped so much. It’s taken a while, but I’m finally learning to believe that they don’t think it’s weird, and they don’t thing I’m clingy or needy or annoying.

    The biggest thing on a personal level has been knowing what it is, which it sounds like you already do. Awareness is huge, and you should be proud of that. Now, when it happens, the difficult part is giving yourself permission to feel that way, then taking a step back and seeing if it really is someone rejecting you, or if it’s that fear. The big part is giving yourself permission to experience it. We have an instinct to want to stop bad things, to shut them down and make them go away. But if your brain isn’t going to listen, then at best you’re delaying the fear and anxiety it produces. Acknowledge it, then let the rational part of your brain take over and try to separate feeling and thought. Don’t try to kill one, just separate. Then It can start to become easier to manage, and you can make real time decisions without the sensitivity and fear driving, and start to feel a little more control.


    Hope this heps!

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