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Understanding Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: As A Yoga Teacher

Understanding Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: As A Yoga Teacher

Are you consumed by painful and unbearable thoughts of perceived, imagined, or real rejection?

You might be experiencing Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). Let me explain from my POV.

After having a stint of some of the worst RSD I’ve experienced in a long time during the past week (which I highly believe to be associated with hormones), I wanted to share the struggles in a way that people can truly understand and some of the ways I managed to overcome these moments.  

RSD, although not formally part of the ADHD diagnosis process, is a common, painful, disruptive, and misunderstood symptom related to emotional dysregulation in ADHD. Many individuals with ADHD find RSD to be the most challenging part of living with the condition.

Dr William Dodson has contributed much to the study of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. In a recent article, he noted that dysphoria is the Greek for unbearable and how “its use emphasises the severe physical and emotional pain suffered by people with RSD when they encounter real or perceived rejection, criticism, or teasing… The response is well beyond all proportion to the nature of the event that triggered it.” (Dodson, 2023)

Interestingly RSD is not thought to be caused by trauma despite the extremely painful experience suffered by so many diagnosed with ADHD.

The Struggles of RSD

Experiencing RSD feels like:

  • Extreme Pain and Overwhelm: It’s all-consuming, causing sudden feelings of panic, shame, guilt, and fear.
  • Loss of Control: Thoughts spiral uncontrollably, leading to a state of constant rumination and catastrophising.
  • Fear and Vulnerability: RSD can make individuals feel unworthy and insecure, making them prone to staying in toxic environments due to feelings of unworthiness.
  • Isolation: The constant cycle of blame and shame can lead to loneliness and taking oneself away from the present.

As a yoga teacher, I often find myself frantically seeking reassurance after a class, over-apologising, and ruminating for days about whether my students enjoyed the session. RSD can make us feel extremely needy, always seeking external validation to feel worthy.

Common Reactions During RSD

  • Ruminating: Constantly worrying for days/weeks that your yoga classes are poorly received based on overanalysing details and student reactions.
  • Impulsivity: To avoid rejection and feel loved, we may offer to do things at the cost of our own commitments. This might involve leaving social groups, blocking social pages, or having emotional outbursts.
  • Withdrawal: We might quit jobs, distance ourselves from friendships, or hold back in our careers due to the fear of rejection.
  • Masking: Trying to fit in, struggling to set boundaries, and being overly agreeable in conversations can make us vulnerable to burnout.

Finding Strength in RSD

Despite its challenges, RSD also brings strengths. Our vivid imaginations can lead to creativity and innovation. Being highly sensitive also makes us empathetic, with a strong desire for justice and support for the underdog. This sensitivity allows us to come from a place of understanding rather than judgment.

My Go-To RSD Tools

  • Name it to Tame it: Awareness is the first step. Recognising that you are experiencing RSD helps to pause, feel more in control, and be less reactive.
  • Run to Fun (RTF): Engage in stimulating activities to shift your focus from negative thoughts. I use a “Rejection Recovery Rave” playlist and go for a power walk or dance around my room.
  • Don’t Worry Alone: Reach out to someone who understands and can offer support. Sharing your feelings can take you away from rumination.
  • Sleep on It: Give yourself time before reacting to RSD-related situations. A good night’s sleep can bring a fresh perspective.
  • You Are Loved Folder: Keep screenshots of positive feedback and revisit them to remind yourself of your worth and impact.

Tools to help (link to resources)

Reflective Questions

If you have actually been rejected, then ask yourself these questions to gain perspective:

  • Will this matter in a week, a month, or a year?
  • Have you overcome worse situations before?
  • What would you say to a friend in this situation?
  • Did the situation bring out the best in you? Did you feel good during this?


RSD is a condition associated with ADHD; it’s not your fault and doesn’t define you. Most people with ADHD experience RSD, so you are not alone. Embrace your sensitivity, allowing you to empathise deeply and support others. Rejection can often be protection, guiding you towards what aligns with you.

Rejection is a form of protection, a detour, guiding us towards a path that is truly meant for us.

YOU DESERVE TO FEEL LOVED & SUPPORTED ALWAYS. YOU MAKE THE WORLD OF THOSE AROUND YOU A BETTER PLACE JUST BY BEING IN IT. Focus on your positive impact on others and appreciate the wonderful person you are. Life is too short to worry over perceived or real rejection. Let’s strive to live free from it and cherish the love and support around us.

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