ADHD Sensitivity

ADHD Sensitivity & RSD

One characteristic common in ADHD is extreme sensitivity, perhaps including Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). According to Dr. William Dodson, an ADHD expert with a private practice in Colorado, he’s created a 19th question after the DSM IV’s 18 question ADHD criterion:

“Question # 19: For your entire life have you always been much more sensitive than other people you know to rejection, teasing, criticism, or your own perception that you have failed or fallen short?”

Happy’s Awesome Quote:

ADHD Sensitivity“If you say something to me, you
better mean it … because I’m
gonna take it like you meant it!”


ADHD Sensitivity

My friend Happy Little and I discuss the extreme sensitivity found in people with ADHD. She understands just as well as anyone can, “a life of wearing your skin inside out.”
Unfortunately, the emotional impact of ADHD has not been researched as much as other aspects of the condition. This explains why so many people know so little and misdiagnose ADHD for bipolar or other mood disorders.
It was during a past webinar of mine when Happy first heard of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria and instantly said, “That’s me!”, just as 99.9% of Dr. William Dodson’s patients tell him. So, Happy and I figure there’s definitely something going on here that people need to talk about.
We begin the discussion. Please jump in by adding your thoughts in the comments below.
~ Jennie




Relevant Resources:
ADHD Sensitivity


    1. Yes, Edie, understanding the emotional impact of ADHD can help you understand what’s going on.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. Edie, It rang bells for me when I first heard it! So much about ADHD goes beyond what the “typical” thought is about it and it’s definitely a spectrum type thing.

  1. This is me through and through. I can Never seem to keep a relationship. When they end I’m not sure if i”m sad or relieved. Usually I’m just tired.

    1. Emotions can drain us 🙁 . It’s a sad reality that relationships are hard for everyone, but with the addition of ADHD it makes it even more difficult or at least difficult in a different way. No one has a perfect partnership, we all do the best we can. I hope you find someone who can appreciate what you bring to a relationship. Remember this is not an excuse, but an explanation, so keep trying!

  2. This is the first time I have seen this as a symptom of ADHD, but I wish I had seen it 15 years ago. Right now, I am in the depths of depression, and my sensitivity to every word and it’s possible negative connotation is what I believe is the biggest barrier of climbing out. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. I know, I wish I had known sooner!!! It’s hard when your emotions are out of control and no one understands. It’s even harder when you don’t understand why they don’t understand!! When I’m in a good frame of mind I can filter comments and ask myself if what this person is saying true….is what they are doing a valid thing to do…..other times it is just an emotional free for all. It is said that knowledge is power….I certainly hope so!

  3. I’ve always been very sensitive to criticism but would just act mean when I would get emotionally hurt. I didn’t want anyone to know how sensitive I really was because to everybody else I was already weird & different.I didn’t want them thinking any worse of me than they already did.

    1. Hi Shannon, I know it’s really tough to manage emotions when little is being managed automatically. I hope that being mean is a defense strategy that you’re not using so much now that you’re aware of it. I bet you are the sweetest person on the inside. The world needs more people who are sensitive. Thanks for sharing!

    2. I can understand how that would work in your favor, saving face. I believe that may be what I did when I was younger. It catches up with you though.

  4. Yes i believe I has the sensitivity problem and RSD. I am 47 & still will hardly ever ask anyone for anything because I don’t want to feel the pain and hurt from telling me no. Especially from someone I love in a relationship. It takes me down for a couple days before I recover

  5. I have a 7 year old boy who is autistic a ADHD both and it is so true that that they wear their heart on their sleeves. He gets worked up about the small things and makes it bigger.

    1. Hi Tina, I’m sure that’s hard on you too.
      Understanding the emotional impact of Autism and ADHD is really important, just acknowledging this is something else he can’t help and being with him as he processes and finds ways to express himself makes you a wonderful mother. Thank you for sharing.
      ~ Jennie

  6. Hi…ten years ago i got obsessed to a ex girlfriend for 6 years…
    I knew that i did not loved her so much but i just couldn’t stop thinking and writing about her “rejection”….than my psychologist convinced me that i wasn’t rejected. After 6 years (18-24) where i lost everything (college, friends, good times, a carreer,etc) i noticed that i wasn’t even rejected, i just perceved that…
    Today i’m obsessed to my current ex girlfriend for 3 very hard months…where i have nightmares, i get sweats and tremors, my heart hurts and i can’t imagine a sadness so much painfull like these…i just want to stop living because i cannot imagine a solution…
    Everyone says to me that this another wrong perception but i just can’t process this new reallity, these emotions….
    Do you think that this a classic RSD case or that these emotions(love kind emotions) are just too dificult to bear to ADDers?
    Because i just don’t know what i am feeling…if it’s heartbreaking love or something else…i just know that this isn’t normal 😞
    Have you tried intuniv as Dr.Dodson claims to be a good med to deal RSD? Intuniv really helps on that?

    1. Hi Rob,
      I’m so sorry for your troubles. I do have clients who benefit from Intuniv, however, there is also a book, Focused Forward, that offers non-medicinal treatment. The author calls it the Emotional Distress Syndrome associated with ADHD. I suggest you listen to that episode too. His book is available on Amazon. I think the RSD and Emotional Distress Syndrome are the same thing. And, yes, I think it’s your ADHD that is having you process your emotions as you do.
      I also help people in my group, you are welcome to join,

  7. Adhd is A superpower that we can learn how to control and open our eyes to see how many special great stuff ADHD can help you and others , loyalty, thrust, passionate in everything we love our catch our interest. Spontaneous, and most of us have good and warm caring soul that helps us to see the quiet person that no one has ever seen. And we never ever loose the child inside us !! we will always make crazy and weird decisions that is not to our benefit but that’s what’s makes us unique because everyone else is already taken.

  8. Hi,

    I suffer from ADHD with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. 50mg of Naltrexone gave me significant relief from RSD. Has anyone investigated the use of Naltrexone for RSD? I do not drink or abuse drugs, and was prescribed Naltrexone for other reasons. Also 50mg is too low to help with addiction.


    1. Hi TS,
      I’m sorry, but as a coach, I don’t have anything to do with meds.
      I am glad to hear you’ve found relief!

  9. This is interesting… I’ve always felt that my emotional reactions to things were slightly disproportionate, same for my mum. I only got to the final year of school when I started having serious academic issues again, but as a child I was seriously setback in learning maths due to these kinds of issues. My school tested me for dyslexia but my spelling was too good so the results were inconclusive. How can I get professionally diagnosed for ADHD?

    1. Hi Mary,
      It depends on where you live, but typically, any psychiatrist will be able to diagnose.
      In some areas, a pediatrician will have the most experience diagnosing because it used to be thought of as just a childhood condition.
      We know better now.
      Great resource is
      I also suggest checking with your insurance company.

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