RSD: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

“Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) appears to be the one emotional condition found only with ADHD,” Dr. Dodson says in Emotional Regulation and Rejection Sensitivity for Attention magazine. “Early research on ADHD intentionally ignored rejection sensitivity because it was not always there, it was often hidden by the person with ADHD, and because there was no way to measure rejection.”

Emotional dysregulation is when a person feels an emotion so intensely that the emotion takes over and cannot be subdued. With rejection sensitive dysphoria, Dr. Dodson says the person experiences extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception—real or imagined—of being:

  • rejected
  • teased
  • criticized
  • a disappointment to important people in their lives
  • disappointed in themselves when they failed to attain their own standards or goals

The emotional pain the person experiences is real and extreme, says Dr. Dodson, and not easily dismissed. (


RSD In My Life

RSD has definitely touched my life.  A mommy blogger wrote a post on the subject for Scary Mommy or another such platform (forgive me for not saving the site, I have no recollection of the post). But I was gobsmacked when I read her post.  In discussing her experience with RSD, the author was describing my daughter to a T.  It was uncanny, surreal, validating, scary.  I felt a rush of warmth, that I was not alone and my daughter was not alone in this struggle I could never quite label.  It was enlightening to have a label.  It was wonderful to feel empowered that I may make headway in helping my daughter.  It was terrifying to connect RSD with ADHD.


I had my suspicions about BumbleBee, my eldest girl.  I had gut feelings that pointed me towards an ADHD-inattentive type diagnosis.  Reading this article was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.  I knew it in my heart and my bones.  This RSD thing, which only really exists in the ADHD realm, was the confirmation and motivation I needed to seek help from our pediatrician.


I urge you to study RSD.  Its insidious path is a thief of the highest degree: it steals our ability to build a solid foundation during childhood development; it steals our ability to accept love and develop authentic self worth and healthy self esteem; it steals away the opportunities to tether to mommy, daddy, and siblings during those first precious years; it steals from parents the ability to connect in profound ways to their children; it steals parents’ ability to feel confident in their parenting.


I have been on both sides of this theft. As a lost, untethered girl and the parent to one. And the grief, loss, and pain are substantial.

The trauma is seemingly invisible, but it is obstinate and considerable in magnitude.

I am only now undoing a lot of the damage, the trauma, the weeds of RSD, ADHD, and ASD that have wound their way throughout my foundation. I imagine a foundation meant to be of solid concrete.  Thick, ropey, durable weeds have grown like roots throughout my concrete foundation.  Since my diagnoses, the stubborn weeds have disappeared.  They dissipated like a corny magician’s smoke.  I have been left with gaping holes and tunnels in my foundation. But I am stronger for it.  I have been able to fill the hollows with love, light, healing.  Mostly love I was not able to receive before.  Mostly love that the old me put in a queue because I was so convinced I was undeserving.  Mostly love that I rejected because I was so damn sure I was garbage.


I have found agency, the power I was needing all along, to help myself.  I have acquired skills, resources, and words to help myself and help my daughters.  But most importantly, I have received diagnoses that give me access to the support I need from my doctors, social services, and the community at large.


Sent from a very tender, and still healing Mama Tine


I recommend to start your studying journey


This is likely the Scary Mommy post mentioned above resource


What You Need to Know About RSD


Mama Tine

Author Extraordinaire 

Mama Tine

wife, mother, sister, daughter, auntie

Mama Tine

outsider, goddess divine

What is Executive Age?

Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things. (

Let’s discuss Executive Age. It’s something I have just been introduced to in the autism/ADHD FaceBook groups that I frequent. So forgive me if I make a mistake, as I am literally just studying it right now.

Folks compare Executive Age versus Biological Age when describing the catching up that some kiddos have to do. I admit that I have looked at my daughter and said, “You’re 6! This is something that you should be able to do!” Immediately I felt regret, about my tone and for losing my temper. The shame on her face was enough to make me snap back into focus. 

It is uniquely DIFFICULT to parent our littles with ADHD. It requires infinite patience and grace, which is humanly impossible. When I am filled with remorse and guilt I never fail to take the opportunity to apologize and own my own crap. My daughters are much closer to me for it, and I feel comforted in knowing they will know how to apologize appropriately in the future. My husband is on the same page, for which I am very fortunate. 

The most important part of Executive Age that I want to emphasize in this blog is that it is not a reflection of intellect. Kids who are of a biological age may certainly have the intellectual capacity of their typical peers. However they are just a few levels behind in terms of their ability to learn, work, and manage daily life. 

I see this in my daughter. But most significantly, I see this in myself. Introspective introvert that I am, I have always felt just a few steps behind my peers. “Why don’t I get this? Why didn’t I get this when everyone else did? Why am I just getting this now?” These thoughts permeated my mind and contributed to my low self-esteem, low self worth, and self-shaming.

Most noteworthy, I felt this way during undergrad and grad school. I felt intellectually worthy to have my place at the table. But I also felt like a fraud. And then looking back, I always felt “I would have been so much more prepared for undergrad/grad school now. I am just getting this now. Why am I just mastering this now?”

It is important to discuss Executive Functioning and Executive Age, if you feel your child is receptive to these abstract concepts. And if they are not, it is vital as parents and caregivers to know this. To give kids a break, cut them some slack, meet them where they’re at. The anxiety and shame are debilitating. I can speak from experience that I carried the weight and have the scars to prove it. I am only learning and undoing the pain now.

I will not stand for any child or adult to feel the same pain. ADHD is an invisible illness. There is no broken leg to point to. Instead we are met with judgement and shame.

I encourage you to study Executive Functioning. To discuss it with the ADHD folks in your lives. And to use this tool as a resource for healing and not for additional pain.

Mama Tine 


Resources I recommend and used in this blog:


The above image is an illustration that describes Executive Age versus Biological Age. 


Hannah Gadsby Taught Me I Have High Functioning Autism

The first blog I wrote for Mama Tine Autism had to be about Glennon Doyle. She gave me the words, those words gave me the permission. I was illuminated to the darkest and most sorrowful crevices of my mind. I had a lens to see myself for who I was; a woman who carried trauma from her childhood. She said it was cruel for anyone to try to take my pain from me. It is cruel to try to take away my time to process my trauma. To go, at my own pace, through the steps of the grieving process (please take the time here to research the five steps of the grieving process if you have not studied it yet). She said, the feelings from grief and loss are just as sacred as someone’s happiness and joy.

[Anecdotally, it is the reason I was struck down by Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out.” It boldly delved into mental health. It gave kiddos the lens to study the inner workings of their minds and hearts. It said, sadness is just as essential as joy in our children’s little healthy hearts.]

Glennon Doyle, and all her courage and eloquence, primed me to receive some earth-shattering knowledge from Hannah Gadsby, another hero of mine.

Hannah Gadsby broke Comedy. She saw that there was not a path for that which she wanted to create. And she boldly created her own genre. That is freaking amazing! With “Nanette” and her TED talk, she unpacked her diagnosis of high functioning autism HFA and my heart was shattered and seemingly healed in the same instant. She was talking about me. She was describing me. Her path was just like mine. I was the same kind of alien as her.

My whole body clicked. You know when you’re trying to twist a lid on a stubborn jar? You twist around and around, waiting for the thread to catch. Waiting for it to just sync with home and you can finally close the damn jar? That was me my whole life, up until my 36 years of life. Constantly buffering, hoping, waiting, just looking for home. And with Gadsby’s performance I felt that successful relief. Thirty-six years is a lot of wear and tear.

The relief, the diagnosis, comes with a relief that reflects the magnitude of the wait. It was cathartic to say the least. It was a a beast of a burden. And it dissipated like a magician’s cloud of smoke. It was heaven on earth. It was every ooey gooey cliche, because it was true.

I encourage you to watch Gadsby’s “Nanette,” her TED talk on YouTube, her Skavlan interview on Youtube, and “Douglas.” She so eloquently breaks down what it is like to have grown to be in your thirties before receiving a HFA diagnosis.

Wishing you growth, comfort, and warm fuzzies,

Mama Tine



“Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They’re sacred. They are part of each person’s journey.” Glennon Doyle, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed


Glennon Doyle on Helping Loved Ones with Their Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are central to how I conceptualize folks. It’s the counselor and practitioner in me. Most obstacles, hurt, and anger can be traced to grief and loss. And we have to elaborate on loss, beyond the things that are easy to point to (death and loss of tangible things). There’s also loss of innocence,  loss of what you planned. 

For us autism parents, there is the loss of what you dreamed for your child after you receive diagnoses. It is certainly like a death. There are milestones my children might never reach. There are milestones they will reach at a later age than most. Autism parents are entitled to their loss in addition to their joy when their kids finally do that thing. First words, first steps toward independence, first connections.

Glennon Doyle gave me the words and the freedom to understand my autism parent pain. We are in a unique club after all. She helped me to understand what I was feeling, and to know that when the pain comes back that’s ok too. Be gentle on yourself. Because there is a universality to traumatic pain, grief, and loss. And ours is valid and worthy of the place it takes in our hearts.

I encourage you to read up on Glennon’s work as it is so PERTINENT and UNIVERSAL to me. Her Instagram is my access to her lessons, advocacy, and Morning Meetings. I haven’t even read her books yet but I wager they’re bangin. 

Warm fuzzies from your Mama Tine