Updated: Mar 16
One of the most interesting things I've learned about after being diagnosed with ADHD is that this disorder (which I prefer to view as a superpower) is commonly accompanied by something called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, or RSD. Although the diagnosis of ADHD was life-changing for me, the knowledge I gained about RSD is what was actually the most therapeutic.
In this post, I'd like to teach you a bit about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, how it presents, and how I believe it relates to the build-up of clutter in people's homes. More importantly, my goal in sharing this information is that it will help you, as my reader and potential co-ADHDer/RSDer, to feel seen and to realize that there truly is power in knowledge!
What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is a hypersensitivity to criticism, constructive feedback, or anything else that can perceived as being negative. People with RSD feel deep, emotional pain and tend to spiral--mainly internally--after receiving comments that make them believe they've failed at something.
In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of RSD (other than living with it silently and unknowingly) is that it can impact the person who experiences it for hours, days, weeks, or even years into the future. Because individuals with RSD--many of whom also have ADHD--tend to ruminate, or think cyclically, about negative situations they've encountered, whenever they're triggered to revisit those moments of their lives, they can become overwhelmed and stressed by what had happened all over again.
At least that's how RSD affected me.
Having RSD is extremely difficult because the brain essentially tricks the person experiencing it into thinking that others are viewing her in ways that are more than likely inaccurate; as if one little mistake or redirection makes her incompetent and unworthy in their eyes.
So, how may having Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria relate to also having cluttered spaces in one's home? Read on to find out.
Because people with RSD are sensitive to the thoughts and perceived feelings of others, they may become overwhelmed by not knowing what to do with or where to place certain items that build up in their homes. For example, they may envision causing pain to a family member or friend who gifted them an item they either didn't want or didn't like, and in turn struggle with ever getting rid of it. Or perhaps the feeling of not being "good enough" at organizing--of not knowing how to make a space look and function "perfectly"--discourages them from even trying in the first place.
The overwhelm of deciding which basket to choose or which flow to organize items in can cloud the mind and, in turn, lead to no decisions being made at all.
Those with RSD may work hard to keep a tidy home, yet may be the ones who shove items into cabinets and into guest closets in order to hide their clutter from anyone who may be visiting in order to avoid any potential judgments or constructive comments being thrown their way.
>> Having ADHD and RSD, once again, makes things even more difficult, since individuals with ADHD already struggle with planning and organizing due to executive dysfunction. This is why they may choose to hide their clutter rather than set aside time to deal with it.
It's important to note how having RSD with or without ADHD does not, I repeat, DOES NOT! make someone incapable of having a clutter-free, organized home.
Understanding and acknowledging that my brain was tricking me into feeling inadequate was what helped me to shift into a new version of myself, and I know it can do the same for you.
If you believe you have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and also struggle with clutter and disorganization, than I encourage you start to work with your thoughts rather than against them.
Tips for Working With Your Brain Rather Than Against It
Firstly, becoming knowledgeable about your Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is the best form of medicine. Accepting that this condition has plagued you up until now but choosing to take the perspective of your brain just trying to trick you will help you to work through future perceived rejections.
>> When you find yourself about to take offense to a certain comment or notion, remind yourself that your brain is just telling you to be sensitive; that--in the majority of situations--no one else around you is thinking or feeling the same way.
Secondly, if you struggle with perfectionism--an inherent trait of most ADHDers/RSDers--and feel that this is keeping you from moving forward with organizing a certain space in your home, start by casting a vision for what you want the space to look like. With a specific color and design scheme in mind, you'll provide yourself with a plan to move forward with (or to just go ahead and copy!). Casting a vision keeps us from getting lost in all the decision-making and to feel more confident in creating spaces we know we'll like!
Lastly, you could ask for help! When someone with ADHD/RSD receives assistance with creating systems for decluttering and organizing that keeps her focused and encourages her to maintain the space, she can vastly improve her levels of pride and self-confidence.
Sometimes all we need is a fresh set of eyes, a new perspective, and someone by our side to get us through!
Living with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is no joke; however, by taking the time to learn about the condition and bringing awareness to it, you have the ability to take ownership of your emotions, life, and home.
Are you interested in learning about ADHD Declutter Coaching?