Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) and ADHD: How To Get Rid of Those Negative Thoughts

ADHD Treatments & Medications    August 1, 2019

RSD ADHDWhat is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?

Rejection sensitive dysphoria or RSD is a neurologic and genetic condition very common to persons with ADHD. Those who have RSD experience extreme emotional sensitivity and emotional pain. These feeling can be triggered by the perception — not necessarily the reality — that they have been rejected, teased, failed, disrespected, or criticized by people in their life.

For people with RSD, these emotional experiences are much more intense and last longer than for neurotypical individuals. The emotional pain can hit suddenly and last for days. The dysphoria completely overwhelms their thinking, feelings, and senses. Often, it is hard for people to describe their feelings of pain. They say it’s intense, awful, terrible, overwhelming. The feelings are unbearable and highly impairing. And even though many who experience RSD say they are aware of the extreme nature of their emotional reaction, it can be nearly impossible to stop the negative emotional downward spiral. To others, RSD can look like depression, or a mood disorder complete with suicidal ideation.

In order to avoid this huge emotional pain, two things tend to happen. First, people with RSD might become people pleasers or perfectionists. The hope is that by pleasing others, they won’t suffer the feelings of rejection. Secondly, they may stop trying altogether. The possibility of failing or not meeting someone else’s expectations is just too risky. For instance, people with RSD might not apply for job advancements, meet new people, or challenge themselves with higher learning.

So what can someone with ADHD do if they are experiencing an RSD response?

Following are some behavioral and medical suggestions that may help to minimize the spiral of pain and negativity.

Don’t try and repress the feelings. It may seem logical that to get rid of negative thoughts we must suppress or push the thought out of our minds. Unfortunately, many studies have shown that doesn’t work. Trying to push thoughts out of our mind only makes them come back stronger. It’s like trying to forget about that last piece of chocolate cake sitting untouched on the kitchen counter!

Try distracting yourself. A natural tendency is also to try and distract yourself, think about something else, leaving you in peace. This can help at times, however the key is to focus on one thing rather than letting your mind wander. Apparently for the human brain, mindless wandering is associated with unhappiness. So it’s better to focus on something specific, like lyrics to a song, a game or completing a task or project.

Don’t add more stress. Another way to avoid negative persistent thoughts is to create stress in other areas of our lives. The hope is that this will leave little mental energy for the thoughts that are troubling us. Unfortunately, when tested scientifically, this turns out to be a bad approach. In fact, for whatever reason, stress makes unwanted thoughts come back stronger. So remember when you are experiencing RSD don’t make matters worse by adding more stress to your life.

Postpone the feeling until later. Even though trying to suppress a negative thought makes it come back stronger, postponing it and thinking about it later can work. For instance, postponing the negative emotion or thought and then designating 15-30 minutes as “RSD time” might work. Allowing time for all the bad feelings may ease your mind for the rest of the time.

Do the opposite of what makes sense. What if, instead of trying to get rid of the emotional RSD feeling, you actually concentrated on it? Some research suggests this can work. This is based on the same principle as “exposure therapy.” Where, for example, someone who is afraid of spiders is slowly exposed to spiders, until the fear begins to fade. This may not be for the faint-hearted, but research suggests it can be useful to get rid of negative and obsessive thoughts.

Accept the feelings. Along similar lines, trying to accept unwanted thoughts and emotions rather than doing battle with them can be beneficial. Struggling with emotions is like struggling in quicksand. Instead, try allowing the thoughts and emotions to come and pass by without feeling like you need to make them go away.

Be mindful. With mindfulness you don’t judge your thoughts. Instead let them come and go as they will, then nudge your attention back to feeling at peace. The key is to be curious and notice in a detached way what’s happening in your mind but not get involved with it. Please note that this way of thinking doesn’t come naturally but can improve with practice.

Try remembering the positive. In the midst of the negative emotional RSD spiral it can seem as though the last thing possible is to remember your positive traits. However, considering the alternative, remembering our strengths may be worth a try. And if you are having trouble remembering these nuggets, try asking someone you trust to remind you.

Write it out. Rather than telling yourself to simply snap out of it, try expressive writing. Writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings does seem to have health and psychological benefits. Expressing yourself through writing may help to get rid of negative thoughts and help you move through the emotional pain.

Use your creativity. Writing is only one way to express yourself. If you have a creative talent, and many persons with ADHD do, try tapping into this resource. Use your creativity to express yourself and the emotional overwhelm in this way.

Boost your dopamine naturally. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us do things. It’s the main reason why we can or can’t focus when we have ADHD. It’s something your brain naturally produces. And, aside from being the ultimate motivator, dopamine has other fringe benefits such as:

  • Helping you lose weight
  • Making you feel more alive
  • Improving your memory
  • Stopping self-destructive behavior including certain addictions
  • Counteracting depression
  • Letting you resist impulsive behavior

Medication management of ADHD aims at increasing the availability of dopamine in our brains. However, there are ways to boost dopamine naturally that might be helpful in reducing the RSD experience. Briefly these include:

  • Sun
  • Human contact
  • Pet therapy
  • Sleep
  • Music you enjoy
  • Dancing
  • Caffeine
  • Taking a cold show
  • Walking
  • Eating foods that support the production of dopamine such as: meats, nuts, fruits, avocados, butter, broccoli, salmon, dark chocolate, blueberries, eggs, and almonds.

Medication. Currently there are two possible medication options for RSD. One is already used in the treatment of ADHD. It is guanfacine, or clonidine. Although not everyone experiences relief from their RSD on this medication, a large majority say it helps.

The second medication is one not typically used in the treatment of ADHD. The class of medications is called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Taking an MAOIs requires strict dietary restrictions and may include side effects such as sedation, confusion and agitation.

NOTE: Always consult your prescriber about adding or changing medication for the treatment of any ADHD or related conditions.

RSD is a debilitating condition common to persons with ADHD. Appreciating this, even if some of the above strategies may not completely prevent the experience, when combined with appropriate medical intervention, they just might provide a much welcome relief for many.

How Do You Spend Your ADHD Micro-Minutes?

ADHD Strategies    July 1, 2019

ADHD and timeIf you are like most people with ADHD and time awareness challenges, you probably feel like you never have enough time.

You use planners, organizers, lists, and diaries to keep track of and map out your “to-dos” so you can remember what to do and get stuff done. More than likely you’ve learned how to block out the main events. The meeting or appointment here, deadline there…so your calendar is filled with blocks of color and your day is full leaving that sense of not having enough time for anything else.

But what about the time in between those big events? The forgotten minutes before and after the scheduled stuff? Just because you don’t count those minutes or haven’t noticed them, it doesn’t mean they don’t matter or exist.

Let me tell you a secret…there is actual usable time between doing what you are doing and the next thing on your “to do” list.

To most, these micro-minutes don’t count and can be forgotten, taken for granted and wasted. However, that “in between” time actually can count and using it to accomplish short small tasks might make all the difference between completing your to do list and feeling unproductive.

What you do or how you spend those micro-moments determines as much to the outcome of your day as what you do or plan to do during your ‘scheduled’ hours. This is because the small tasks we complete can add up and make a huge difference. Spent purposefully they can create a much bigger impact than we can imagine.

For instance, last January I set out to improve my health. My goal was to start exercising 10 minutes a day, walking around my neighborhood. Definitely a micro bit of time compared to most people’s one hour or two hour workout routines. Hey…better something than nothing, right? At the time it seemed insignificant. Still, I tracked those micro bits of time and recently discovered that I’ve exercised over 100 hours, walked nearly 250 miles, burned approximately 25,000 calories and lost over 40 lbs!

Those little micro bits of time added up!

Wondering if these micro-moments really matter? Recently I was reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear emphasizes reaching our goals by focusing on making small improvements with small habit changes. He calls this the 1% improvement per day habit. And even though the change can seem negligible at first, these small efforts have the potential to produce big results.

For instance, what if you spent 10 micro-minutes each day practicing mindfulness? At the end of the year you’d have experienced about 182 more hours of calm. A huge accomplishment for all of us with busy ADHD brains.

Or what about spending 10 minutes learning something new? Read an article on ADHD, read a chapter, or listen to an audiobook. (The audiobook I am currently listening to is “Why We Sleep” by Mathew Walker. I highly recommend it!) Apparently, spending micro-minutes every day learning new things is something successful people do on a regular basis. I can hope, right?!

Or, maybe take those 10 micro-minutes at the beginning or end of each day to think of three things that brought you joy, filled your soul, felt like a magical moment or made you happy that day. Some of my favorites include seeing the wagging tails of happy dogs on my walks. Brilliant western sunsets in the evening. Crawling between freshly washed sheets at the end of the day. The sound of the water fountain outside my front door. Using these micro-bits of time in this way you will find more enjoyment and magic in your day and can start to re-create those moments to lift your spirits. And you will have found 1,095 things that fill your soul each year!

And, just in case you are wondering…I am not suggesting that we account for being productive every single moment of every single day. Absolutely not! I’m a huge fan of using my micro-minutes for leisure time. In fact, being purposeful about my micro-minutes helps remind me of why leisure time — time to truly do whatever I want—is so important, and so often unattainable, when I am misusing time the rest of my day.

So, feel free to spend your micro-minutes doing absolutely nothing. It is imperative for your mental and emotional health that you do so. Below I’ve listed some to get you started on micro leisure minutes:

Take a break. Sometimes the best learning happens when we aren’t learning at all.

Breathe deeply. The health benefits of a good deep breath include getting vital oxygen and blood circulating throughout our body.

Wash your hands with a fresh smelling soap and add a soothing hand lotion.

Get bored. Turns out being bored actually boosts your creative juices. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you. (Timer encouraged on this one.)

Mass delete emails from your inbox and see if you don’t feel empowered!

Think about someone you love. It seems that thinking of someone we love has the same emotional and mental benefits as actually being with him or her.

Eat your favorite food, slowly.

Call and catch up with an old friend.

When you start noticing those micro ADHD moments and begin being purposeful about how you want to spend them, you may start realizing that you have more time than you think you do to accomplish those tasks that are important to you. These small but consistent amounts of micro-minute ADHD time add up. Spent purposefully they can help you make progress, accomplish something big and add to the quality of your life.

How do you want to spend your micro minutes today???? Let me know by entering your comments below!

9 Biggest Mistakes People Make Having an ADHD Brain

ADHD Awareness    May 31, 2019

ADHD brainI know I’m preaching to the choir when I say your ADHD brain is very important. Your brain controls your entire life, your thinking, your emotions, and behavior. It’s the most important organ in your body…and the one science knows the least about.

So, how much do you think about it…your ADHD brain?

And if you do think about your ADHD brain, don’t you want to know how to take care of your one and only amazing ADHD brain?  Or at least what not to do?

If so, following is my list of the biggest mistakes people make in having an ADHD brain. Just so you know what not to do.

1. Not protecting it

If you want to enjoy your own or a loved one’s ADHD brain for as long as possible you must protect it. Brains are fragile and unfortunately a little damage goes a long way. Even though it’s not always possible to prevent accidents, there are some things you can do right now that will protect your brain just in case.

  • Always wear your seat belt and make sure other’s are wearing theirs.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t drive drowsy. Sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. For instance, being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk).
  • Don’t text or use a cell phone while driving. Cell phones are the number one source of driver distraction. Drivers who talk on cell phones or text while driving are four times as likely to get into a car crash.
  • Always wear a helmet when:
    • riding a bike, motorcycle or skateboard
    • skiing, snowboarding or using inline skates
    • playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey or boxing
    • playing baseball or softball

2. Poisoning it

Despite what the media says, alcohol is NOT a health food!  Most of us know that alcohol, nicotine, excessive caffeine, environmental pollutants, and manufacturing chemicals, are not good for our ADHD brains.  They reduce brain blood flow which interferes with our ability to think. However, there are other toxins to your ADHD brain you might not have ever considered trying to eliminate. Here are some additional  “poisons” to consider:

  • Noise pollution

Noise pollution, including high-pitched whining noises, can come from so many sources. Examples include the hum from things like fluorescent lights, air conditioning, heating units, appliances, or even a clock.  And although we cannot always detect these waves of sound with our ears our bodies are capable of sensing them. This is why you feel so at peace when you completely unplug and are in nature and the wilderness.

  • Artificial sweeteners

I’ll admit, for years I poured those pink, blue and yellow packets into my coffee. But now I know that fake sweeteners are really bad for our ADHD brains. So instead, natural honey has become my go to when I want a dash of sweetness.

  • Refined sugar

Our bodies have evolved to handle other than in very minute doses in fruit or honey forms. Although we now know that sugar does not cause ADHD, it is clear it is not good for optimal performance of the ADHD brain. Consuming refined or processed sugars have been linked to bad memory, poor cognitive performance, decreases in brain growth hormone, inflammation and depression.

3. Low fat diets

The brain is at least 60% fat and it’s one hundred billion nerve cells are lined with essential fatty acids that support and enhance your brain power. Even though the brain takes up only about 2-5% of human body weight it uses up to 30% of our caloric intake. It just happens that fats, an essential macronutrient, have just the kind of feul the brain needs to stay healthy. Just remember that all fats are not equal. Good fats, saturated fats and fatty acids, are idea and need to come from our diet.

4. No clear goals to help the brain achieve

Setting goals and working to achieve them provides us motivation and a sense of accomplishment. What do goals and achieving them do for our ADHD brains. It is rewarded with an increase of dopamine. When we want something and achieve it—a promotion, an ice cream cone, a hug from a loved one, a completed to do list—our brain releases dopamine. Setting small goals and then accomplishing them is a way you can use your dopamine and feel more motivated. For instance, your brain may receive a surge of dopamine if you promise yourself that you’ll clean out the garage, and then you do. This is why so many people with ADHD like to-do lists: The satisfaction of ticking off a small task is linked to the release of dopamine. What goals do you want to accomplish?

5. Too little human interaction

Humans are hard wired for social interaction.  Meaningful relationships nourish and engage our brain. Activities that interfere with communication, relationships, and social interactions, like screens or technology, make us…well…less human. Instead, our ADHD brain thrives on interacting with other people and engaged in activities such as exploring, playing, creativity and being in nature.

6. No new learning

Your brain is like a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets! Your ADHD brain thrives on new challenges, adventures, experiences, and learning. Learning stimulates neuron growth in the brain. The more you practice a new skill the thicker the myelin in your brains becomes, which means you learn faster and better. What is something new you can learn?

7. Not moving your body

Your mind and body are connected. Moving or exercising helps your ADHD brain. It boosts balance, motivation, energy, motor function, and thinking. It increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which then increases our physical health, mental and emotional well-being.

Research has shown that even a single 20-minute bout of moderate-intensity exercise improved ADHD symptoms. Research has also shown that people who exercise have greater brain volume in areas associated with reasoning and executive function. Just imagine what doing it more than only 20 minutes could achieve! How can you easily add 20 minutes of movement to your day?

8. Not getting enough sleep

If it weren’t important, we wouldn’t keep doing it. During sleep our body and brain are restored.  Our muscles are repaired, immune cells are free to race around our bodies protecting us, hormones are balanced and the brain sorts the emotions memories of our day. There is still a lot that we don’t know about the potential benefits of sleep, but one thing is for sure: we can’t survive without it. And the closer we get to the optimal amount of sleep, eight hours for adults and more for kids and teens, the healthier our ADHD brains are. What can you do tonight to your needed 8 hours of sleep?

9. Believing every negative thought you have

Ghoul thinking…those sneaky, persistent, and pervasive automatic negative thoughts that pop up in your brain and ruin the rest of your day. Left unmanaged, they take over your thinking and add further injury by causing stress hormones to circulate through your body. When that happens it lowers your brain and thinking capacity, makes you gain weight and puts you at greater risk for cognitive challenges as you age.

You were born with an amazing, one of a kind ADHD brain.  Taking care of it is your job.  One that will reward you every day and long into your future.

Have something you would like to add to this list of what not to do in order to take care of your ADHD brain?  I’d love to hear it…comment below.