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  • Writer's pictureCory Morrison

Autism: Connection to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

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What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)?

A common issue that many people on the autism spectrum have is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). According to Dr. Debra Bercovici, PhD, an autistic author who wrote a blog on Embrace Autism, RSD is when a person has intense emotional reactions to real rejection or something a person may think is rejection. One may have many social challenges when they associate with many people because of this issue.

How can Autism Lead to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)?

According to Verywellmind, another autistic woman shared that being autistic in a world not designed for them can lead many people on the spectrum to constantly question whether they do something wrong or anger other people.

Also, experiences of actual rejection can ensure that autistic people are hyper-aware that people don't understand or accept them, which can, in return, lead to more intense emotional responses than usual. Many may even pay close attention to subtle changes in a person's behaviour, such as no or delayed replies to messages, short or curt responses, or if they are not as talkative as usual.

What are Some Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) Behaviours to be Aware of?

A few examples of signs from the Autism Parenting Magazine that an autistic person may have RSD include aggressive behaviours, outbursts that are difficult to control, being oversensitive in social situations, social withdrawal and feeling that others ostracize them on purpose. When you combine this with trouble reading social cues, some gross misunderstandings and unexpected anger episodes are bound to happen at least occasionally.

For example, an autistic person wants to ask a friend to go to the movies. This friend is not particularly close with the person, so they are surprised when the autistic person asks them to hang out. The friend may have a surprised facial expression, but the autistic person may think they are angry or annoyed with them. The autistic person may say, "I thought we were friends! You don't want to hang out! You don't like me, do you?" The friend may further distance themselves from the autistic person because of that reaction. If the autistic person had understood that the friend was pleasantly surprised, the misunderstanding above wouldn't have happened.

In other words, if a person doesn't read social cues correctly, it can already make an autistic person quite isolated. When you combine this with RSD, however, it can only make social connections even more difficult. A person without RSD would unlikely respond to a social situation as intensely, even if they misread a social cue.

What Tips do I have to Manage Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)?

My main strategy is to not focus so much on a person's behaviour at a specific time but notice their patterns. Consider the following scenarios:


If a person takes days or weeks to reply to texts, does it always take this long? Or is this an isolated incident? Have they at least kept your number?


A suddenly less talkative than usual person

If your answers to such scenarios indicate that your relationship with the person seems tense, it's best to distance yourself from that person. Focus on those who mostly respond to texts as soon as they can, may only criticize you for major things or will be as open with you as they are with others. The more you are around people who accept your autism (this also applies to anyone who is not on the spectrum) and allow you to be your authentic self, the better it will be for your well-being in the long run and the more it may reduce RSD symptoms. People-pleasing is good to some extent, but not to a huge degree.

Also, it's best not to assume the worst-case scenario unless there's clear evidence that it is there. For example, if you think that a person who seems annoyed with you has many other things on their mind that have nothing to do with you, the perceived rejection may sting a lot less than if you think that you ruined their whole day.

So You Experienced Actual Rejection. What do You do Now?

This person has made it super clear that they don't like you or want anything to do with you. How to handle this? Depending on your relationship with the person, it will hurt a lot, but over time, you will cope and learn through the experiences. You will realize you didn't click with this person well, and it wasn't meant to be. The more you associate with people who don't judge you for who you are, the more the people who have rejected you will become distant memories.

If these rejections affect your mental health, talk to family members, friends or professionals if you feel it is necessary. These people may offer various perspectives on a situation.


As autistic people may experience more social difficulties in a neurotypical world, it is, therefore, natural for them to feel rejected, insecure and more prone to RSD and its characteristics. The good news is, if you recognize who allows you to be your true self and do not associate with people who want you to live a certain way, RSD feelings can be more manageable.


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