Job Hunting With Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

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Veronica Yao

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by Veronica Yao

Job hunting for neurodivergent professionals isn’t just hard — many describe it as their own personal hell. Why? Because the job-hunting process is filled with rejection and ghosting. And that can be frustrating. The advice we receive? “Grow a thicker skin!” “Get used to hearing the word ‘no’!”

But for individuals who experience RSD — or Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria — these instances are so much more than frustrating. In fact, over time, these experiences can become debilitating to one’s mental health. Let’s take a closer look at RSD, how it affects neurodivergent professionals and techniques on how to combat those intrusive thoughts.

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)?

RSD is a term that describes an intense emotional sensation in response to criticism or rejection. RSD is most commonly linked with neurodivergent individuals, as they tend to process emotions differently than neurotypicals.

Here are a few examples of conditions associated with neurodivergence and RSD:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Down’s Syndrome

Those with RSD may feel triggered by such situations and experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, shame, as well as anxiety.

People with RSD report experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Intense emotional pain
  • Physical pain or discomfort
  • Low self-esteem
  • Engage in “people pleasing” behaviour

RSD doesn’t just affect people’s careers. It also impacts their relationships, education, and much more. Even small criticisms or minor feedback can feel devastating, causing sudden and intense feelings of distress.

Why is RSD So Tough On Job Seekers?

Job hunting is often a slow, frustrating process filled with rejections at the application and interview stages.

Couple this with tendencies for perfectionism and anxieties around social interaction, and it’s no wonder why so many neurodivergent professionals struggle with this process. No wonder people report feeling exhausted and burnt out from job hunting. In fact, neurodivergent minds will find a way to cope with the effects of RSD, including avoiding the task at hand.

This task avoidance leads to a vicious cycle of anxiety and intrusive, depressive thoughts, which can feel near impossible to break free from.

5 Ways to Combat RSD and Intrusive Thoughts While Job Hunting

While there isn’t an outright cure for RSD, there are things you can do to help manage and regulate your emotions during the job-hunting process.

Create a support system

One of the most helpful things you can do is find a career coach who supports neurodivergent professionals. Consulting a mental health professional or a psychotherapist is another great way to address RSD. These professionals can help you recognize signs of RSD and provide you with coping techniques.

You can also strengthen your support system to include your friends or family member who are supportive of your RSD and can help provide encouragement and perspective during tough points in your job hunt.

Reframe your negative thoughts

This technique is not the easiest to learn, but it’s well worth the effort it takes! When you are able to recognize negative thoughts happening in your mind, challenge or reframe the thought with a more balanced perspective.

For example, let’s say you receive a rejection letter from an interview you attended. You may be inclined to think “I messed up the interview, I’ll never get a job”.

Reframing this thought may look like this: “I didn’t get selected for this job, but I made it pretty far in the interview process, so I am still a strong and qualified professional.”

Don’t think of it as lying to yourself — rather, think of it as a different perspective with less weight on emotion and more focus on facts.

Develop coping strategies

Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to manage RSD and emotional dysregulation. Meditation and breathing exercises can help ground you in these difficult moments.

The idea is to separate and observe what is happening to your body in moments of high stress or anxiety and use these coping strategies to soothe and calm yourself to prevent further spiralling.

Try downloading a meditation app to keep yourself on track and accountable. Remember, mindfulness is something to be practiced daily, not just in dire times.

Use the STAR method

Feel a big wave of emotion coming on? The STAR method will remind you to “Stop, Think, Act, and Repeat”.

This can be especially helpful if you tend to be an impulsive person. It will help you analyze and assess a situation before jumping to conclusions.

Show yourself compassion

Remember that RSD doesn’t make you a lesser person. It is a challenge that many others in the workforce struggle with, and it doesn’t mean you’re less worthy of employment or recognition.

Treat yourself with the care and kindness that you would extend to a friend or family member. Remember that sensitivity is a positive thing, and that there are a lot of benefits associated with feeling emotions the way you so.

Are you neurodivergent and burnt out at work?

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