How to Guide Your Child Through Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria Autism

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and Autism
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

There are unique challenges that come with raising a child on the autism spectrum. Rejection sensitive dysphoria autism is one of them, and I've spent over 30 years helping families navigate these complexities.

Imagine your child, let's call him Sam, who's incredibly bright and full of potential. But when faced with criticism or perceived rejection, his emotional response feels overwhelming. That's rejection sensitivity dysphoria autism in action.

As parents, witnessing your child struggle with RSD and autism can be heart-wrenching. You want to help, but it's hard to know where to start. What you need is the right tool and knowledge to support your child effectively.

What is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Autism?

Rejection sensitive dysphoria autism looks like wearing emotional armor that's a bit too tight. Criticism or rejection, no matter how small, feels like a direct hit to your child's core. This can lead to anxiety, social withdrawal, and even meltdowns.

In essence, rejection sensitive dysphoria in autism manifests as an exaggerated emotional response to perceived rejection or criticism. It's important to understand that this isn't just about being sensitive or overreacting. It's a genuine struggle that can significantly impact your child's well-being and daily functioning (Gao et al., 2017).

Is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria a Symptom of Autism? 

Yes, RSD can be considered a symptom of autism. While it's not officially listed as a diagnostic criterion in diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), many individuals with autism spectrum disorder experience heightened sensitivity to rejection, criticism, or perceived failure.

The overlap between rejection sensitivity dysphoria and autism highlights the complexity of emotional regulation and social interaction for individuals on the spectrum (London et al., 2007). While not every person with autism experiences rejection sensitive dysphoria, it's a phenomenon that can significantly impact those who do, affecting their overall well-being and quality of life.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Tips: How to Deal with RSD 

Help your child navigate the challenges of rejection sensitivity with resilience and confidence. Start by implementing these tips below and providing them with a supportive environment.

1. Validate your child’s emotions

As a parent, you can help your child by acknowledging their emotions. Validate how they feel and let them know it's okay to feel that way. Empathy goes a long way in building trust and connection.

2. Communicate

Open, honest conversations about RSD autism can help demystify the experience for both you and your child. Encourage them to express their feelings and reassure them that you're there to listen without judgment.

3. Teach Coping Strategies

Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or grounding exercises, can help your child regulate their emotions when they're feeling overwhelmed by autism rejection sensitive dysphoria. Encourage them to find activities that bring them joy and serve as healthy outlets for their emotions.

4. Practice Self-care

As parents, it's also important to take care of yourselves. Supporting a child with rejection sensitive dysphoria and autism can be emotionally taxing. Remember to practice self-care and seek support when needed. You're not alone on this journey.

5. Learn  Social Skills

Help your child develop social skills and strategies for navigating social interactions. Role-play scenarios or provide social scripts to help them understand and respond to social cues effectively.

6. Create a Supportive Environment

Create a supportive and nurturing environment at home where your child feels safe expressing their emotions. Doing so can help them feel more secure, resilient, and calm in the face of rejection.

7. Model Self-regulation 

Model self-regulation and healthy coping mechanisms for your child by managing your stress and emotions effectively. Children often learn by example, so demonstrating positive coping strategies can be beneficial for them.

8. Encourage Peer Connections

Encourage your child to build positive relationships with peers who are understanding and accepting of their neurodivergent condition. Having supportive friendships can help mitigate feelings of rejection and loneliness.

9. Be Patient 

Always remember that progress takes time. Celebrate the small victories along the way and be patient with yourself and your child. Together, we can navigate the complexities of autism and rejection sensitive dysphoria with compassion and understanding.

10. Seek Professional Support

Consider seeking support from a mental health professional who specializes in autism and rejection sensitivity. They can provide additional guidance, strategies, and resources tailored to your child's specific needs.

Greater awareness and acceptance of rejection sensitive dysphoria autism empowers individuals on the autism spectrum to embrace their strengths and navigate the complexities of their emotional landscapes with resilience and grace.

Can you have rejection sensitive dysphoria with autism? 

Yes, individuals with autism can experience rejection sensitive dysphoria, which manifests as an intense emotional response to perceived rejection or criticism. This overlapping phenomenon underscores the complex emotional experiences that individuals on the autism spectrum may encounter.

What's RSD like in teens?

 Teens may experience heightened sensitivity to social interactions, leading to feelings of anxiety, sadness, or anger. RSD can significantly impact their self-esteem, relationships, and overall well-being, making it challenging to navigate social situations and manage their emotions effectively. 

What is RSD disorder like in adults? 

RSD disorder in adults can significantly affect one's mental health and interpersonal relationships and may lead to anxiety, depression, and difficulties in social interactions. Among adults, the condition is highly related to autism and emotional dysregulation.  

Are people with autism sensitive?

Yes, people with autism can be sensitive, but sensitivity varies greatly among individuals. Some may be hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, while others may be emotionally sensitive, particularly in social situations, contributing to challenges in processing and responding to various stimuli.

Can trauma cause autism in adults? 

No, trauma does not cause autism in adults. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that is present from early childhood and is believed to have genetic and environmental factors, but it is not caused by trauma experienced in adulthood.

Will Aspergers go away? 

Asperger's syndrome, which is now considered part of the autism spectrum disorder, is a lifelong condition. While individuals with Asperger's can learn coping strategies and develop skills to manage their symptoms effectively, the core characteristics of ASD persist throughout their lives.

Do I have RSD? 

If you're experiencing intense emotional reactions to perceived rejection, criticism, or failure, it may be beneficial to consult with a mental health professional who can provide an evaluation and support tailored to your needs.

Are autistic people strong? 

Autistic individuals possess a wide range of strengths and abilities, just like neurotypical individuals. Strength can manifest in various forms, including resilience, creativity, determination, and unique perspectives.

Are autistic people sensitive? 

Yes, autistic individuals can be sensitive, but sensitivity varies widely among individuals. Some may experience heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, emotions, or social cues, while others may not exhibit the same level of sensitivity.

Is a strong sense of justice an autistic trait?

While not exclusive to autism, a strong sense of justice can be a common trait among some individuals on the autism spectrum. Many autistic individuals have a keen attention to detail and a strong adherence to rules and fairness, which can contribute to their sense of justice.

Is RSD real? 

Yes, RSD is a real phenomenon experienced by some individuals, particularly those with ADHD or autism. It involves intense emotional reactions to perceived rejection, criticism, or failure, and can significantly impact one's well-being and relationships.

What does RSD feel like? 

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria may manifest as intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger, often accompanied by physical sensations such as a tightness in the chest or a racing heart.

What does autism feel like? 

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental condition, and experiences vary widely among individuals. Some may describe it as feeling like navigating a world with heightened sensory experiences and unique perspectives, while others may feel challenges in social interactions and communication.

Can you be autistic and social? 

Yes, it is possible to be autistic and social. While some individuals with autism may struggle with certain aspects of social interaction, others may develop strong social skills and enjoy socializing, albeit in their own unique way.


Gao, S., Assink, M., Cipriani, A., & Lin, K. (2017). Associations between rejection sensitivity and mental health outcomes: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 57, 59–74.

London, B., Downey, G., Bonica, C., & Paltin, I. (2007). Social Causes and Consequences of Rejection Sensitivity. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(3), 481–506.

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in Autism who frequently is in the media:

  • Parents Are Your Kid's Meltdowns a Sign of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?
  • Very Well Mind New Research Highlights Key Differences Among Autistic Boys and Girls
  • Healthline Understanding Self-Regulation Skills

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about science-backed solutions, so you are in the right place! 

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

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She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2024

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