November 28, 2023


Amazing parenting technician

Learning to Drop the RSD Shame

4 min read
An illustration depicting various persons talking and thinking.

I overshare. I do it when I meet new people, when someone compliments me, or I find a shred of common ground.

I don’t intentionally overshare; I just want to relate. So, I instinctively provide as much information as possible in the secret hope that they will interrupt me and say those magic words: “Me, too!”

Sometimes, my oversharing triggers drama. It can also make an overwhelming first impression, which isn’t how you’re meant to do introductions. This is not my intention or hope, and often I find that negativity and harm trace back to someone’s misperceptions of my motives — or their feelings, personal history, and biases. We can blame poor communication sometimes, but I also find it tough to overcome a person’s first impression or gut reaction to my ADHD way of being.

Complicating this is the idea that conversations are transactional, and one must not interrupt because “it’s rude.” So, when we become hyperverbal, people assume we’re all give and no take — that we’re not interested in listening to what they say when we really are.
Here’s an example: Inviting new acquaintances to my home. Maybe I want to show them the plant I mentioned or evidence of a new hobby. They may think I am flirting or “being too intense.” But I genuinely want to show proof of our shared interests. I just spent the summer renovating my apartment, and I want to show them the transformation I’m so proud of!

[Self-Test: Could You Have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria?]

The Downside of Being Hyperverbal

Sometimes, I get so hyperverbal that I miss social cues and cross an invisible boundary. Then I inevitably and awkwardly back-peddle or correct myself, making everyone uncomfortable. Like many people with ADHD, I am good at masking my social struggles. (We’ve learned from a lifetime of harsh rebukes and emotionally devastating punishment). None of those scars are visible, as they hide behind my mask. At least until it comes up; then we’re suddenly getting waaaay too deep over a first coffee.

But after a few drinks or a long exhausting day, my mask slips — and I inevitably slip up. The emotional reaction to a slip, or unveiling, is more volatile due to my RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria). This is a dangerous cocktail — the absinthe martini of social situations — especially when I feel I have said something wrong, but I am not sure what. Almost simultaneously, my mask slips at the realization that I may have experienced a false sense of security throughout the conversation, and now I feel foolish and embarrassed.

RSD can cause people with ADHD to feel stronger emotions than most neurotypical people. Our emotional range makes us loyal, enduring, genuine, loving, fidgety, passionate, chatty, warm, kind, and beautiful. Our feelings are like a strong, firm arm pulling and pushing us with varying intensity throughout the day. The torsion and tension slowly ratchet until we need to explode. Compounded with background stress, this can lead to our outbursts (which we must tame, or else!), withdrawal, or visible agitation.

However, neurotypical people may not understand that RSD causes our meltdowns. We feel shame and frustration (We overshared again!). Then we must explain why we are so hyperverbal, which is challenging to do when we are deeply embarrassed (Often, this makes us even more chatty.). By this time, we have damaged our reputations (or at least we think we have).

Why Oversharing Is Okay

ADHD emotions are like a cooking pot placed on a faulty burner that a junior cook is learning to use for the first time. How we feel that day and week can change at any time, just like the stovetop can heat up or cool down according to the whims and experiments of the chef and the dodgy hob. Meanwhile, the cooking pot (or person with ADHD) must adapt to temperature changes and look like it’s effortlessly simmering along like the other neurotypical pots.

[Free Download: 8 Ways to Get Better at Small Talk]

This takes a lot of energy, self-control, concentration, and self-awareness, especially when the other pots sit and watch, bemused but untouched, boiling their bland pasta.

Our pot isn’t suited to just boiling pasta, though. It’s more like the giant, stainless-steel saucepan, creative, adaptive, and sometimes chaotic and unpredictable (sometimes it catches fire). The ADHD saucepan melds a variety of meat, vegetables, liquids, herbs, spices, and random ingredients discovered along the way that we hope will make the sauce pop; often leaving the original recipe in its wake as the chef gets carried away from the whirlwind of creativity, passion, and fun.

The resulting sauce may be too spicy or acidic for some people but rich and delectable for others. It’s always unique, so it’s a matter of personal taste.

So, when we overshare, we are not “being too much.” We’re just trying to figure out what the person wants from the sauce. We may be talking to a bland pasta person who wants nothing more than to be tossed with butter and generic pre-grated parmesan from a packet.
Ultimately, the sauce is what people remember about the dish—the delicious taste that lingers, the stain that gets on their shirts, and the aroma that permeates the air. The sauce may sometimes overwhelm the pasta with its boldness, but life would be so boring without it. After all, would anyone really want to eat pasta with butter and cheese forever?

Oversharing with ADHD: Next Steps

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