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Unapologetically Sensitive

We explore how sensitivity weaves itself into our lives; the richness that it adds, and the strengths we have BECAUSE of our sensitivity--and some of the challenges it poses as well. You may learn to live a bolder, brighter life.

Feb 19, 2019


Episode 19


The Key To Helping Someone with Rejection Sensitivity is Helping Them Develop a Sense of Security


Jared DeFife Ph.D.


Dr. DeFife works with people who are emotionally intense, tend to be perfectionistic and sensitive to criticism. He talks about Rejection Sensitivity, which has 3 primary components. Dr. DeFife talks about the 3 Cs to help if you experience Rejection Sensitivity.  We talk about 2 types of perfectionism, muscle dysmorphia and the benefits of self-disclosure and authenticity by therapists in the therapeutic relationship.


Rejection Sensitivity

  1. Anxious anticipation of [rejection]
  2. Ready perception of [seeing rejection in neutral situations when it may not be there]
  3. Intense reaction to [criticism, failure, set backs, exclusion, lack of belonging]

Rejection Sensitivity is highly correlated with aggression and hostililty—this can look like behavior that is snide or snippy. The person engages in hostile and rejecting behavior, then creates the rejection due to their behavior. The person ends up creating what they are most afraid of. They get into this vicious cycle.

Rejection Sensitivity can also include reactions where the person engages in social avoidance or shutting down.

Rejection Sensitivity is a process that people engage in to avoid feeling shame.

In Anxious Anticipation Of—the person imagines that they probably won’t be accepted or liked before the interaction. They may imagine that the other person will think they’re stupid.

Perfectionism isn’t really about wanting things to be perfect

At the root, it’s that other people will see that we’re defective and inadequate

Perfectionism can be a survival skill for some, and if you take it away, you’re taking away the way they believe they can fit in.

There are different types of perfectionism

  • Self-oriented perfectionism—competing against yourself (like an athlete would). This can be a healthy form of perfectionism.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionism—If I don’t get this right, people will think I’m an idiot, or I’ll be rejected.



Rejection Sensitivity is transdiagnostic—you will see it across many different diagnoses like depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders and substance use disorders.

Muscle dysmorphia—"is a subtype ofbody dysmorphic disorder (BDD), in which people, mostly males, are obsessed with the size of their muscles.  They worry that they are not muscular or lean enough or that their bodies are too underdeveloped and weak.  Their symptoms cause significant distress and hinder their ability to socialize, go to work, and/or participate in daily activities.  In many cases, people with muscle dysmorphia have average or above average muscularity.”  Quoted from

The Key to helping someone with Rejection Sensitivity is to help them develop a sense of security.

The way to do this is with the 2 Cs

  1. Calmness—to calm down that fueled intense reactivity
  2. Clarity—learning what your wants and needs are, and knowing your life story so you are clear about your own desires, motivations and interests
  3. Connections—having safe relationships with others where you can be vulnerable, and open with others and you don’t have to keep your feelings to yourself

Being a psychologically health person isn’t about being a perfect person. Of course it’s  about being vulnerable


  • Don’t Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing With Rejection Elayne Savage PhD
  • Books by Brene Brown--
  • Mentalization Based Therapy
  • Schema Therapy
  • DBT—Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Metacognitive Interpersonal Therapy
  • Radically Open DBT



Jared DeFife, PhD ( is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. DeFife specializes in helping people who identify as “emotionally intense”, perfectionistic, self-critical, and interpersonally sensitive to criticism or rejection. His practice integrates from interpersonal and personality-focused therapies drawing from Schema-Focused, Mentalization-Based, and RO-DBT approaches for chronic depression/anxiety, interpersonal problems, and personality disorder concerns.

Dr. DeFife has published widely in professional journals and been a frequent media commentator on mental health and interpersonal relationships for numerous television, podcast, and print outlets including the BBC World NewsPsychotherapy Networker, Yahoo! Health, Self, Bustle, Women’s Health and Men’s Health magazines, and The Huffington Post. He is a regular blog contributor to Psychology Today.




Patricia Young, LCSW is a therapist in San Diego who is in private practice.  Patricia works primarily with Highly Sensitive People (HSP) helping them understand their HSPness, and to turn their perceived shortcomings into superpowers.  Patricia is passionate about providing education to help HSPs and non-HSPs understand and truly appreciate all the gifts we have to offer.  Patricia provides online (telehealth) therapy to people who live in California.  We meet over a private platform (similar to Skype), and you can have therapy from the privacy of your own home—when the kids are at school or are napping; from work; in your pajamas, or when you just can’t face sitting in traffic or going out.





Dr. Elaine Aron’s website—


HSP Self-test--

HSP Child self-test--


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MUSIC—Gravel Dance by Andy Robinson