Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)


    What is Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)?

    Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) is a term that connects addictive, compulsive and impulsive behavioural disorders. RSD is another lesser-known feature that can be associated with ADHD (the other being Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria).

    When a reward is anticipated, dopamine is released to various parts of the brain which activates our motor functions, attention and memory pathways.

    Whatever the addiction or obsession (substances OR behaviours) that has stimulated the neurotransmitters in our brains to get dopamined up is accessed and exploited. When adding impulsivity into the mix, the behaviours are not necessarily well-thought-through or considered, the consequences are often ignored resulting in undesirable or questionable behaviour.

    How Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) and ADHD is Connected

    RDS is linked to procrastination and addiction, whether it be substance abuse, (self-medicating) or gambling.

    Conversely, if faced with a task that seems mundane or repetitive, even if the task is important, the level of effort it takes to remain engaged and motivated is completely disproportionate to the task itself. If the task, action or activity doesn't find any dopamine and/or not quick enough, the task is usually avoided or done last minute which impacts its quality and outcome. Therefore, RDS makes it difficult to muster the willpower to perform mundane tasks - even important ones - if they don’t pack a big enough dopamine punch. Some might call it a lack of willpower and they’d be right from a practical point of view. But from a chemical or cognitive point of view, it's far more complex. It's important that we don't confuse laziness with a genuine struggle associated with motivation.

    On the flip side, if the person finds something that gives them that dopamine punch they crave, they can go into a state of hyperfocus. This is merely characterised by 'able to concentrate', rather a sustained and intense concentration on a single interest/project for an extended period of time and blocking out everything around them.

    (Be mindful when thinking, 'I/my child can't have ADHD because I/they can focus on gaming/iPads/ or on things that interest us/them because this is hyperfocus which is one of ADHD's symptoms/traits).

    Source: Unknown, 'Reward Deficiency Syndrome behaviours

    Resources about Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS)

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