Masking: Hidden Struggles of ADHD

We all have our struggles. I suspect that very few of us have this whole adult or life thing all figured out. I know I haven’t.

However, for adults with ADHD, a lot of things associated with ´adulting’ seem more impossible to understand.

This can lead many neurodiverse people to mask their ADHD and neurodiversity.

What Is ADHD Masking?

The term ADHD masking was first coined by Dr Russell Barkley, in 2015, writing about this in his book ‘Taking Charge of Adult ADHD.’ He mentions that it occurs in approximately a third of those with ADHD. 

ADHD masking is when those with this condition hide and cover up their ADHD symptoms and behaviours. It involves the person acting and pretending as though they don’t have ADHD. Masking can be consciously or subconsciously done. 

ADHDers may mask as a way to manage how others may perceive us. It is a way to be able to fit in a little better. It can also be done to avoid having to deal with the stigma and stereotypes surrounding ADHD. It is one form of coping mechanism.

Masking may start as early as childhood. However, for some, it may start in adulthood. Masking is different for everyone. 

carnival mask decorated with pink flower
Photo by Ibolya Toldi on

Masking in Both Genders

Studies show that boys and men tend to be more often diagnosed with ADHD than women and girls are. 

One explanation for this is that boys and men with ADHD tend to exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity. While girls and women tend to exhibit more inattentive symptoms. Inattentive symptoms tend to be less noticeable.

It is thought that women and girls with ADHD are more likely to mask their symptoms and develop behaviours to compensate. 

These factors would explain why girls and women with ADHD may be misdiagnosed or get their diagnosis later in life. 

photo of a girl hiding her face
Photo by Vie Studio on

Impact of Masking

ADHD masking is not all bad. Some coping strategies can help ADHDers get through the day. However like a lot of things, there are some downsides to masking.

Here are some examples of how masking can negatively impact those with ADHD.

  • Masking may either delay or prevent the person from getting the right diagnosis.
  • Those who mask their ADHD may have a harder time connecting with who they really are.
  • Masking can be stressful, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
  • It can lead to low self-esteem and feeling like an imposter.
  • People may have difficulty believing that you may need help, for those who are good at masking.

Tips to Overcome Masking

For those who want to manage instead of mask their ADHD, there are some tips to help with this.

Here’s what ADHDers can do.

  • Reflect on times you may have been masking. Take time to think which behaviour may be helping you and which ones are. Consider why you’re masking in the situations. Becoming aware of these behaviour can be beneficial for various reasons.
  • Celebrate your strengths, accomplishments, and all the good in your life. It’s so easy to focus on our struggles and get caught up in them. Make time to celebrate the good. No matter what it is, big or small, take time to focus on them.
  • Learn how to manage your emotions. Avoiding or suppressing how you feel doesn’t really help many people.
  • Accept yourself the way you are. Be authentic. There is more to ADHDers than just their ADHD. There are a lot of different things that make us who we are.

Author :


    • Thank you. I’m glad you thought so. We definitely do need to bring more awareness to these issues.

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