ADHD Masking: What Is It and How to Recognize It?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects millions of people globally. ADHD primarily affects a person’s cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and organization. Despite its prevalence, the disorder remains largely misunderstood.

ADHD is often thought of as a disorder that shows up in childhood, but in reality, this is not true. According to recent data, 4% of adults worldwide have ADHD.

Many people with ADHD manage to find means of masking their symptoms. Masking is when an individual learns to adapt, integrate, and cover up their symptoms to appear “normal” to others. Masking can be both positive and negative. On one hand, it allows individuals to cope with ADHD symptoms and go about their daily lives with fewer distractions, but it also makes it more challenging to recognize ADHD in certain individuals.

Why Do People Mask ADHD?

ADHD is not easy to handle, and some individuals may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or wrong for having these symptoms. As a result, many people learn to hide their difficulties to avoid being labeled or ridiculed.

People can continue to mask their symptoms, even as they become adults. The reasons for doing so could include the following:

  • Personal and social stigma
  • Cultural beliefs and values
  • Lack of knowledge about ADHD, its symptoms, and its impact on daily life
  • Difficulty accessing diagnoses, accommodations, and support.

What Are the Signs of ADHD Masking?

Since people with ADHD often adapt to their symptoms, it may be difficult to recognize the telltale signs of this condition in some cases. Here are a few behaviors that may indicate masking:

  • The person is always on time or excessively early
  • Appears controlled, calm, or collected
  • Takes detailed and copious notes
  • Constantly fidgets or drums their fingers on the table
  • Interrupts conversations.

These behaviors may cause others to perceive such an individual in various ways, such as being very organized, anxious, or rude.

Complications and Challenges of ADHD Masking

The constant masking of ADHD symptoms may lead to many challenges for those individuals. They may experience social isolation, burnout, fatigue, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. These negative impacts can make daily life much more challenging and hinder progress in work, school, or social life.

Covering up of ADHD symptoms also makes it more challenging for individuals to obtain appropriate treatment and support. The lack of the correct support and accommodations could exacerbate the individual’s difficulties and lead to mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

How to Overcome ADHD Masking?

Overcoming ADHD Masking isn’t easy, but these steps may help:

  1. Schedule Professional evaluations- Get an official diagnosis and assessment from an ADHD specialist. Diagnosis can play a vital role in getting the right support and treatment.
  2. Join or Create Support Groups – Being around people with similar experiences could be a source of comfort and advice. You can learn how others cope and learn to mask their symptoms.
  3. Recognize Your ADHD Habits- Pay close attention to the things you do to mask ADHD symptoms. Understanding the coping mechanisms, you use can be helpful in acquiring effective methods that could help manage ADHD.
  4. Speak Up – educate your family, friends, or colleagues to be sensitive to your ADHD struggles. Let them know how they can offer support. Be open about your challenges, and utilize your team’s aid.

Conclusion

ADHD masking can lead to difficulties in the way individuals with ADHD communicate and interact with others. These people have a lot to offer a misunderstood community. Raising awareness about ADHD masking can help identify those individuals efficiently and provide them with the necessary assistance and accommodations to thrive in their environment.

FAQs

FAQs about ADHD Masking

What is ADHD Masking?

ADHD Masking refers to the way in which people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can unknowingly develop coping mechanisms to hide their symptoms, making it difficult for others to recognize they have ADHD.

What are the Effects of ADHD Masking?

The effect of ADHD Masking can cause significant challenges for people with the disorder. Not only can it cause them to suffer silently, but it can also lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment. In addition, masking can have emotional and social repercussions, such as feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, and difficulty building and maintaining relationships.

What Can I Do if I or Someone I Love are Masking their ADHD Symptoms?

If you suspect that you, or someone you love, is masking their ADHD symptoms, it is important to get evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in ADHD. They can provide a proper diagnosis, and work with the individual to develop a personalized treatment plan. It’s also important to create a safe and non-judgmental environment where the individual can speak openly about their feelings around their ADHD and how it affects their daily life.


References

1. Willcutt, E. G., Sonuga-Barke, E. J., Nigg, J. T., & Sergeant, J. A. (2008). Recent developments in neuropsychological models of childhood psychiatric disorders. In Neuropsychological assessment of neuropsychiatric disorders (pp. 273-305). Springer, Boston, MA.

2. Eadeh, H. M., Epstein, J. N., & Bixler, E. O. (2020). Sleep disturbances in children with ADHD: Implications for treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 22(8), 1-9.

3. Kooij, J. J., & Francken, M. H. (2016). Diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in adults. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 16(6), 649-659.