Masking in People with ADHD: Hidden Struggle
5 min read

You’ve been told, “Oh, I never would have thought you had ADHD! You look like everyone else”?

Masking, also known as camouflaging or concealing one’s true self, is common among individuals with ADHD. It involves suppressing or hiding ADHD-related behaviors and traits to conform to societal norms and expectations.

There are a few reasons why individuals with ADHD might feel this way. One big reason is the fear of being judged, rejected, or misunderstood by others. They worry that if they show their true selves, people might not accept them for who they are. It can be challenging for them, but understanding their reasons can help create a more supportive and inclusive environment.
Recognizing Masking

It’s crucial to recognize masking behaviors in individuals with ADHD. By doing so, we can better understand their experiences and provide the support they need. Overlooking masking can have several consequences that we should be aware of.
Firstly, masking can lead to delayed diagnosis. When individuals with ADHD effectively hide their symptoms, receiving an accurate diagnosis becomes harder. This delay can prevent them from accessing appropriate interventions and support that can make a significant difference in their lives.

Additionally, overlooking masking may result in inadequate support. If the real challenges individuals face with ADHD are unnoticed, they may not receive the necessary accommodations, therapies, or strategies to manage their symptoms effectively. This can hinder their overall well-being and academic or professional success.

Furthermore, masking can exacerbate ADHD-related challenges. By constantly suppressing their ADHD traits, individuals may experience heightened stress, anxiety, or difficulty maintaining focus and organization. Over time, these challenges can worsen, leading to increased frustration and reduced quality of life.
Recognizing masking behaviors helps us better understand the experiences of individuals with ADHD and ensures they receive the appropriate support and resources they need. By acknowledging and addressing masking, we can create an environment that promotes acceptance, understanding, and practical assistance for those with ADHD.

The Struggle of Masking

Let’s delve into the struggle of masking for individuals with ADHD and their challenges. They employ various strategies to mask their symptoms, such as:
• Hyperfocus: Individuals with ADHD may hyperfocus on specific tasks or activities to compensate for their difficulties with attention and distractibility. This intense focus makes them appear engaged, masking their underlying attention challenges.
• Overcompensating: Some individuals with ADHD may overcompensate by excessive effort to compensate for perceived shortcomings. They may work harder than others, take on additional responsibilities, or strive for perfection to hide their difficulties.
• Mimicking neurotypical behaviors: Individuals with ADHD often observe and imitate behaviors commonly associated with neurotypical individuals. They may try blending in by mirroring social cues, suppressing impulsivity, or masking hyperactive tendencies.

What should I do if I find out I’m masking?

If you discover that you have been masking your ADHD traits, there are steps you can take to support yourself:
• Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize and validate any emotions from realizing you have been masking. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, such as relief, frustration, or grief. Permit yourself to process these feelings.
• Seek support: Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional who can provide a listening ear and support. Sharing your experiences with someone understanding can be immensely helpful.
• Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself throughout this process. Remember that masking was a coping mechanism developed in response to external pressures. Treat yourself with compassion, patience, and understanding as you navigate your journey.

Unmasking is a personal journey, and it takes time. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the progress you make along the way. Seeking support, practicing self-compassion, and embracing your true self are essential steps toward living a more fulfilling and authentic life with ADHD.

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