The term “masking” describes the process of hiding one’s true self. It is most commonly associated with people who have ADD/ADHD. By hiding their condition from others, they can present themselves as “normal,” – which can be damaging in the long run. ADHD masking is dangerous because it prevents people from getting their needed help.
They may put off seeking treatment because they don’t want anyone to know about their condition (or simply because they don’t realize that they have it). As a result, they may suffer more severe symptoms and more significant impairment than if they had received treatment early on.
What Is ADHD Masking?
ADHD masking is a symptom that occurs when an individual with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can hide or control their symptoms well enough that they appear as if they do not have ADHD.
The symptoms of ADHD can be very distracting, frustrating, and upsetting for the person with ADHD and their family. This can lead to the person with ADHD masking their symptoms to avoid attention and stigma.
This often happens because the person feels embarrassed about having a condition poorly understood by others. They may also want to avoid being treated differently or seen as less intelligent than others because of their ADHD symptoms.
Examples of ADHD Masking
ADHD can mask in several ways. Here are some examples of how it can show itself:
- A child who is slow to develop verbally and socially but has a good attention span for activities like computer games or watching TV.
- A teenager who won’t sit still in class works hard at home on homework assignments.
- An adult who struggles to manage emotions and relationships can focus well if they have something interesting to do (for example, reading a book or listening to music).
- A person who finds it hard to maintain relationships can succeed in their career and achieve great things when they sets their mind to it.
Why Do People Mask ADHD?
People with ADHD often mask their condition from others because they feel they must be “normal.” They may not want to be seen as different or fear being stigmatized.
Some people with ADHD also fear being treated differently by family members, friends, and coworkers if they admit their condition. They may fear being assigned special tasks or working harder than others to succeed.
Sometimes the stigma against people with ADHD is so strong that even close family members and friends deny having it themselves or don’t want their children to receive an ADHD diagnosis. This can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation from the support networks important for people with ADHD.
To summarize, several reasons why people with ADHD hide their symptoms, including:
- They’re worried about what others might think.
- They don’t want to be seen as lazy or disorganized.
- They don’t want to be labeled as having a mental disorder or learning disability.
- They don’t know how to explain their problems because they don’t have a diagnosis or aren’t comfortable talking about them.
- They feel embarrassed by their forgetfulness or difficulty focusing on tasks.
For example, children might try to focus on schoolwork by becoming perfectionists and doing all their homework as quickly as possible to move on to something else.
Problems that could happen when people mask ADHD
ADHD masking can cause problems for the individual doing it and those around them. The most common problems that happen when someone hides their ADHD are:
- Relationship problems due to lack of trust or communication
- Problems at work due to concentration issues
- They don’t get the help they need. It’s hard to get a diagnosis if you don’t let anyone know that you have symptoms
- They can’t take advantage of all the available programs for people with ADHD
- They miss out on having their strengths recognized and used in the workplace and in school
- They may not be able to manage their time effectively, which can lead to stress and frustration at work or at school
It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to hide their symptoms. It takes a lot of energy to focus and constantly struggling can make you feel tired, frustrated, and even depressed.
What Is the Impact of ADHD Masking?
The masking effect of ADHD is not a new phenomenon. For many years, it has been recognized that people with ADHD can often mask their symptoms and appear to be functioning normally. The masking effects of ADHD can be seen in both children and adults.
In children, many factors may contribute to the masking of ADHD symptoms. For example, they may have a very high IQ or be very good at compensating by using other skills such as creativity or humor. A child with ADHD can often make friends easily because they are very outgoing and sociable. They also tend to be very confident and determined, which will help them cope with daily difficulties.
In adults, the masking effect of ADHD can be an even bigger problem because it is more difficult for them to adapt their behavior to cope with life’s challenges. Adults with ADHD tend to have more significant problems functioning at work and in social relationships than children because they have had less time to learn how to compensate for their difficulties.
They often have trouble maintaining employment and relationships because their symptoms aren’t obvious to others. They might appear restless or disorganized if they’re trying to keep track of multiple tasks at once or be easily distracted by things like ringing phones or conversations around them.
Other adults with ADHD can appear outwardly calm but struggle with self-control issues, leading to stress and time management problems. Children with ADHD also have these same challenges as adults — even if their behavior doesn’t seem disruptive enough for others to notice it as a problem.
ADHD Masking at School
Students with ADHD may struggle in school because of their inability to focus on tasks, complete homework, or take tests. They may also have difficulty getting along with peers and teachers. In some cases, students may try to avoid situations that they perceive as stressful or tedious. This avoidance behavior can result in poor performance, which then leads other students to label them as “lazy,” “stupid,” or “just not trying hard enough.”
This masking effect can make it seem like your child isn’t trying when struggling in school or at home. In reality, they’re just trying too hard and getting overwhelmed by their situation. The result is behavior problems and poor performance in class — two things that can easily be mistaken for laziness or lack of effort on their part instead of a medical condition that needs treatment.
If you suspect your child has ADHD but has never been diagnosed, you should schedule an appointment with your family doctor. If your doctor suspects ADHD but needs more information before making a diagnosis, they may refer your child to a pediatric psychologist specializing in behavioral disorders.
ADHD Masking at Work
ADHD can have a significant impact on an employee’s performance in the workplace. Because people with ADHD are easily distracted by their surroundings and can’t stay focused on a task for long periods, they may find it challenging to complete projects and meet deadlines. This could mean they don’t produce as much work as other employees or miss deadlines.
The condition also means that those affected can’t focus on a single task at once — instead, they tend to jump from one thing to another without completing any of them properly. As well as affecting their ability to complete tasks correctly, this can also impact their communication skills and social interactions with colleagues.
Why ADHD Masking Is Prevalent in Females?
ADHD is a condition that affects both males and females. However, studies show that the disorder is more common in males than females. There are two main reasons why ADHD is more common in males than females:
First, boys are more likely to exhibit the hyperactive-impulsive symptoms of ADHD, which may lead to an earlier diagnosis.
Second, girls with ADHD tend to exhibit more internalizing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. These symptoms may be overlooked if they are absent at home or sporadically.
In addition to these differences in how boys and girls present with ADHD symptoms, there are other ways that gender can affect the development of ADHD.
Girls with ADHD tend to have fewer comorbid disorders than boys do. They also experience fewer mood problems and less conduct disorder than boys with ADHD do. This may be because girls with ADHD are less likely to display externalizing behaviors like aggression or rule-breaking, which can lead to a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.
Coping With ADHD Masking
The first step towards stopping ADHD masking is recognizing that there is an issue in the first place! If someone has been covering up their true symptoms for years before getting diagnosed with ADHD, it can be hard to know where to begin changing things!
Many people with ADHD don’t seek treatment because they fear being labeled as having a mental health disorder or are concerned about the stigma associated with a psychiatric condition. Others might not want to admit they have a problem because it would interfere with their careers or personal relationships.
If you think you might have ADHD and are afraid to get help for fear of being stigmatized, consider these steps:
- Be honest about your symptoms — don’t try to hide them from yourself or others.
- Stop hiding behind excuses for your behavior (e.g., “I’m just lazy”).
- Don’t be ashamed of how you feel — there’s nothing wrong with having a mental health condition.
- Consider getting professional help and medication by consulting a therapist.
- Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage. For example, if you are naturally disorganized but have a talent for multi-tasking, try using this ability as an asset in your career instead of hiding it or pretending it doesn’t exist.
- Let your friends and family know how they can help you deal with your symptoms. If your friends understand your condition, ask them if they mind if you talk about it sometimes when you’re together.
ADHD is not a preference. Nor is it something that people choose to have or not to have. ADHD is a real and serious disorder with very real and significant effects on self-expression and personal relationships, both at home and within the workplace.
Masking can also protect you from the stigma associated with having ADHD, which can affect your self-esteem. But hiding your symptoms can be stressful and exhausting — and it doesn’t always work anyway. As with most disorders, effective treatment for ADHD can greatly reduce the occurrence and severity of symptoms.
This article aims to bridge the gap between each respective party by educating and informing. I can’t promise that you will find your situation on this list, but I hope you discover things that alter your perspective, giving you new insight into what might be causing your child to hide ADHD-like symptoms and behaviors.
- Slobodin, O., & Davidovitch, M. (2019). Gender differences in objective and subjective measures of ADHD among clinic-referred children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00441
- Rucklidge, J. J. (2010). Gender differences in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(2), 357–373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2010.01.006
- Hull, L., Levy, L., Lai, M.-C., Petrides, K. V., Baron-Cohen, S., Allison, C., Smith, P., & Mandy, W. (2021). Is social camouflaging associated with anxiety and depression in autistic adults? Molecular Autism, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-021-00421-1
- Kosaka, H., Fujioka, T., & Jung, M. (2018). Symptoms in individuals with adult-onset ADHD are masked during childhood. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 269(6), 753–755. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-018-0893-3