Masking ADHD

Andrea Toole
4 min readDec 7, 2020

I recently had an “a-ha” moment.

As an ADHD mentor with ADHD myself, I’m continuously learning about the condition. I’m aware that ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) share symptoms.

I recently heard an example that stopped me in my tracks, literally. I was listening to a podcast while out for a run. It wasn’t a podcast about ADHD or ASD.

Pete Holmes had Hannah Gadsby on his podcast, You Made It Weird. One comedian interviewing another.

Masking autism

In speaking about the differences between ASD in boys and girls and her own experiences, Gadsby — diagnosed only four years ago — used the word “masking”. Here’s how Gadsby defined it:

Girls on the spectrum observe the behavior of others around and mimic.

Hearing this was the big A-HA moment for me.

I did some further research that included the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, among other sources.

It turns out that girls with ASD will try to go along and imitate what they see to seem “normal” and fit in. It’s a coping mechanism that falls under a concept called “camouflaging”.

Self-explanatory, yet an epiphany

Sometimes epiphanies are so powerful because they make so much sense and seem so obvious.

You know what camouflage is. You know what a mask is. You can imagine their meanings in the context of neurodiverse human behaviour.

Masking and other types of camouflaging can result in not being diagnosed with ASD until later in life (if at all) because masking allows girls to “pass” as neurotypical.


Everyone camouflages at times, donning masks to get through the day. When we’re sad, we smile; we can feign enthusiasm and act confident when we’re scared.

Women, in particular, use those masks to hide.

Camouflaging our imperfections

Methods such as masking or camouflaging to conceal our true nature indicate why many females aren’t diagnosed with ADHD until their 20s or older when the demands of work and family life catch up.

Andrea Toole

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | ADHD Mentor | Available for hire.