ADHD and Hibernation

ADHD and HibernationThere is a behaviour among ADHDers that I haven’t heard being talked about much, but it’s actually quite wide spread. In fact, it’s so common that I have given it a name: Hibernation.

When things get stressful, ADDers retreat from life and…hibernate. They withdraw into the safety of their homes and don’t answer the phone, respond to emails or engage in any productive activities. They might do activities that calm them and block out reality, like lie on the sofa and watch back-to-back movies, hyper-focus on video games, read mindless novels, etc. This time isn’t pleasant though, because there is a huge amount of anxiety, fear and shame about the issues being avoided.

When the person in hibernation feels strong enough (after a few days, or weeks), or when life responsibilities leave them no choice, they re-emerge. They apologize to everyone they were out of touch with and feel completely awful about themselves. They promise it won’t happen again both to themselves and to others.

If hibernation was a successful life strategy, I wouldn’t be writing this! However, it causes a lot of pain to everyone involved. And rather than making the situation better, the problems that triggered the hibernation in the first place have grown much bigger.

Not all ADDers hibernate…but if you do, here are some suggestions.

Create a Damage Limitation plan

If you are prone to hibernation, it’s unrealistic to expect it to magically stop, even though you really want it to. Instead, create a damage limitation plan. This is a plan that you create when you aren’t in hibernation. It includes the actions you will take to stop sinking into hibernation when you feel it coming on or limit the time you are there.

Items to include in your plan are:

a) Talk to someone
Share with another person about what is going on in your life. It could be a close friend, your ADHD coach, or therapist. This is the most important action, but is probably the one you will least feel like doing.

b) Actionable to-do list
Write a list of actions that address the problems which scare you. Break each action into tiny steps, so that it’s less overwhelming. You could even do some of the actions in the company of your trusted person (See A).

These actions will mean facing problems head-on, which again are the last thing you want to do. However, by facing them, they will shrink back into proportion.

c) EFT
EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is a great way to reduce your anxiety. It only takes a few minutes and is highly effective. You can follow this video and do it whenever you feel anxious. Go to:


d) Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic treatment and is readily available in health food stores, pharmacies or on the web. It helps you deal with stressful situations by giving you a sense of calm and peace.

e) Hypnosis
Hypnosis helps to reprogram your subconscious so you can take actions on the things you are feeling resistance to. You can download them onto your ipod and listen as often as you need to. My favourite site is:

All of these suggestions help you before or during your Hibernation. Use as many as you need, as often as you need, until you feel like your usual self again.


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  1. Ms B says:

    I’m definitely a “hibernator” pretty much borderline recluse. In fact I’m in hibernation right now. I’m hoping that now that I know “all of these things” may because I possibly have adult ADHD I can finally get help.

  2. David says:

    I see hibernation as something so many people in east coast cities do when it gets cold too. We’re not as social. But I agree it’s often hard to tell when we are disconnecting due to life issues or if it’s the weather change.

  3. Brooks says:

    Your cooler than you Know Jacqui! Hope your new year will be the best one yet!

  4. Paris says:

    I don’t really see hibernation as a bad thing… Sure I do feel a bit guilty but I also look forward to it. I live in a place where -45 is a real thing, plus because of adhd I often over burden myself and I get super played out from too many social activities so after Christmas is over its just so brilliant to be a geek, stay home and watch all of the lord of the ring movies with extra’s! Take some time to read and be creative and not go out and deal with the cold. The hardest part is I do drag my feet when I have to go back to normal life. And I find my self a bit depressed going back to work and all my other obligations. And I do feel really bad for my dog cause it’s too cold to go for walks.

  5. Alison Isaacs says:

    This reads like my life story. I’ve done this so often for so long that I assumed I was agoraphobic. That’s when I was diagnosed with adult ADD. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of “hibernation” though, and I’m overwhelmed. I thought I was alone in this behavior, which only adds to the crippling anxiety and shame. Finding out I had ADD helped out so much with the lifetime of shame that came from constantly comparing myself to the functioning people all around me. But the “hibernating” routine has remained my hardest obstacle with the most painful results. Although the people in my life may continue to judge me as a failure and grow ever disappointed and frustrated with what they don’t understand, I will know I am not the only one. That’s invaluable. Thank you for letting me know that I, too, am worthy.

    • Hi Alison,
      I use the term ‘hibernation’ because it perfectly describes this behavior pattern that many ADDers do. Like you they think it might be because agoraphobia, others think maybe its depression. And for some people that might be the case. But usually its not.
      Always remember you are an awesome person. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t doing the things that people around you are.
      Do you like to read? If so a book that might help you is ‘From Panic to Power’ by Lucinda Bassett

  6. Patricia Lubitz says:

    Thank you for this. I have been in hibernation without knowing or understanding it. I am deeply buried in problems I am trying to resolve. I hope I can use this information to un-bury myself.

  7. Once I realized and recognized this behaviour of hibernation I embraced it, retired and moved to a remote island to live. It has been one year now and I must say it was the best move I’ve made so far. I even was able to stop the ADD medication and accept my limitations.
    I am aware this is not an option for many people, but it certainly is something to consider. After all, not everyone must live in a large city which aggravates ADD symptoms rather than just providing stimulation that ADDers crave.
    Most people with ADD/ADHD fear boredom so gravitate to the city. Little do they realize that your ADD mind does not stop whirling with a million ideas without external stimulation. Mine sure doesn’t LOL

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