ADHD and Hibernation

There 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.

Unlike animals who hibernate in the winter months, ADHD hibernation is not  weather related. It can happen any time of the year. It is also different from being an introvert and taking time away from people to recharge your batteries.

The hibernation this article is about is triggered by a stressful situation that the ADHDer wasn’t sure how to handle. It is often related to a simple ADHD behavior, like sleeping through an alarm clock and missing an appointment. The trigger event itself might be small; however, the shame and embarrassment feels so great that hibernation seems like the only solution. If the person feels they let someone down they love or respect, the greater the shame and the deeper the hibernation.

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

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.

3. 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:

4. 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.

5. 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:

and these are great choices when you are in hibernation mode


6. Talk Kindly to Yourself

Pay extra attention to how you talk to yourself during this time. Be as kind and compassionate as you possibly can. No situation, no matter how bad it feels, is worth punishing yourself for.


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.


*There maybe affiliate links in this blog post and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase as a result on clicking one of the link​s​. However I never recommend anything that I haven’t personally used and don’t ​absolutely love. You won’t be charged any more by using one of these links*

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  1. Aleca says:

    This made me feel extremely normal, infact I laughed out loud when I saw this article; becuase I realized I knew exactly what this was referring to in my world! I knew that I hybernated becuase of stress – but never connected it directly as an ADHD symptom. I was diagnosed when I was 18 (33 now), however; nothing was really done about it. It just finally explained my acedemic world precisely and my social world. The last 5 years or so I have done a personal deep dive, study, research into how my brain works. Im looking forward to reading more about your blog and finding more of my tribe that understand the way I work/function. Self journy to understanding who I am and healing many fixed beliefs about how I show up in life.

  2. Charlotte says:

    W0w I always thought I was just weird like that I am 28 years old and got diagnosed 2 moths ago and I’ve been behaving like this for a long time. I hibernate regularly and always wondered why I do this …It didn’t cross my mind that it could be a part of my ADHD symptoms I’m so glad I know this now !!!

    • Marie Cattermole says:

      I’m 28 and recently diagnosed too and snap again I have always behaved and reacted in such ways as this and always just assumed I’m bonkers, 👍 thanks for writing this comment it’s warming to know that you are not alone.

  3. Doris Page says:

    Finding this article was akin to opening a door to a huge flashing neon sign! I have gathered much information on ADHD and this is the only one to discuss hibernation as an ADHD symptom. I truly believe that I have been struggling with ADHD my whole life and desperately want help. Where do I go for help? What is the first step?

  4. Dottie says:

    Eye opening article! I’m 64 years old and deal with depression & anxiety. Just recently realized that ADD may also be a problem, have not been diagnosed. I have shut myself inside my house when overwhelmed as well as walking around stores “window shopping “ in a foggy haze. Would like to know who do I see for help with diagnosis & care. Thank you so much for this information, like so many others thought this behavior was just me.

  5. Marsha says:

    This so fits patterns of behavior in my life. Thank you for defining this for me. I need to think about this for a while before I can address it.

  6. Jen says:

    In hibernation mode right now. I am always smothered by the questions and concern “why do you do this?” when i do emerge that I wonder why I’ve left my hibernation “comfort zone” I’m glad you’ve addressed this behavior since it isn’t mentioned often, but is what feels to me like frequent and necessary “time-outs” so I can process reality internally. This is “normal” to me, but apparently not many people I know see it as such nor do they hibernate to such extents. You’d think if someone habitual hibernatior eventually other people would understand it as a normal behavior for them and it will pass as it does. Sheesh.

  7. K says:

    I’m from Brazil and ended up here after getting from a bad hibernation last week (I also have type 1 diabetes, so you can imagine what it can get to)
    Thank you. This really fits me, I just went back from the doctor and calibrate my dose of all things and this really touched a thing. Keep it up

  8. Emily Hodgkinson says:

    Omg, doesn’t everyone do this? Oh – nope they don’t. So it must be just me: cue unending stream of self critical thoughts sending me deeper into this downward spiral. Then along comes Jacqui and tells me I’m not alone. THANK YOU!!! Never connected it with ADHD before; this is so helpful. For me, I tend to hibernate by avoiding the communities where I have obligations; I might still go out and about but i’m kind of frozen, like a walking zombie, pretending to be a real person. The only answer I ever found was to talk to my wife and do tiny tiny things to address the issue with loads of support and direction from her. Spot on Jacqui!

  9. Carolyn Keane says:

    This isn’t absolutely me and it brings back that sick feeling of when I’m going through it. Just happened this past Wednesday when I had missed two doses of my Lexipro because of a mixup between the pharmacy and my psychiatrist, the anxiety and depression was extremely overwhelming. It was hard for me to accept that I could not function without this medication. I was only diagnosed this past April at 58 years old although like all of us I knew I had all of my life. That was actually the brunt of many jokes, including my own. I as well have been through abusive relationships, and now live alone in an apartment. Thank goodness I live on 8 acres with the Appalachian trail next to me so I’m able to get outside and meditate . That helped but only while I was doing it.

  10. Your post reached my email box today, as I’m struggling to pull myself out of hibernation mode. The biggest take away for me is being realistic about magically stopping the hibernation behavior, because at age 59, I realize I started developing this coping style as far back as grade school. Divorced (from an abusive husband)and living on my own since my daughter left for college last month, its even easier to go there and maintain the appearance of functioning only when I go to work.
    I’m going to create a Damage Limitation Plan today – and keep a physical copy on hand, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and hate myself, I can say aha, I know what this is really about, and look at my plan and take at least one positive step forward.
    Thank you Jaqueline. Your work truly helps others. I admire that.

    • Hi Judy! great job creating your Damage Limitation Plan..and excellent idea to keep it close to hand to make it easy to refer to!

    • Carolyn Keane says:

      This is ME too! I’ve missed days of work, all because I was going to be late, again, I could not face it and stayed home 3 days into the weekend. This has happened more than once. I’m 59, same story, just diagnosed in April although always knew…

  11. Hele says:

    Wow, what an eye opener! This is me, but I always attributed this behavior to CPTSD. This is good to know. I already use Rescue Remedy and it helps. Thanks.

  12. Laura Rosier says:

    If you stay in hibernation long enough sometimes the problem does go away :)Though it usually comes back to bite you later. I do this but never thought of it as part of my ADD – just thought I was weird. I shut down and just disappear until I have to come back out. It happens so quickly and brings on a horrible feeling. Most of my family and friends are used to it but I know it still hurts them and I know they worry more since I lost my husband. Great article and one that really hits home.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Brooks says:

    Your cooler than you Know Jacqui!

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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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