Purpose COVID-19 is a novel threat to patients with adrenal insufficiency (AI), whose life expectancy and quality (QoL) are impaired by an increased risk of infections and stress-triggered adrenal crises (AC). If infected, AI patients require prompt replacement tailoring. We assessed, in a cohort of AI patients: prevalence and clinical presentation of COVID-19; prevalence of AC and association with intercurrent COVID-19 or pandemic-related psychophysical stress; lockdown-induced emotional burden, and health-related QoL. Methods In this monocentric (Ancona University Hospital, Italy), cross-sectional study covering February-April 2020, 121 (40 primary, 81 secondary) AI patients (59 males, 55 ± 17 years) completed telematically three questionnaires: the purpose-built “CORTI-COVID”, assessing medical history and concern for COVID-19-related global health, AI-specific personal health, occupational, economic, and social consequences; the AddiQoL-30; the Short-Form-36 (SF-36) Health Survey. Results COVID-19 occurred in one (0·8% prevalence) 48-year-old woman with primary AI, who promptly tailored her replacement. Dyspnea lasted three days, without requiring hospitalization. Secondary AI patients were not involved. No AC were experienced, but pandemic-related stress accounted for 6/14 glucocorticoid up-titrations. Mean CORTI-COVID was similar between groups, mainly depending on “personal health” in primary AI ( ρ = 0.888, p < 0.0001) and “economy” in secondary AI ( ρ = 0.854, p < 0.0001). Working restrictions increased occupational concern. CORTI-COVID correlated inversely with QoL. AddiQoL-30 and SF-36 correlated strongly. Comorbidities worsened patients’ QoL. Conclusion If educational efforts are made in preventing acute events, AI patients seem not particularly susceptible to COVID-19. The novel “CORTI-COVID” questionnaire reliably assesses the pandemic-related emotional burden in AI. Even under unconventional stress, educated AI patients preserve a good QoL. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1007/s40618-020-01422-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.