Doing More by Doing Less: Reducing Autistic Burnout

by Erin Bulluss, Ph.D., and Abby Sesterka

Historically, in both the clinical setting and in terms of societal perceptions, autism has been conceptualized as a list of skills, behaviors, and observable traits that mark the differences between autistic and non-autistic people. This understanding has been presented for decades in a way that implies that we can simply add or subtract said attributes from any given human to create either an autistic or non-autistic person. In light of this, and in a world where the majority of people are non-autistic, it is unsurprising that many autistic folk have learned to perform non-autistic ways of being in the world. While researchers and clinicians have led the way in this endeavor with interventions that aim to make autistic people indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers,1 many autistic people under pressure to conform to societal norms have also developed their own ways to appear non-autistic via a process called ‘camouflaging’. read more

 

Masking and Mental Health Implications

Here is a harsh reality — there are elevated rates of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety among autistic people (Cage & Troxell-Whitmann, 2019; Lever & Geurts, 2016). There is also higher suicidality in the autistic population compared to the general public with 66% of autistics having contemplated suicide compared to 17% in the general population (Cassidy, Bradley & Robinson, et al., 2014; Segers, 2014; Zahid & Upthegrove, 2017). read more

 

Difficulty identifying emotions linked to poor mental health in autistic people

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Autistic people who have trouble identifying their emotions, a condition known as alexithymia, are likely to have anxiety, depression and problems with social communication, according to a new study1. Alexithymia may also contribute to worsening mental health: People with severe alexithymia are more likely than those without to develop anxiety over time.

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