We all masks or hide our emotions and behaviors to some degree. If we’re in a bad mood, we may attempt to “tough it out” by faking a smile or showing calm when we’re angry. While hiding who we’re from time to time is exhausting, many individuals with autism expertise this daily. Autism masking involves hiding neurodivergent behaviors to really feel accepted in a neurotypical society. In a world the place psychological well being stigma is nonetheless a global social problem, many use autism masking to guard themselves, slot in and gain acceptance. Learning about this behavior and its results will assist increase your consciousness of these that may depend on it of their on a regular basis lives.
What Is ‘Autism Masking’?
Autism masking, additionally known as autistic camouflaging, involves hiding sure autistic traits to seem extra neurotypical or “normal” to society. It happens both subconsciously or consciously for various reasons, such as avoiding mistreatment, constructing connections, boosting careers, gaining a way of belonging, and attracting romantic partners. Those with autism may analyze the norms for every scenario and attempt to adapt to expectations such as “What is the suitable response?”, “What gestures and facial expressions ought to I convey?” or “What ought to my tone of voice be?” This balancing act is exhausting and often involves a number of behaviors to maneuver round norms, assumptions, and biases.
What Are The Signs of Autism Masking?
Autism masking varies from person to person, however common behaviors include;
- Faking eye contact
- Hiding or reducing stims
- Mimicking gestures and social cues
- Ignoring sensory needs
- Copying tones of voice
- People pleasing
- Withdrawing or showing shy
- Forcing smiles or different facial expressions
- Developing scripts or memorized responses to questions
What Are the Consequences of Autism Masking?
Feeling the necessity to suppress who you are to slot in with society can result in extreme consequences;
- Autistic burnout. Consistently masking autistic traits can attain an overwhelming level and create a temporary lack of skills, chronic fatigue, and sensory overload. To recover from autistic burnout, many may want prolonged periods of withdrawal and time to be themselves in a secure and comfortable environment.
- Loss of identity. Some individuals who masks their responses, behaviors, or interests, deliberately or unintentionally, start to really feel they’re losing their sense of self. When this occurs, they often report struggling to really feel and express one thing genuine not based on performance, survival, or social reasoning.
- Mental well being concerns. Those who routinely masks could additionally be extra vulnerable to elevated stress, chronic exhaustion, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression.
How to Help
1. Increase your understanding
If you regularly use masking as a coping strategy, you may attain a level the place it’s inflicting you extra difficulties rather than making an answer to your problems. Indeed, that is the case for a lot of with autism. However, step one to eradicating the masks is figuring out conditions you have a tendency to cover your traits. For example, you are able to do that by journaling after socializing at work, with friends, and even running errands and jotting down any key behaviors you used to masks and why.
2. What is the impact?
The second step is increasing your understanding of the impact masking has on you. For example, how do you really feel after masking? Do you really feel exhausted, upset, anxious, or depressed? Making a connection between the conditions and your ensuing emotions will assist you create a stronger basis for studying how your autism impacts you and embracing who you are.
3. Know your boundaries
Another profit of knowing what conditions increase your desire to masks is studying to create boundaries to guard your health. Enforcing clear guidelines and studying to say no reduces people-pleasing and permits you to listen to what your thoughts and physique want rather than what others want you to do. Try to keep away from pointless social interactions and occasions if you’re already drained or overwhelmed, particularly in conditions when people you’re not comfortable with are present. It’s okay to place your wants first.
4. You’re not alone
When you’ve spent your entire life hiding who you are, it can really feel difficult and overwhelming to settle for your self and listen to your needs. Knowing this, practicing forgiveness, and giving your self compassion is a significant step to constructing self-acceptance. Even if there are parts of your self you don’t like, try remembering you aren’t alone and be affected person with your self as you start taking steps towards authenticity.
5. Spread awareness
Another way to minimize the dangerous results of autism masking is for family members to increase their consciousness and acceptance. When you consciously make an effort to perceive the experiences of a loved one with autism, you start making a safer and extra inclusive environment that permits them to be who they’re with out the necessity to mask.
6. Find worth in who you are behind the mask
Getting in contact with who you are and your wants involves additionally discovering worth in your self behind the mask. Many have used it as a survival mechanism for so lengthy that they really feel misplaced when they choose to restrict pretending. But if you focus on parts of your self you do like or engage in one thing that makes you really feel valuable, it permits you to slowly take away the necessity to masks in pointless situations.
7. Start slow
Some people struggle with masking and discover it overwhelming. Instead of seeing one thing wrong with yourself, start studying how to clarify sure behaviors if the event arises. For example, if somebody asks why you are moving your physique side to side, clarify the behavior. You could say, “It’s a method I use to assist calm me down when I’m anxious”. Rather than disliking your self for not hiding a behavior, clarify your traits and coping mechanisms to assist people perceive you more. Not solely will you really feel much less anxiety when you take small steps to embrace yourself, however additionally, you’ll increase consciousness about autism and your experiences.
8. Ask yourself
While these tips could additionally be helpful, the best way to prioritize your wants is to ask your self what you need. If you want to unmask, ask, “What would that look like?” You may encounter frequent conditions the place you think about unmasking would be extra beneficial to your overall health. Start by evaluating what unmasking means to you, why you want to, and the way it would assist you. Above all, for a lot of individuals with autism, autism masking is a helpful behavior. It helps them cope, mix in, and really feel accepted in society. But studying to settle for your self behind the masks is additionally a valuable skill that creates confidence, internal validation, and self-worth.