New Study Highlights Mental Health Impact of Autistic Masking

Stylish young woman standing near a plant with shadow light What happened: A new study, published in the journal Autism, shines new light on the relationship between camouflaging as an autistic woman and mental health concerns, as well as the importance of earlier screening and better support for autistic women […]

Stylish young woman standing near a plant with shadow light
Stylish young woman standing near a plant with shadow light

What happened: A new study, published in the journal Autism, shines new light on the relationship between camouflaging as an autistic woman and mental health concerns, as well as the importance of earlier screening and better support for autistic women across the lifespan.

  • Researchers at Brigham Young University recruited 58 female participants who reported difficulty in social situations and met board criteria for autism

  • Most of the participants reported masking their autistic characteristics often, which was associated with higher mental health difficulties

  • Of those included in the study, 62% reported depression, 66% stress, 67% anxiety and 62% suicidal thoughts

At the end of the day, we want [autistic women] to find inclusive communities who will help meet their social needs and support their ability to function as they’d like to day-to-day. — Dr. Jonathan Beck, study author

The Frontlines: Masking can also cause women to be diagnosed as autistic at a much later age. The ability to camouflage autistic traits can prevent doctors from diagnosing autism. The fact that autism is often considered a “male” disorder adds to misdiagnosis in females.

Related:Download The Mighty app to connect in real time with people who can relate to what you’re going through.

  • 8% of girls with autism are diagnosed before age 6, while 25% of boys with autism are diagnosed before this age

  • 50% of boys with autism are diagnosed before age 11, only 20% of females with autism are diagnosed prior to this age

  • The ratio of women to men with autism was found to be 3:1

Get more on autism: Sign up for our weekly autism newsletter.

A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Molly D. Dann-Pipinias, had this to share. “I was taught to mask from a very young age. The goal was to make me appear as ‘normal’ as possible. Instead, it caused intense burnout. It has only been recently, when I’ve taken off the mask, that I’ve been able to be truly happy.” You can submit your first person story, too.

From Our Community: 

Breaking free of the autistic mask, what does it look like?

Add your voice:

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Chat Space group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to talk and connect with others? Join Chat Space to check in with others or have a conversation that's not related to health (because we all need a break sometimes). Click to join.
A banner promoting The Mighty’s new Chat Space group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to talk and connect with others? Join Chat Space to check in with others or have a conversation that’s not related to health (because we all need a break sometimes). Click to join.

Other things to know: You’re not alone if masking is causing burnout or other mental health issues. These other Mighty articles might help:

  • How Masking My Autism Led to Burnout

  • #TakeTheMaskOff Campaign Created to Encourage Autistics to ‘Unmask’

  • Autistic Burnout, Explained

How to take action: For more resources and information about autism, check out the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s website.

Read more stories like this on The Mighty:

How It Feels to Be an Introvert on the Autism Spectrum

Why I Chose Self-Employment as a Person With Autism

I’m Your Fiercely Empathetic Nurse, and I Have Autism

How ‘The Influencer’ Helps Autistic Performers Rehearse Connection

Celebrating the Milestones for My Son on the Autism Spectrum

Next Post

The mental health impact on ambulance staff of responding to suicide calls

Ambulance staff are often the first to attend the site of many difficult scenes. Yau Ming Low/ Shutterstock Being ambulance staff can be a high-stress job. They encounter many situations in their daily line of work that can have a lasting impact on their mental health. According to MIND, around […]