While most people undergo periods of burnout, autistic people, at some point in their lives, experience it on a whole different level. Autistic traits can amplify the conditions that lead to burnout, and burnout can cause these traits to worsen.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 2.2 percent of adults in the United States – nearly 5.5 million people – are autistic. That’s almost certainly an undercount; many in the research communities believe that women and people of color are underdiagnosed.
A wide range of life stressors contribute to autistic burnout. Those include being forced to hide their autistic traits („masking“), managing the disabling aspects of autism and coping with a world that expects autistic people to perform at the same level as their non-autistic peers.
There are few published papers about autistic burnout, but similar conditions can help fill out the picture. For instance, in a 2020 study, 20 percent of autistic adults had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, compared to just under 9 percent of non-autistic adults.
Some of that anxiety stems from peer rejection or from being ostracized for autistic traits, such as a deep interest in a specific topic. Autistic people are also simply more vulnerable to anxiety; they’re more sensitive to sensory input and their nervous systems are more likely to react strongly to stress.
Autistic burnout isn’t a permanent state, however. One of the best ways for anyone to recover from burnout is rest, particularly sleep.
Rest isn’t the only remedy for autistic burnout. Connecting with others is a significant way to alleviate burnout for non-autistic adults and may be helpful. But many autistic people misread social cues, take statements literally and are uncomfortable with touch.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to keep autistic people from burning out will be to increase accommodations — anywhere they might spend time. Each autistic person may need different supports, such as quiet spaces to work, longer lunch breaks, alternative lighting, predictable schedules or the ability to have a support person with them.
Source: New York Times
Source: Science Daily