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The Mask We Wear

Many children and adults on the autism spectrum appear “normal” to those not on the spectrum. These people have learned to “mask” or hide their autistic traits from the general public. Simply put, every minute of every hour of every day an autistic person masks their true self when around others.

‘Social Camouflage’ May Lead To Underdiagnosis Of Autism In Girls – NPR

When she was a baby she never wanted to be cuddled or snuggled, says Haley’s mom, Lonnie Wittenberg. Haley also didn’t make eye contact. “I was always saying look at me, look at me,” her mom says. Haley didn’t like noisy, crowded places like Disneyland, and she had a hard time being “spontaneous.” But for the most part these seemed like “quirks,” Lonnie Wittenberg says. “Nothing screamed autism.”

“Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions
Hull, L., Petrides, K.V., Allison, C. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (2017) 47: 2519.

This study demonstrates that camouflaging of ASC-related characteristics in social situations may be a common behaviour amongst adults with ASC. Camouflaging is motivated by the desire to fit in with others and to make connections. The behaviours themselves can be grouped into masking and compensation strategies. In the short term, camouflaging results in extreme exhaustion and anxiety; although the aims of camouflaging are often achieved, in the long-term there are also severe negative consequences affecting individuals’ mental health, self-perception, and access to support. Our findings demonstrate that camouflaging is an important aspect in the lives of many individuals with ASC.