What Is Autistic Burnout And What Causes It?

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Much of what took place at the 2019 National Autism Conference was dedicated to getting a clearer understanding of the many things that autism is associated with. The event was graced by world-class speakers that were experts in the field of autism and they gave a thorough discussion of the symptoms and causes of autism, types of autism, and the different experiences that children and adults with autism encounter in their lives. One of these experiences common among this group is known as autistic burnout.


Autistic burnout is an extreme mental, emotional, or physical fatigue that a person with autism experiences. When this happens, he loses his ability to do the things that he previously can do. Most autistic individuals say that this is probably because of the collective effect of having to deal with a world that is created for neurotypical people. Burnout may particularly impact autistic adults who have great language and cognitive skills and are in school or working together with people who do not have autism.


Burnout is usually a result of camouflaging or suppressing, a technique wherein autistic individuals imitate neurotypical behavior by utilizing dialogues for small talk, pushing them to maintain eye contact or masking their typical repetitive behaviors. Though these kinds of techniques can assist autistic individuals in performing their jobs, they are often difficult and need enormous effort from the autistic person.


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Another cause may be from sensory overstimulation, like a noisy passenger vehicle; stress related to multiple changes; or from demands that are too hard for them to handle at the same time.


Recovering from autistic burnout largely depends on the individual and the impact of the experience is for him. Certainly, the first step is for the autistic individual to remove himself from the situation that has caused him to be ‘burned out.’ This may be as simple as going home to rest from a completely full workday or getting out of a serious discussion. Other autistic people have claimed that their burnout was so severe that the impact on them lasted for years. Autistic burnout may happen more often and become more challenging to recover from as people age.