Asperger Works News

What Is Autistic Burnout

by Tony Atwood on Facebook (August 29, 2022)

A pleasant looking man smiling with a bookcase in the backgroundAn autistic life is not an easy life. There is the potential for great stress and chronic exhaustion from trying to cope with social and sensory experiences, being misunderstood and criticized, high levels of anxiety and, for many reasons, not feeling in touch with or able to be the authentic self. In addition, there may be self-imposed expectations that are greater than coping mechanisms and abilities. Subsequent stress can build up over time that can lead to autistic burnout, which is characterised by increased social withdrawal, a form of ‘hibernation’ and reduced executive functioning, the frontal lobes are “closed” awaiting recovery.
Camouflaging, which was first recognized as an adaptation to autism by girls and women, we now recognize as also occurring with males and as one of the many reasons why an autistic individual may experience an autistic burnout.

Signs of Autistic Burnout:

The concept of an autistic burnout has come from autobiographies, Internet support groups and clinical experience. The provisional criteria for autistic burnout, according to Higgins et al (2021) are:
1. Significant mental and physical exhaustion
2. Interpersonal withdrawal
3. With one or more of the following:
• Significant reduction in social, occupational, educational, academic, behavioural, or other important areas of functioning
• Confusion, difficulties with executive function and/or dissociative states
• Increased intensity of autistic traits and/or reduced capacity to camouflage/mask autistic characteristics
There can be associated features such as:
• Low self-esteem and not knowing what to do to restore mental energy levels
• Confusion as to whether the signs are indicative of a clinical depression
• Loss of self-care skills and ability to regulate emotions
• Persistent difficulties with daily living skills.
Drawing a distraught woman by symptoms of autistic burnoutf
When considering whether someone has autistic burnout, it is important to review the similarities and differences between autistic burnout and depression. In comparison to the signs of depression, in autistic burnout, there is increased sensory sensitivity and the need to isolate in order to recover. The current clinical and experiential wisdom is that autistic burnout is a cause of depression and that the depression is likely to reduce if measures are taken to resolve the causes of autistic burnout.

Autistic Girls and Women Event

[If you are interested in more information, sign up for this event.] We explore strategies to reduce the likelihood of experiencing an autistic burnout and ways to recover in our upcoming autistic girls and women event.


This presentation celebrates the unique presentation of girls and women on the autism spectrum. The presentation will equip the participant to:

  • Understand why autistic girls and women are underdiagnosed
  • Recognise camouflaging and compensation coping mechanisms
  • Recognise the ways the profile of abilities for autistic girls may be different to boys at different stages of development
  • Appreciate the different pathways to diagnosis in autistic adolescent girls and women
  • Utilise two new screening tools (QAS-C) designed to identify the characteristics of ASD level 1 in children and adolescents and in women
  • Understand issues regarding self-identity and low self-esteem for autistic girls and women
  • Strategies to enhance the concept of self
  • Learn activities in a group programme (Being Me) developed for teenage girls with ASD
  • Recognition of the effects of alexithymia and empathic attunement on the ability to experience and express emotions
  • Strategies to recognise and regulate emotions
  • The value of Energy Accounting to reduce the depth and duration of depression
  • Understanding how Polyvagal theory can facilitate emotion management
  • Learn strategies to develop friendship skills in childhood and adolescence
  • Choose resources to improve social reasoning abilities
  • Understand issues regarding adult relationships, especially vulnerability, sexuality and being a mother
  • Learn best ways for seeking and maintaining employment

What You Will Receive:

  • Access to the recording for 60 days following the live event
  • A Live Chat Room for Q&A with Tony & Michelle throughout the day
  • Downloadable Handouts to complement the course
  • Certificate of Attendance
  • This live course counts for 5.5 hours of Continuing Professional Development or Teacher Accreditation hours. (For NSW Teachers: the course may be recorded as an elective PD with NESA).

** The information in this post is from peer-reviewed research and the perspectives and experiences of many autistic individuals from clinical experience and communications and may not apply to each person.

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