Masking: Benefits & Burnouts
Masking is hiding self-soothing behaviors that others may find “weird.” This involves such things as stimming or intense interests. Stimming is usually self-soothing techniques that involve anything to help, cope, or manage outside stimulus. That may be related to something like the clothes we have on or the subtle sounds that may be heard. Stimming may include but certainly is not limited to flapping hands, mouth noises, twirling pencils and many others. Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion, heightened stress, and diminished capacity to manage daily skills, sensory input, or social interactions. This usually stems from being overloaded by the struggle to live up to the daily demands that are not in line with their needs.
Autistic people mask to feel like they fit in with society where they may otherwise the short-term benefit of masking is that people tend to accept others more readily based on falsified information that is being given to them. This means that masking helps the autistic person gain more social acceptance as well as not feeling out of place in the world. The downside is having to constantly do that for days, months or even years to feel accepted in a place that does not readily accept them for who they may be at their core.
Masking hides many things for the autistic person. Whether that is a sensitivity to a loud sound or an uncomfortable touch. Many autistic people have their own way of seeing the world much like everyone else does. They will sometimes have go-to phrases or words that they tend to use in social interactions much like an actor has a script.
The long-term effects of masking may result in but certainly are not limited to symptoms of depression, anxiety, exhaustion, burnout, as well as loss of self-identity. Masking is a struggle to maintain for many autistic people. It is a way to evade bullying, being ostracized and even being able to make friends, get and keep a job as well as finding a romantic partner.
While masking is a struggle and ultimately a survival technique for many people, it also helps to have an environment where masking isn’t necessarily required all the time. Having some place where we all can use our self-soothing behaviors helps a lot as it takes some of the pressure off trying to blend in. There are more cons than pros to masking.