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DevilKisses
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15 Apr 2016, 12:22 pm

I hear a lot of people talking about masking their autistic symptoms. I have no idea what they're actually talking about. Can someone give me some concrete examples of what masking autism is?


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obsessingoverobsessions
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15 Apr 2016, 12:47 pm

Some examples are learning what to say in certain situations by copying other people. Also, trying not to stim or maybe staying quiet in order to not say something embarrassing or weird. Basically trying to act "normal" and put on a different personality than what type of person you really are to hide your autism.


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15 Apr 2016, 1:21 pm

I remember people telling me to "look people in the eye" when I was a child. So I would sort of look people in the eye, try to force myself to do so. Since I've retired and gotten an official diagnosis of ASD, I don't look people in the eye any longer. I found that, when I look people in the eye, I cannot understand what they are saying to me. It explains why I couldn't understand spoken directions, at work or at other places.



Brittniejoy1983
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15 Apr 2016, 1:38 pm

Don't talk to fast, don't ramble on, don't ask that question, don't say that in public, why would you ask someone that, don't respond with your 'life story', they aren't REALLY asking how you are doing, don't talk about that topic, don't make that joke, don't hug x long, don't refuse a hug when offered, never refuse offered food, refuse offer of seconds once/accept second offer always, don't run, don't jump, don't sway (you look weird), don't run like THAT, don't clap like that, why are you clapping like that?, look me in the eye, it's ok if someone touches you (not sexually), don't touch other people like this, don't hold someone's arm like this, shake their hand, shake their hand like THIS (showing how exactly), when someone says this/they mean that, this archaic idiom means ----, sing on pitch, don't sing before other people do, don't sing when no one else is singing, don't clap like that, don't talk so loud, speak louder, slow down, sit on your hands/stop waving them around, 'she's Italian, they talk with their hands', don't sound like a know-it-all, don't say 'I know' to everything, don't argue with everyone, smile when someone is talking to you, etc, etc, etc.


^^patterns of behavior taught to me personally as a kid/teen that have all become semi-habitual, and usually have to be repeated in my head. NOT listening to these 'rules' make you look like a freak, and people won't listen to you. Learning to act in normal ways when your instinct (or whatever word) is the opposite is 'masking' or, as it is also said, passing.


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mikeman7918
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15 Apr 2016, 1:49 pm

I do it by avoiding obvious stimming in public, consciously adding inflection and emotion to my voice, being expressive with my face and hands, looking at people when I'm talking to them (not nesesarily in the eye), following all the conversation and social interaction rules to the best of my ability, keeping my cool in a loud and bright environment even though mentally I am freaking out, scripting so my slower then average language processing is not obvious, preventing myself from talking about my special interest for too long, doing whatever I can to prevent meltdowns in public, and stuff like that.


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Edenthiel
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15 Apr 2016, 1:54 pm

"Masking" = hiding. All those intentional, very conscious behaviors used to hide autism. Even once they become habit, they still require substantial effort and energy to maintain, and require downtime afterwards to compensate. Push too far past their limits and meltdowns still happen, although some of us learned *another* set of masking to hide that, too. It can be...damaging, as it usually directs the entire meltdown internally or creates a disconnect & sometimes those become part of who you (think you) are.

All that said, some level of masking, some basic skills in the craft are needed realistically b/c many NT people have been taught that to deviate from 'normal' is wrong or suspect (or dangerous, potentially harmful, etc). I just wish compensating downtime was included in all teaching of that basic masking skill set.


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Brittniejoy1983
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15 Apr 2016, 1:59 pm

What Edenthiel said, and why I don't think ADHD is all that's 'wrong' with me.


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15 Apr 2016, 2:11 pm

I don't yet have a diagnosis, but if it is autism that I have (and I firmly believe it is) then arguably I do mask it well - the one person other than my husband that I've confided in over this says that 'you wouldn't know'.

For me this is about slowing down my speech, forcing eye contact, learning to act and sound confident using a certain tone of voice and really focusing on the clarity of what I'm saying, learning how to control any sense of panic that I get in public if I'm in a crowded place, politely answer 'good thanks' when people ask how I am rather than responding honestly as I used to, learning not to walk on tiptoes.

Some things are so practised that they're almost second nature. I no longer walk on my tiptoes in public, as long as I'm wearing shoes. However, if you see me somewhere in just my socks (and moreso if it's a new environment) then I cannot for the life of me work out how to walk any other way but on my tiptoes! It becomes so uncomfortable and stressful trying to work that out, and I spend a lot of time in just my socks nowadays because I'm always at other people's houses or at play centres.

Other things likes slower speech, confident talking and forced eye contact have never become second nature - I have to think about these constantly and they're a huge effort that I can't keep up for longer than a minute or two so, unless a conversation is quick, people soon work out that I'm not as 'confident' or 'able' as they thought I was when I first started talking! I can go in sounding amazing (for certain conversations, not all) because every conversation I have is scripted in my head in advance and I know what I'm saying, and that 'masks' things, then when the conversation strays from my inner script or I just can't keep up the fake 'Yeah, awesome!' attitude that I start with, everything gets a bit awkward.

I'm starting the diagnosis process this coming week, and a part of me is concerned that I'll 'mask' too well. Particularly because I've spent so long learning all of these things that I probably can't stop doing them - if I try and relax and remove that mask, maybe I'll feel like I'm faking it all. I've already scripted the conversations a thousand times in my head so I definitely haven't managed not to do that bit, but it's the little things like - I can't go in walking on my tiptoes, I can't deliberately look away so I'm only going to feel right if I'm trying hard with the eye contact, I can't go in stammering and using quick and stunted sentences so I need to put on my 'business face' and go in all "Hi! How are you? I'm great thanks!". I think you can mask so well that it does become something that's hard to avoid doing, even if it's also hard to do it, if that makes sense.



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15 Apr 2016, 2:18 pm

Masking for me is just trying to appear normal. I don't think it works very well, so I doubt that it's really "masking" anything :lol:

So, briefly looking people in the eyes instead of staring into space, and trying to appear as if I'm making eye contact is one way I try to appear normal. I also will try to make small talk, use common meaningless phrases that feel unnatural to me (like greetings and parting phrases), ask people questions of themselves, talk about boring subjects, try to do what other people are doing, smile a lot, try not to get too technical or nerdy, laugh at jokes which aren't funny, pretend that I'm not anxious, force myself to socialize, hide my weird obsessive habits, mimic other people, and generally just try to blend in.

It's EXHAUSTING!

And I suck at it.



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15 Apr 2016, 2:37 pm

The only times I ever try to mask most of my behaviours is in situations that would be detrimental for me if I didn't, such as in job interviews. During such instances, I fake eye contact constantly by looking at the person's mouth, smile and nod at everything they say, keep repeating scripted small talk lines in my head so I don't forget them, and make an effort to appear friendly and confident.

In all other situations, including at work (where they know I'm autistic and prone to acting "weird") I refuse to let myself suffer just for the comfort of others. I stare at peoples' shoulders, hands or shoes instead of their faces if I don't know them well, I rock, flap, and bounce on my toes, I hum and sing (mostly while I'm working, otherwise I'd get very bored), I play with my stim toys, and use speech in the way that feels most natural to me, even when I know it's not how most people talk. If I'm excited about something, I don't try to hide it; I want those around me to share my exuberance. If things are too loud, I cover my ears, wear my earplugs or construction headphones, or leave the room. If I'm at a party and don't feel like socialising any more, I'll just walk away and find a quiet space to do my own thing.

To answer the OP's question, masking is essentially the deliberate avoidance of all the things I mentioned above in an effort to appear normal. It often takes a heavy physical and psychological toll, because you are refusing to let your brain operate the way it was wired to. I don't care enough about what most people think of me to let myself suffer for the sake of "not being weird".


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SocOfAutism
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15 Apr 2016, 3:08 pm

Edenthiel wrote:
"Masking" = hiding. All those intentional, very conscious behaviors used to hide autism. Even once they become habit, they still require substantial effort and energy to maintain, and require downtime afterwards to compensate. Push too far past their limits and meltdowns still happen, although some of us learned *another* set of masking to hide that, too. It can be...damaging, as it usually directs the entire meltdown internally or creates a disconnect & sometimes those become part of who you (think you) are.

All that said, some level of masking, some basic skills in the craft are needed realistically b/c many NT people have been taught that to deviate from 'normal' is wrong or suspect (or dangerous, potentially harmful, etc). I just wish compensating downtime was included in all teaching of that basic masking skill set.


This is one of the things I study and this is exactly what I would have said, except Edenthiel already put it better than I could have.



btbnnyr
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15 Apr 2016, 3:24 pm

i dont really understand masking, i cant think of a particular thing i try to hide or particular thing i try to fake


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15 Apr 2016, 3:33 pm

btbnnyr wrote:
i dont really understand masking, i cant think of a particular thing i try to hide or particular thing i try to fake


Were you diagnosed early?

I'm thinking that those that mask things are possibly those that were raised not to do those things because they were 'weird' behaviours. Or, like me, people not (yet?) diagnosed.

StarTrekker's post above makes me think how good it would be to be able to relax a little. Masking has always been a part of my life because I've been trying to fit in and because I didn't ever see myself as 'autistic', so it didn't make sense for me to show these behaviours. I like the thought of being able to relax and be more naturally me, with people understanding why. Since self-diagnosing I've changed little behaviours - I'm more open about my shutdowns with my husband and I've started wearing sunglasses much more to cope with the light sensitivity that I've always had but tried to ignore (because it looks odd wearing sunglasses indoors, and because I always worried that wearing sunglasses would actually make my eyes even more sensitive). These are little things that I've hidden all my life and only feel comfortable doing now when only my husband is around.

Though, of course, unmasking may be a slow process. If I am diagnosed and suddenly start wearing sunglasses more and behaving in a 'more autistic' way, it possibly won't look like relaxing and being myself to others. It'll probably look more like 'playing up to the stereotype'.



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15 Apr 2016, 4:25 pm

The terrible reactions I get from people when I am myself are enough to keep me from being that way.

I would like to be able to be like StarTrekker, but my experiences are just so awful for me. Unlike some people with ASD, I can understand facial expressions and tone of voice. I'm not sure if I always was able to, but I understand those things just fine now, and it requires no effort. So I know what people are thinking when they roll their eyes at me, or make sarcastic comments. I can tell if I've surprised them or made them uncomfortable. I know when they don't like me or think that I'm strange. It's painfully obvious. However, when people are good at hiding these things, I'm not always able to tell.

It's horrible to be aware of those things, and know when I've done something "wrong." I usually don't know what it is that I've done until I've had time to think it through, or when I ask someone I trust.

I just have such a hard time knowing what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate, and then trying to apply that knowledge in a social situation. I can start off doing well, but then something will happen that I'm not prepared for, and I mess up. Or I'm unable to maintain control once I become relaxed, and blurt out things that I shouldn't say. If I'm not constantly monitoring my behavior, I will start to behave naturally, and my natural behavior is weird to others. I don't have the instinct or abilities necessary for normal socializing.

I guess I could try to make myself not care, but it upsets me too much when these things happen. It's also very hard to get respect in society when one is thought of as being strange or too different. It can negatively affect many aspects of one's life when one doesn't "fit in" with the rest of society.



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15 Apr 2016, 4:41 pm

Yigeren wrote:
The terrible reactions I get from people when I am myself are enough to keep me from being that way.

I would like to be able to be like StarTrekker, but my experiences are just so awful for me. Unlike some people with ASD, I can understand facial expressions and tone of voice. I'm not sure if I always was able to, but I understand those things just fine now, and it requires no effort. So I know what people are thinking when they roll their eyes at me, or make sarcastic comments. I can tell if I've surprised them or made them uncomfortable. I know when they don't like me or think that I'm strange. It's painfully obvious. However, when people are good at hiding these things, I'm not always able to tell.

It's horrible to be aware of those things, and know when I've done something "wrong." I usually don't know what it is that I've done until I've had time to think it through, or when I ask someone I trust.

I just have such a hard time knowing what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate, and then trying to apply that knowledge in a social situation. I can start off doing well, but then something will happen that I'm not prepared for, and I mess up. Or I'm unable to maintain control once I become relaxed, and blurt out things that I shouldn't say. If I'm not constantly monitoring my behavior, I will start to behave naturally, and my natural behavior is weird to others. I don't have the instinct or abilities necessary for normal socializing.

I guess I could try to make myself not care, but it upsets me too much when these things happen. It's also very hard to get respect in society when one is thought of as being strange or too different. It can negatively affect many aspects of one's life when one doesn't "fit in" with the rest of society.


This sounds so much like me.