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Daniel89
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08 Jul 2018, 9:35 pm

Do you believe that camouflaging is bad for our mental health? When I first went to college at 16 the first year I think my camouflaging skills really improved. The second year I was worn out and retreated into myself mentally. I think camouflaging made getting help much harder.

Does anyone else have negative experiences with this?



MrMacPhisto
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09 Jul 2018, 3:07 pm

I think it depends on the person but personally from experience I think it is a bad idea.



Magna
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09 Jul 2018, 3:26 pm

What do you mean by "Camouflaging"? Do you mean "masking" or trying to imitate or forcing NT traits to fit in?

If that's what you mean, I've been grappling with that much more the older I get. I've learned by necessity to try to act as NT as possible (it only works for a short time, I don't think it's particularly convincing and I can't sustain it) so in that respect it's something I'm able to do passably well.

However.....the older I get (I'm nearly 50), I find myself feeling tired and finding that I'm far less motivated to continue to act in ways that are not comfortable to me just to fit an NT ideal.

I have a stronger urge, for example, to just want to say "screw it" in relation to eye contact and just be myself and not worry about making eye contact.

I have stronger urges to just say what comes to mind without stifling the thoughts.

I have a stronger urge to speak in a monotone with little intonation when I'm talking with people I don't know well.

I have a stronger urge to wear ear plugs wherever I go regardless of where it is.

I have a stronger urge to stim in public when I'm stressed.

I could go on.

Overall, I'm getting far more tired of it than I used to.



isloth
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09 Jul 2018, 3:33 pm

Daniel89 wrote:
Do you believe that camouflaging is bad for our mental health? When I first went to college at 16 the first year I think my camouflaging skills really improved. The second year I was worn out and retreated into myself mentally. I think camouflaging made getting help much harder.

Does anyone else have negative experiences with this?


Yes, I personally think that did a lot of damage to me. Not because knowing how to imitate normal behavior is bad, but because that is a tremendous amount of effort and stress that often prevents you from addressing actual issues of understanding and accepting yourself. I don't think you can find happiness just by faking your way into things. That point of being worn out and completely retreating you describe happened to me at like first/second year of college.


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Joe90
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09 Jul 2018, 3:38 pm

For me it is partially natural for me to fit in socially, so not everything I do is masking, some of my performance is literally just me. This is where I feel "half NT". But there are some things I've got to force myself to keep cool, like if somebody unintentionally says something that "pushes my buttons", I don't want to seem weird by yelling or angrily walking away, instead I just have to laugh and shrug it off. The things that pushes my buttons are quite unique, so if I reacted negatively to friends, colleagues, most family members or even my partner, they will think I'm some sort of weirdo.


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mr_bigmouth_502
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09 Jul 2018, 3:47 pm

Camouflaging comes to me so naturally people are surprised when I say I'm autistic. The only people who are able to identify it seem to be trained professionals.


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Daniel89
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09 Jul 2018, 6:08 pm

Yeah by camouflaging I meant masking I think they are the same thing aren't they?



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09 Jul 2018, 6:11 pm

It has been very bad for my mental health, and I think also got in the way of a diagnosis for a long time. I recognise now that it is one of the biggest reasons why I have had a major crisis every few years of my adult life, and also why signs of autism weren't spotted until my mid-forties, after many referrals to mental health services for the resulting depressive episodes.

I was living all of my life with a huge amount of anxiety; forever hyper-vigilant for signs that I might have inadvertently dropped my mask for a moment, and well aware from my social slip-ups that the mask was far from perfect. Over time, the fatigue would make my ability to mask slowly ebb away; melt-downs, shut-downs and dissociation would become more frequent, long-lasting and severe; and, the mental faculties needed for education, work and self-care would gradually desert me. Though the resulting unemployment had a lot of it's own stresses, and treatments for depression weren't very effective, it did at least give my brain some of the rest that it craved, and eventually I'd pick myself up again, bite off more than I could chew of life, and start the cycle all over again.

My self-esteem became atrocious; I learned never to bother asking "what do I want from my life?", as concealing my differences was all that I had enough energy for most of the time; I just drifted wherever the wind blew. Having had no idea that I was autistic for so long, I was barely aware of when I was masking, and often beat myself up for autistic behaviours even when I was alone; so I never revealed enough of my true self for counsellors or doctors to identify the need for an assessment (though two CBT counsellors noted their inability to dent my depression at all, and anti-depressant medications were never effective for me.)

The whole while, I had absolutely no suspicions that I might be autistic. I certainly knew I was strange, but I believed all the common myths and stereotypes about autism that we're all familiar with, and it never entered my mind. I probably still wouldn't be diagnosed now if I didn't have the good fortune of seeing a psychologist who had worked with autistic adults before at a routine mental health referral for depression. She asked me about some traits she'd noticed that no other professional had before, and managed to get enough of a peek under the mask to suggest a formal assessment.

isloth wrote:
Not because knowing how to imitate normal behavior is bad

However, this too. Masking is just one among many techniques which we can have available for better coping with the world. As with any coping skill, the art is to learn how to balance the effort and mental consequences involved against the possible outcomes. That balance will be different for all of us, depending to what degree we are able mask our autistic traits, how much effort it takes us to do so, the social environment we find ourself in, and how much we want to explicitly self-identify as autistic.

It has been a big improvement for me to see masking as a choice and begin to use it more strategically, rather than it being a compulsion that I allow to dictate everything else. I still find it hard to drop the mask as much as I'd like to, and finding new boundaries with the people I know hasn't always been easy, but I can now budget my mental energy much more easily so that I have more available for the things which I was previously forced to neglect. At the very least, I allow myself to be the real autistic me when I'm alone now, and I'm slowly working out which relationships work better overall if I let the mask down a little bit.


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09 Jul 2018, 7:10 pm

Too much camouflaging is bad for your mental health. Some camouflaging can help you gain income and friends which can improve your mental health. Problem is we have to do much more camouflaging then average person meaning the amount of camouflaging needed to be successful socially and careerwise will leave a lot of us exhausted and stressed leading to burnout, or the amount of masking required is beyond our abilities.


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10 Jul 2018, 8:23 am

Daniel89 wrote:
Does anyone else have negative experiences with this?


Yes. In my experience, the “reward” for masking/camouflaging well is the expectation from others that I will continue masking/camouflaging well. :? That said, I believe all humans mask/camouflage to a certain extent. I don’t believe many humans are able to do & say 100% of what they want to do & say.



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11 Jul 2018, 7:30 pm

I mask so frequently that I have actually adopted some NT behaviors. For example, I was in biology class one day and someone's phone randomly went off when it was silent in the room. My gut instinct told me to laugh, which was what all of the NT students did. So I did that too. In reality, I actually did not understand what people found funny about someone's phone randomly going off during class. I remove my mask at home, but nothing seems too different from when I'm wearing the mask except for smaller changes such as the way I stim. Most of the time in public, I use stims that seem "less autistic" such as tapping my foot, playing with my rings, playing with a mechanical pencil, etc. At home, I might stim in a more "unusual" way such as rubbing my lower lip against something with a desirable texture or smelling certain objects.

Masking may cause burnout if done for too long. For this reason, it is vital that people learn about autism acceptance. I only remember having burnout once, and during that time, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and successfully treated. This was about a year or two ago. Therefore, it is vital that NTs learn to accept autistic people as a whole.


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12 Jul 2018, 11:28 am

Two main problems that I can see:

1) It can lead to a nasty case of burnout.

2) If people don't see the real you they can't love the real you. It alienates you from people; even as it seems your relationships with people are improving, the amount of joy you derive from it decreases. This seems to be similar to what 'popular teens' experience; the people who are liked for their looks, charm or talents, and can never quite trust that people like them for who they are.


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23 Oct 2019, 1:43 am

How Masking My Autism Led to Burnout

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I learned how to keep my autism hidden in public, even before I was diagnosed. In fact, one of the reasons it took so long to diagnose me was because in school, at least until middle school when I was diagnosed, I was able to camouflage exceedingly well. I could go through an entire day without displaying autistic or different behavior.

Home was another story. By the time I got home from school, I would be exhausted, physically and mentally, from masking all day. Bear in mind, I was not able to verbalize these feelings when I was a child. I would have intense meltdowns that affected my entire family very negatively. But home was the only place I felt safe enough to unmask and let out all the emotions and feelings I had bottled up during the day.

Up until very recently, I forced myself to mask completely in public and even somewhat at home, if there were people around me. I refused to stim and got very embarrassed to be caught doing it. When out in the world, my goal was to look as though I was neurotypical. It got to the point where I would have a panic attack if I said the wrong thing or made the wrong facial expression.

I became so self-aware when I was camouflaging. I could literally feel the weight of holding in my emotions and meltdowns. My body hurts and I have trouble breathing. My body feels heavy and underwater. When I’m masking to this degree, I feel like I’m on auto-pilot. I feel so close to snapping. I’m just being stretched and stretched and I’ve managed to bounce back every time, but a rubber band can only stay intact through so much stretching and pulling. It’s a scary to think what might happen if the rubber band actually breaks.

That is called autistic burnout and it is a very scary state of mind. For me, autistic burnout occurs when I just can’t stand being autistic anymore. The thought of messing up socially, even something minuscule that nobody else will notice, makes me hate myself during burnout phases. I feel worthless and small. I have even felt suicidal. Masking is important and useful in small doses, but when you mask constantly, it can cause severe mental turmoil.

Burnout will come and go. I feel wonderful today, but that could change tomorrow. Having a plan of action before you reach a burnout phase is very important, especially because you can’t always think straight when burnout occurs. I have a list of people I can call and talk to and a list of activities to try out when I feel this way.

Letting myself act more autistic has been absolutely freeing. I feel comfortable enough in my own self to act the way that feels best to me. I embrace my echolalia and now I feel free to sing and repeat phrases that sound pleasant to me. I flap way more now, pretty much in every conversation. And the more awkward I feel, the harder I flap. But I don’t feel self-conscious about it anymore. In fact, I think it’s kind of endearing. I have sensory toys everywhere and I am not afraid to use them. If someone wants to stare, let them.

It has taken me 25 long years to be this comfortable with displaying my autism and I still have a ways to go. But I’ll do it with my mask off and my hands flapping


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23 Oct 2019, 6:22 am

Mid 40s in newly NT-biased environment, before I even suspected I was ASD, I was telling my mgmt. that I was "exhausted" for "adjusting" for them every day. I thought it was strictly a gender thing but now I see it's ASD also. I would like to choose to mask and not HAVE to mask. The latter is depressive (what's wrong with me) and the former is a touch better (I'm good albeit different and will accommodate the NT right now -or not).



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23 Oct 2019, 7:48 am

In some situations, "camouflage" is good

In some situations "camouflage" is bad



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23 Oct 2019, 12:22 pm

I've been told I hide my ASD well. I guess I've had enough practice. I'm not always sure what's me and what's camouflage. Most people put some effort into the way they present themselves, but is it always camouflage? It has advantages - I tend not to get singled out as all that strange, and people don't often find I'm a lot of bother to them. One downside is that I often feel that I've not really engaged with the company in a way that would be meaningful to me. Keeping up appearances gets in the way of "real" communication, I don't feel they get to see the real me so much.