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ASPartOfMe
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03 Sep 2021, 6:29 am

‘The Battery’s Dead’: Burnout Looks Different in Autistic Adults

Quote:
Tyla Grant, 24, holds down a full-time advertising job, is trying to get a nonprofit off the ground and creates regular content for her podcast, YouTube channel and Instagram. Occasionally, she winds up so fried she can’t speak or get out of bed for days.

Ms. Grant is also autistic. While most people undergo periods of burnout — physical, cognitive and emotional depletion caused by intense, prolonged stress — autistic people, at some point in their lives, experience it on a whole different level. Autistic traits can amplify the conditions that lead to burnout, and burnout can cause these traits to worsen. They may become unable to speak or care for themselves, and struggle with short-term memory. This harms their ability to perform well at jobs, in school or at home.

“It’s the point at which there’s no more of you left to give. The battery’s dead. Tyla’s left the chat,” she said. “Whatever you want from me, you’re not going to get.”

Autistic burnout is a concept already widely accepted in neurodivergent communities, but it hasn’t been formally studied much. Research does show that autistic people have a harder time keeping their heads above water in ways that are similar to burnout, and some experts offer advice on how to deal with it.

A wide range of life stressors contribute to autistic burnout, according to a small 2020 study led by Portland State University researcher Dora M. Raymaker. Those include being forced to hide their autistic traits (often called “masking”), managing the disabling aspects of autism and coping with a world that expects autistic people to perform at the same level as their non-autistic peers.

Participants of the survey described barriers to support, such as having their experiences and differences dismissed by others, a lack of external support and an inability to take breaks.

Beyond this study, there are few published papers about autistic burnout, but similar conditions can help fill out the picture. For instance, in one 2020 study, 20 percent of autistic adults had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, compared to just under 9 percent of non-autistic adults.

Political reporter Eric Michael Garcia agreed that rest is a key remedy for autistic burnout, and he’s noticed, as he gets older, that it takes him longer to recharge. Mr. Garcia, 30, experienced his first extended period of autistic burnout while covering the 2016 elections. At first he thought he was just working too much, but a debilitating fatigue hung over him for a month.

In his book “We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation,” Mr. Garcia wrote that when non-autistic people experience burnout, no one doubts their ability to live independently. But for autistic adults, a burnout state can lead loved ones and medical professionals to question their self-sufficiency, and even suggest they move home with family.

Autistic burnout isn’t a permanent state, however. One of the best ways for anyone to recover from burnout is rest, particularly sleep, according to Amelia Nagoski, the co-author of the best-selling 2019 book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Response Cycle.” But autistic people have a harder time sleeping because of their neurological differences, according to a 2019 study.

Autistic people are more likely to sleep for shorter periods of time and experience lower-quality sleep, and they’re more likely to be night owls, the study found. Research on non-autistic adults shows that insomnia is a strong predictor of burnout, suggesting a similar link among autistic people with sleep disorders.

Ms. Grant finds herself making trade-offs when it comes to friendships. When people ask to spend time with her, she often declines, in order to protect her energy. But her autism already strains her friendships. “Just saying ‘no’ isn’t that easy, especially when you’re used to saying ‘yes’ just to keep your friends,” she said.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


Archmage Arcane
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05 Sep 2021, 8:51 pm

Nice to see that in the mainstream media.

Thanks for posting it.



MuddRM
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05 Sep 2021, 9:02 pm

Archmage Arcane wrote:
Nice to see that in the mainstream media.

Thanks for posting it.


Too bad the regular working Joe or Jane won’t believe it!



Sandyskys
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24 Oct 2021, 2:44 pm

My son showed me this article two day ago. Over the past months he is experiencing what the article describes to a "T". Now if only there were available professions who could provide much needed support. Your words ring true to many, both in this community and with those who provide Professional Support.



ASPartOfMe
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24 Oct 2021, 8:33 pm

Sandyskys wrote:
My son showed me this article two day ago. Over the past months he is experiencing what the article describes to a "T". Now if only there were available professions who could provide much needed support. Your words ring true to many, both in this community and with those who provide Professional Support.


Congratulations on graduating from lurker to participant.

It goes without saying that more professional support would be good, but do not underestimate the benefit of both knowledge of what Autistic burnout is and knowledge that others are going through similar experiences. Reading about autistic burnout and discussing it with others here was revelatory for me.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman