By understanding the causes of autism burnout we can help people to recognise, prevent, treat and recover from this phenomenon.
In 2019 The Academy Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE) ran a study and much needed participatory research about autism burnout among the autistic community. Autistic burnout and related negative outcomes come about from people exhausting their resources for coping with their experiences and not having sufficient recovery time.
“A state of pervasive exhaustion, loss of function, increase in autistic traits, and withdrawal from life that results from continuously expending more resources than one has coped with activities and environments ill-suited to one’s abilities and needs.” Ryan Boren
The results of AASPIRE’s community-based participatory research approach with thematic analysis included Autistic adults describing the main characteristics of autistic burnout as:
- Chronic exhaustion
- Loss of skills
- Loss of function
- Reduced tolerance to stimulus.
Burnout was described as occurring due to the pressures of life stressors. The resulting cumulative load had a detrimental impact on both their physical and mental health. Autistic adults described experiencing an inability to meet expectations and obtain relief from stress. Also, they expressed neurotypical people as having a lack of empathy.
The findings of the research highlighted the need to reduce discrimination related to autism and the potential dangers of teaching autistic people to mask autistic traits.
Autistic burnout is a very important concern for the autistic community as it can lead to:
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of work
- Loss of schooling
- Mental and physical health issues
- Suicidal behaviour.
Increased social support for those experiencing autistic burnout will positively assist their recovery.