Friday, March 2, 2018

The costs of camouflaging autism

Many girls hide their autism, sometimes evading diagnosis well into adulthood. These efforts can help women on the spectrum socially and professionally, but they can also do serious harm.

Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that, like Jennifer, many women on the spectrum ‘camouflage’ the signs of their autism. This masking may explain at least in part why three to four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with the condition. It might also account for why girls diagnosed young tend to show severe traits, and highly intelligent girls are often diagnosed late. (Men on the spectrum also camouflage, researchers have found, but not as commonly as women.)

Nearly everyone makes small adjustments to fit in better or conform to social norms, but camouflaging calls for constant and elaborate effort. It can help women with autism maintain their relationships and careers, but those gains often come at a heavy cost, including physical exhaustion and extreme anxiety.

“Camouflaging is often about a desperate and sometimes subconscious survival battle,” says Kajsa Igelstr√∂m, assistant professor of neuroscience at Link√∂ping University in Sweden. “And this is an important point, I think — that camouflaging often develops as a natural adaptation strategy to navigate reality,” she says. “For many women, it’s not until they get properly diagnosed, recognized and accepted that they can fully map out who they are.”

Read more here at Spectrum.