The struggles of women who mask their autism
Many try to confine their stimming to times when they are alone or in a safe place, such as with family. Igelström found that a few individuals try to prevent stimming altogether by way of sheer will or by restraining themselves—by sitting on their hands, for example.
For Lawrence, her need to fidget with her hands, tap her foot, or jiggle her leg feels too urgent to suppress. “I do it because if my brain doesn’t get frequent input from the respective body parts, it loses track of where in space that body part is,” she says. “It also helps me concentrate on what I am doing.”
All of these strategies call for considerable effort. Exhaustion was a near-universal response in the 2017 British survey: The adults interviewed described feeling utterly drained—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
One woman, Mandy says, explained that after camouflaging for any length of time, she needs to curl up in the fetal position to recover.
Others said they feel their friendships are not real because they are based on a lie, increasing their sense of loneliness.