The struggles of women who mask their autism
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.
A diagnosis leads some women to abandon camouflaging. “Realising that I am not broken, that I simply have a different neurology from the majority of the population and that there is nothing wrong with me the way I am means that I will not hide who I am just to fit in or make neurotypical people more comfortable,” Lawrence says
“Camouflaging is often about a desperate and sometimes subconscious survival battle,” says Kajsa Igelström, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Linköping 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, recognised, and accepted that they can fully map out who they are.”