We often hear the term “burn out” being thrown around when people feel a state of complete
mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. For individuals who are neurodivergent burn out looks
similar but different.
What is Autistic Burnout?
Autistic Burnout is the result from chronic and long-term life stress. For Autistic people this may as a
result of masking, assimilating and compensation to try to fit in or meet the expectations of those
around them without an effective support system in place. One of the specific characteristics of
Autistic burn out is the loss of functionality and skills as well as increased frustration due to lack of
tolerance to stressors.
Autistics experiencing burn out can find themselves struggling, causing negative self-talk with them
questioning their sense of self, frustrated at their reduced ability to live independently and managing the fear that this will be their “new normal.”
Comments that have been heard in therapy working with individuals with Autistic burnout include “no one understands.” They report feeling dismissed or gaslight, with people suggesting a change of scenery will improve their wellbeing rather than the empathy that is required to help them feel psychologically safe.
Masking, assimilation and compensating are some of the causes of autistic burn out, however other
stressors that impact include unreachable goals, stress from a neurotypical (non adaptive
environment) as well as major life changes. For others Autistic burnout is caused by lack of resources or being unable to self-advocate to have their needs meet. A formal diagnosis of autism or an autism assessment can help some people understand where they have the most difficulty and validate their areas of difficulty.
How do I avoid burn out?
The stresses of life will always be there and they are part of the usual ebb and flow of aging. That
being said there are protective measures you can undertake to manage your stress, and work to
reduce your risk of burnout.
The first one being ensuring your mental health and wellbeing is prioritised. Easier said than done some will say, but for many the assistance and help of a skilled therapist who has a good understanding of the challenges of neurodivergent people in a neurotypical world can be life changing.
The value of having a safe space to focus on your needs, understand your story and the ability of the therapist to hold your emotions and your experience.
Routines and Boundaries and the value of breaks
One of challenges of Autism is that challenge of not letting work seep into life. Returning to
previously established routines such as sleep, diet and personal time are all vital in self care and help reduce the risk of autistic burnout.
Regular exercise that meets your needs also helps reduce burn out, for some people it maybe
spending time in the gym, others it might be going for a walk with a friend or doing a youtube dance class.
Some people prefer incidental exercise moving regularly during the day while they go about
their life. The good news is the right type of exercise is the one that works best for you.
Mindfulness can help and has been shown that having a sense of connectedness to self and
emotions and causing on breathing can have a positive effect on wellbeing.
Avoiding Autistic Burnout can be a lot. The good news is Boutique Psychology have skilled
professionals who understand the Neurodivergent experience to help in their journey to ongoing
If you'd like to talk to Boutique Psychology about burnout please click here to contact us.