Autistic burnout refers to a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion experienced by autistic people. It is a result of prolonged exposure to overwhelming sensory, social, and cognitive demands, often in an environment that does not accommodate their needs.
It has some similarities with regular burnout but is distinctively different.1
What are the symptoms of autistic burnout?
During autistic burnout, individuals may experience a significant decline in their ability to function and cope with daily life (also known as skill regression). This can manifest as
- increased difficulty in communication, even temporarily going non-speaking
- heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli
- reduced executive functioning skills
- fatigue and exhaustion
- body pains and aches not explained by other conditions
- and a decrease in overall well-being.
What can cause this type of neurodivergent burnout?
The causes of this type of burnout can vary, but it is commonly triggered by prolonged periods of
- heightened stress
- sensory overload
- social demands
- and masking (the act of camouflaging autistic traits to fit in).
It is important to note that autistic burnout is not a personal failure or weakness, but rather a natural response to an overwhelming environment.
How to recover from autistic burnout
Recovery from autistic burnout requires a combination of self-care and self-compassion, support and understanding from their community (family, friends, healthcare workers, and colleagues), and creating a neuroaffirming environment that respects and accommodates the needs of autistic people.
This may involve reducing sensory stimuli, establishing clear boundaries, and providing opportunities for rest and rejuvenation.2« Back to the Glossary