Autistic burnout is a concept that many may not be familiar with, yet it profoundly affects the lives of countless neurodivergent individuals. It's a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that can have a severe impact on one's ability to function and enjoy life. In this blog, we will dive into autistic burnout, exploring its symptoms, consequences, and strategies for prevention and recovery.
Understanding Autistic Burnout
Autistic burnout is a multifaceted and frequently misunderstood phenomenon, encompassing a range of symptoms. It often manifests as extreme exhaustion, going beyond typical tiredness, and heightened sensory sensitivities, where lights, sounds, textures, and odors can lead to sensory overload. Additionally, individuals experiencing autistic burnout may struggle with a loss of executive functioning skills, impacting their ability to plan, organize, and make decisions. This state can also be marked by intensified emotional responses, potentially culminating in meltdowns or shutdowns, along with a notable difficulty in adapting to change, resulting in resistance or distress when confronted with unexpected or unfamiliar situations. Moreover, autistic burnout can entail a persistent state of low mood and diminished interest or pleasure in activities, which is akin to depression.
This state of burnout can be disabling and persist for an extended period, posing unique challenges for autistic children and adults who must juggle responsibilities like work, school, self-care, and family life.
Coping with Autistic Burnout
Coping with autistic burnout involves a multifaceted approach that both addresses the immediate challenges faced by autistic adults in burnout and strives to prevent its recurrence. Insights from autistic individuals highlight effective coping strategies, including the crucial aspects of acceptance and access to social support. This involves acknowledging one's neurodivergent identity and seeking support from friends, family, and the autistic community, with peer support offering a safe space for sharing experiences and coping strategies. Additionally, attending to autistic needs through self-awareness, recognizing sensory sensitivities, triggers, and emotional requirements, plays a pivotal role in better self-care and the prevention of burnout escalation. Moreover, the process of unmasking, shedding the facade often adopted to fit into neurotypical society, can reduce the strain of masking, a common contributor to burnout. Lastly, advocating for reasonable accommodations tailored to the specific needs of autistic individuals, such as flexible work schedules or sensory-friendly environments, is crucial in ensuring a more supportive and inclusive environment.
The Shutdown AnalogyTo better understand the experience of a shutdown during burnout, think of it as a computer struggling to power up due to insufficient energy. In a shutdown, an autistic person may appear disconnected or unresponsive because their cognitive and emotional resources are overwhelmed, and they are redirecting their focus to basic survival functions.
Autistic burnout is real, and a challenging aspect of life for many neurodivergent individuals. However, with awareness, acceptance, and proactive strategies, it is possible to navigate and mitigate its impact. WeBearish, a nonprofit committed to supporting autism initiatives, encourages you to spread awareness, provide support, and foster a more inclusive world for all, regardless of neurodiversity. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those facing autistic burnout.