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  • Amy Duffy-Barnes

Why Autistic Masking is Harmful



As an autistic person who wasn't diagnosed until later in life, I have struggled with unmasking myself or even finding my authentic self underneath the many layers of masks I was wearing. It has been a painful, liberating, and joyful process.


Masking is a term used to describe the way that some autistic people try to hide or suppress their autistic traits in order to fit in with neurotypical society. While it may seem like a harmless coping mechanism, the practice of masking can have serious consequences for the mental and physical health of autistic individuals.


One of the primary ways that masking can be harmful is by causing autistic people to feel like they have to constantly pretend to be someone they are not. This can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, leading to high levels of stress and anxiety. It can also lead to feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self-worth, as individuals may feel like they are not good enough as they are.


In addition to the psychological effects, masking can also have physical consequences. Many autistic people use coping mechanisms such as stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) to regulate their sensory experiences and emotions. When they are not allowed to engage in these behaviors or feel pressured to suppress them, it can lead to an overload of sensory input and negative physical sensations.


Furthermore, masking can prevent autistic individuals from receiving the support and accommodations that they need. If someone is able to mask their autistic traits effectively, they may not be seen as needing any special support. This can lead to difficulties in school, work, and other areas of life where accommodations may be necessary.


It is important to recognize that neurodiversity is a strength and that there is value in all forms of neurocognitive differences. Instead of asking autistic people to mask their true selves, we should be working to create a more inclusive and accepting society that allows everyone to be their authentic selves. This includes supporting autistic individuals in finding ways to communicate and interact with the world that works best for them, rather than trying to fit them into a mold that is not suited to their needs.


In conclusion, masking can be harmful to the mental and physical health of autistic people. It is important to recognize the value of neurodiversity and to create a more inclusive society that allows all individuals to be their authentic selves.

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