New Research Says Autistic People Have To Hide Their Real Selves To Fit In

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According to a research, nearly 70% of autistic people experience various mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Sadly, we still have no idea why autistic people are at a higher risk for mental health problems than non-autistic people. But one important factor to keep in mind is whether an individual’s autism is recognized as well as accepted by people around them.

Nowadays medical professionals have become advanced at diagnosing autistic conditions, and many autistic people feel it is still not accepted as a potentially positive aspect of who they are. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition, which means that individual’s brain develops differently. This causes differences in social communication and interactions, sensory experiences and restricted interest as well. Eilidh Cage and his team surveyed 111 cognitively able autistic adults regarding their experiences on autism acceptance (related to their mental health), and the results were more inclined towards negative reaction.“Since being diagnosed I have found that mention of autism is met blankly or dismissed,” told one participant. Another explained how searching for acceptance from others is incredibly draining: “As the year’s pass, I suffer increasing anxiety for lack of even casual acceptance by my species.”

For example, think about the most crucial part of your personality. Like, I am Scottish, and its a very important part of me. Now think that whether other people are also accepting that part of you. Maybe you feel a disconnection between how much you’re accepting yourself and how much others are accepting you. If you feel like that your identity is not being accepted then, this could impact on your mental health. As human beings, we have a natural craving to be accepted and to belong.

People with autism spectrum condition, autism becomes an integral part of who they are. Which is why they prefer the term “autistic person” instead of “person with autism”.However, do other people also accept autistic people for who they are?

Research says that first impressions of autistic people tend to be the negative one.

In the survey Cage found that autistic people who felt less accepted by others showed higher symptoms of depression and stress. Lower self-acceptance is also related to higher symptoms of depression. These findings reveal that feeling accepted plays a vital role in a person’s mental health.

Another important aspect of their research was where they asked the participants to share their thoughts and experiences of autism acceptance. Their answers revealed a shocking thing that they “camouflaged” or “masked” the fact they were autistic. In other words, in certain situations they acted “neurotypical” (non-autistic). As one of the participants said: “I mask so well that I am accepted, but not for being autistic”.

Cage and his team also found that the participants who said that they camouflaged, reported higher symptoms of depression. One participant explained, “[camouflaging]is incredibly exhausting and stressful and has ultimately led to mental and physical health problems”.

Hopefully, we can imagine now how draining it is to feel like you have to constantly hide a major part of your inner self from others. The researcher has just started to learn about camouflaging in autism, and still more needs to be done to understand its influence on the autistic person’s life.

Celebrating diversity

With more research, we humans should accept autistic people for who they are, and enable them so that they can disclose the fact that they are autistic and still be accepted for this.

Cage further explains that in his past research with autistic adolescents, many of these adolescents had the desire to fit in with their peers, however, they also wanted to be accepted for who they were. But our societies should learn to celebrate diversity and enable autistic people to be themselves.

Maybe by creating a more accepting society, we can see fewer mental health difficulties in autism.

Mental health research in autism is the major research priority, and autism acceptance is just one factor among many that can become the reason for mental health difficulties in autism. However, by being more accepting and positive with these people, we can make a real difference in their lives.

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