Autism Masking: What It Is & Why People Do It

Autism Masking: What It Is & Why People Do It

Imagine constantly hiding your true self and considering every action when interacting with others. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, that is an everyday reality for many autistic people. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by differences in social communication and behaviour. People with autism may have challenges with social interaction and may display repetitive behaviours or intense interests. To tackle these challenges, they tend to pretend or mask their identity, which is masking. In this blog, we will learn more about autism masking, its reasons, and its effects.

What Is Autism Masking?

Autism Masking, also known as camouflaging, is a social survival strategy for people with autism. This strategy enables them to navigate social interactions. Essentially, masking involves mimicking neurotypical behaviours and concealing aspects of one's identity that might face societal judgement. For instance, an autistic person might avoid discussing a particular interest due to fear of harsh judgement. 

Reasons For Autism Masking

  • Avoiding Discrimination
  • Avoiding discrimination is a primary motivation for individuals to engage in masking behaviours. Unfortunately, autism continues to carry a significant stigma, subjecting autistic individuals to the daily consequences of societal ignorance. To sidestep mistreatment or judgement, many adopt masking strategies, concealing their authentic selves during social interactions.

  • Wanting To 'Fit In'
  • The urge to "fit in" is another reason people resort to masking. Societal norms often favour neurotypical behaviours. This preference can pose challenges for neurodivergent individuals, including those with autism, as they navigate social situations. By mimicking socially accepted behaviours, they aim to blend in and avoid drawing unwanted attention.

  • Wanting To Make Friends
  • The desire to make friends is a common aspiration among autistic individuals. However, making friends involves following social patterns that heavily favour neurotypical people. Neurodivergent individuals, including those with autism, often find these strict social rules challenging, as they don't come naturally to them.

  • Seeking Better Employment Opportunities
  • In search of better employment opportunities, autistic individuals frequently encounter bias and discrimination during job searches. To secure job opportunities for which they are highly qualified, individuals may resort to masking to mitigate the bias that could otherwise hinder their chances of landing the position.

    Effects Of Autism Masking

    Let's look at some of the negative effects of autism masking –

  • Loss Of Identity
  • A study revealed that masking contributes to a profound disconnection from one's true self. Individuals engaging in masking often feel that those around them are not acquainted with their authentic selves. This not only hinders self-discovery but also poses a threat to their sense of identity. A participant in the same study aptly encapsulated the essence of masking for autistic individuals with the phrase, "Life is masking, masking is life."

  • Exhaustion & burnout
  • Participants in the study also disclosed experiencing profound exhaustion and burnout, impacting both their physical and mental well-being. The toll of masking extends to harmful coping mechanisms, including restricted eating. Additionally, masking was linked to heightened feelings of suicidality among autistic individuals. 

    Delayed Diagnosis

    Masking poses a risk of delayed autism diagnosis for individuals. Experts note that societal expectations may intensify the pressure to engage in masking behaviours, especially for women. Since external behaviours play a crucial role in autism diagnosis, prolonged masking can lead to the condition going undetected for extended periods. This delay may hinder individuals from accessing the necessary help and support.

    Poor Mental Health

    Research indicates that masking is associated with poor mental health outcomes. The act of masking has been correlated with heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

    Autism Masking: Symptoms & Coping Strategies

    Recognising what autism masking looks like is key to providing support. Watch out for behaviour changes, such as excessive conformity to societal norms, avoiding discussing personal interests, or adopting neurotypical mannerisms.

    Coping with autism requires acknowledging challenges and creating a supportive environment. Facilitating authentic self-expression is essential for reducing the need for masking. Encourage open communication, establish safe spaces, and promote acceptance.


    The pressure for autistic individuals to "fit in" is challenging and takes a toll on their health. Masking highlights the urgent need for better autism awareness in all aspects of life. To achieve fair inclusion and destigmatisation, understanding autism must extend to education, workplaces, and social settings.

    As parents, if you notice your child masking, it's important to address the issue. Have an open conversation to understand why they feel the need to mask. Identify specific situations causing this desire and work together to find alternative behaviours that support your child's individuality without causing distress.

    One helpful strategy to support individuals with autism is to provide natural help, especially in childhood. Products like Nurosmart Syrup by Nisarga Herbs can support a child's cognitive health. With a blend of natural ingredients, this Ayurvedic brain tonic helps reduce hyperactivity and improve concentration. Nurosmart Syrup offers a gentle and side-effect-free solution for better brain development, ideal for hyperactive kids and those with attention and memory issues. You can check out Nisarga Herbs' website to explore more similar products. 

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    Dr. Arati Soman

    Dr. Arati Soman is a seasoned Ayurvedic physician and Head Formulator at Nisarga Herbs. Driven by a deep passion for Ayurveda and vast expertise, she has been instrumental in formulating medicines, diagnostic procedures, and innovative Ayurvedic treatments that are trusted globally.