Why Do Autistic People Mask? On The Outside Looking In

brown man face figurine

I don’t understand it

I am autistic, and people think I’m weird for not looking like it on the outside. In fact, I have been diagnosed with high-functioning Autistic Savant syndrome with co-morbid ADHD and OCPD. But what they never realized is that without me masking all my symptoms, these socially-inept individuals wouldn’t be able to make friends because of how awkward they are with personal space and social cues – nor would the world know about their existence! And then where would we be? Society would crumble around us. So, I guess you could say that without me masking my symptoms all the time, these socially-inept “normies” wouldn’t exist. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…

greyscale photo of masks on a stick
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

   A huge part of why autistic people mask their symptoms is so they can function in society. When you mask your symptoms, it allows you to have the opportunity to interact with others throughout the day. This is important for two reasons: 1) so you can spend time with people who are important to you and 2) so other people see how capable autistic individuals are of living on their own or being productive members of society.

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            Another reason why autistic individuals mask their symptoms is because they don’t want anyone to know that they have autism. Even if an individual knows about his/her diagnosis, he/she still might choose not to let others know about it – especially if he/she has already experienced negative interactions due to his/her autism. People may judge an based on stereotypes that are associated with autism, and the autistic person may not want to be judged in this way.

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            Many people who are diagnosed with autism choose not to tell anyone about their diagnosis because they feel ashamed or guilty for having something that makes them ‘different’ from other people. They may fear that when people find out about their autism, they won’t like them anymore. The individual might also worry that once he/she tells someone about his/her autism, the other person will change how he/she interacts with him/her if he/she knows that they have autism. This is common when an autistic person is in a relationship with another person. The non-autistic partner may feel threatened by the fact that his/her partner has something “wrong” with him/her, and he/she may try to distance or “fix” his/her partner by rejecting the autistic person’s diagnosis.

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            Many autistic individuals also mask their symptoms because they want to make others comfortable. They may be afraid that if people know about their autism, they will think less of them- which is often the case at school or in a work setting. In these situations, it can feel safer for an autistic child or adult to pretend that he/she doesn’t have any problems at all – even when this isn’t true.

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            There are many reasons why autistic individuals choose not to let others know about their autism diagnosis. Whether or not someone chooses to share his/her diagnosis is a very personal decision that should be respected by others. It’s important to remember that autistic individuals are just like everyone else – they have their own unique personalities, and they shouldn’t be defined by their autism. Autistic individuals are capable of doing great things, and they should be praised for their accomplishments – regardless of whether or not they choose to disclose their diagnosis.

There you have it

            So, the next time you see an autistic individual who seems to be “messing” with his/her symptoms, remember that there is a good chance he/she is doing it for a reason. There is no right or wrong way to deal with autism, and every person copes with it in his/her own way. Just because an autistic person chooses to mask his/her symptoms, doesn’t mean he/she is any less capable or valuable than anyone else. We should all strive to be accepting and understanding of autistic individuals, no matter what they choose to do with their diagnosis.

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