It seems that a lot of people, whether diagnosed or thinking they might be on the spectrum, mask. However I've never heard, or read, of a concrete example of masking. That makes it very difficult for me to know whether I've ever masked or not. If I had to guess I'd say not, but at best that would be an educated guess.


  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    Masking, at least for me, are the things that I don't really do/pick up on naturally and have to force myself to do to appear "normal".

    Examples: Preventing myself from doing certain stims, consciously deciphering peoples body language via patterns I've observed, focusing on modulating my tone so I don't sound "monotone", creating and following scripts for specific social interactions, etc.

    I don't do these things naturally and have to put conscious effort into all of them. I do them specifically so I can imitate the way non-autistic people act and so I can seem normal.

  • Thanks. There's no way on earth I could do that in real time.There's far too many processes involved.That would require analyses and adjustments made in micro seconds

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    @firemonkey said:
    Thanks. There's no way on earth I could do that in real time.There's far too many processes involved.That would require analyses and adjustments made in micro seconds

    It's definitely hard to do all of that and it has a lot of drawbacks, especially since I have ADHD. Most of my focus and energy in public goes to masking so it's hard to focus on anything else.

  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen

    It's like how Hylian described for me also, but I do it only for work and rare social occasions.

    For me, pre burn out I think the state of hypervigilance sent me into overdrive on the masking front.

  • I believe masking refers to any strategy or tactic used to make us seem more socially normal, natural, and fluid than we really are. For women, the easiest one for me to fall back on is to just be quiet and avoidant in most circumstances where I'm unsure of what to do. But this can also be perceived as standoffish, cold, or unladylike in certain contexts, because the expectation of women in American culture is to be a chatty, gossipy, smiley thing.


    Here's an article you may find interesting, @firemonkey.

    I feel much the same way as ting because I'm selective mute and find refuge by falling quiet when I'm overwhelmed in a situation. I think we've all been perceived as cold or standoffish when really, we are trying our best to conserve our spoons or regulate our senses.

    I didn't learn to mask or follow gendered expectations in the ways that girls are stereotyped to do. I memorised how often to blink in conversation by watching a news reporter, but beyond that I didn't realise I could mimic my peers, or that this was expected in society to a certain degree. I think I knew that I would always stand out as being different, and I didn't develop many coping strategies other than self-isolation.

    In employment it was necessary to mask and mimic, although of course I didn't have a name for it. I just knew that the social and sensory demands far exceeded my capacity, and I had to overcompensate as a means of financial survival. Masking consisted of many behaviours that you have all mentioned, and it was extremely taxing to the point my adrenal system crashed and I was hospitalised for something akin to a nervous breakdown.

    In 2015 I had a cerebellar stroke. Damage to the cerebellum has been linked to autistic behaviour traits such as blunting of expression and loss of fine tuning, not just in physical movements but in sensory and emotional processing. Whatever mask I was able to manage prior to my stroke was suddenly removed, and I find it extremely hard to mask or fit in with groups since that time. I can no longer understand nuance or subtext, although the skills were weak to begin with.

    I hope you enjoy the article. I know these authors personally and quite enjoy their research.

  • IsabellaIsabella Citizen
    edited December 2020

    (source: EmbraceASD)

    Here's an assessment tool to assess Camouflaging Autistic Traits, called the CAT-Q.

    It looks at the areas of compensation, masking, and assimilation which are described in Martin's linked article, above.

  • Thanks for the article.

    Total score:80

    Compensation score: 19

    Masking score: 25

    Assimilation score: 36

  • IsabellaIsabella Citizen
    edited December 2020

    Thanks for replying, @firemonkey.

    I'm not much of a masker either, especially compared to other women.
    I don't and can't fake who I am.

    These are my scores. ^

    Higher scores mean more masking which they correlate with more anxiety.
    I wonder if they realise that the absence of masking skill can cause considerable anxiety as well?

    I'd also like to learn more about assimilation based on my score.

  • I think there are more reasons for being anxious than whether you mask or not. In my case a forthcoming event,especially if it's new for me, can trigger catastrophic thinking. Also there's not been much of an imperative to mask for me, as I've not socially interacted with many people.

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor
    edited December 2020

    Total: 137
    Compensation: 47
    Masking: 47
    Assimilation: 43

    I found my results for the CAT-Q test on WP. I'm not retaking and scoring that. lol

    Edit: When I took it and saw that more of these behaviours correlate with anxiety it made sense, because a good portion of my anxiety is explained by worrying about doing all these camouflaging behaviors properly and not having my actual autistic traits noticed.

  • A good deal of my social anxiety is because I know I don’t have compensatory strategies or masking skills, so it’s sink or swim for me. I can’t fake it until I make it. My stroke made this much worse because I lost what little masking ability I had developed as a professional.

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