Toolkit

Autistic Burnout Toolkit

Sylvère Moulanier
The term ‘autistic burnout’ refers to a condition many have experienced when facing prolonged periods of stress. A person may experience long-term exhaustion (3+ months), loss of function, and reduced tolerance to things in their environment. In this toolkit, autistic self-advocate and author Sylvère Moulanier describes the causes of autistic burnout, how to tell if you are experiencing burnout, and provides tips and strategies to support yourself and work towards feeling better. While this toolkit is written for autistic individuals, it can also be useful for those seeking to support their loved ones who are struggling with autistic burnout.

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What is Autistic Burnout?

The term ‘autistic burnout’ is an expression used mainly by autistic people to refer to a condition many have experienced when facing prolonged periods of stress.  

When most people hear the term ‘burnout’, they think of occupational or professional burnout. People experiencing professional burnout describe feeling exhausted and a lack of energy that results in a lack of efficiency and increased struggle in their work, school or other daily activities. Many describe being ‘overworked’ and may feel negative towards their job. Over time they may experience negative health and/or mental health outcomes as a result of the prolonged exhaustion and stress.  

There is currently no official definition for autistic burnout and it is not recognized as a medical condition by medical professionals. Nonetheless, this phenomenon is something that many autistic adults have described and it is gaining more attention from scientists. 

Dr. Dora M. Raymaker is a world leader in the field of autistic burnout. She and her colleagues interviewed autistic individuals who had experience with this condition and came up with the following definition:  

“Autistic burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic life stress and a mismatch of expectations and abilities without adequate supports. It is characterized by pervasive, long-term (typically 3+ months) exhaustion, loss of function, and reduced tolerance to stimulus[1].” 

It is important to note that autistic burnout can happen at any age, but it usually occurs at major transition points in life, such as at puberty or young adulthood. Any period in which a person experiences lots of changes or stress can prompt an episode of autistic burnout. 

Autistic burnout may also be more likely to occur in individuals who have multiple diagnoses, also known as co-morbidities[2]. Some commonly associated co-morbidities in autism include generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, epilepsy, GI issues, and depression[2-4]. It is possible that having multiple diagnoses may be a risk factor for autistic burnout, possibly because they are already having to manage multiple challenges at once[5]. For instance, autistic individuals who also struggle with anxiety disorders or depression may be more susceptible to periods of autistic burnout. 

In this toolkit, we will: 

  1. Describe situations and factors that can lead to autistic burnout

  2. Provide ways a person can tell if they may be experiencing, or at risk of, burnout

  3. Suggest changes a person can make to prevent burnout and/or come out of burnout once it has started. 

 

How is autistic burnout different from occupational burnout?

Occupational burnout is said to be mainly triggered by chronic stress in the workplace. Autistic burnout seems to be triggered by a combination of issues in a variety of settings and is not just related to work. It is often accompanied by a loss of skills and a reduction of executive functioning skills.

One key element often cited by autistic people experiencing autistic burnout is difficulty to deal with sensory overload, despite once being able to cope with such sensory differences. Additionally, many describe intense physical, mental, and/or emotional exhaustion[1]. Many autistic people say autistic burnout results mainly from the cumulative effect of having to navigate a world that is designed for "neurotypical" people[1]. 

 

These issues can lead to sleep troubles, anxiety, and more troubling sensitivity to one’s surroundings. While getting more rest can help, a person experiencing burnout may be unable to get the rest they need. Over time, sensory overload and other stressors can accumulate, and cause physical exhaustion and mental shutdown.

Reduction or even complete loss of executive functioning abilities is often the first thing to appear in work or personal environments. An example of the loss of these skills is if a person who was able to manage projects or tasks that have multiple steps struggles to know where to begin when a similar project is given to them. This is often accompanied by the loss of interest in other things, including what used to be the autistic person’s preferred interest or activity. This goes beyond the workplace and/or school, and can impact all aspects of one’s life. For instance, if a person who used to make shopping lists and plan meals for the week feels overwhelmed and can no longer do so.

How is autistic burnout different from depression? 

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, and can interfere with one’s daily functioning. Though there may be a fine line between autistic burnout and depression, there are some important differences. An autistic person may recover more quickly if they know their challenges are caused by autistic burnout rather than assuming their difficulties are being caused solely by depression.   

During a depressive episode, a person may feel stuck in their sadness or feel numb and lose interest in their hobbies. When a person is experiencing autistic burnout, however, they may not feel sadness at all and may lose abilities that they once had (e.g. may lose the ability to speak). It is not a loss of motivation to do things, but rather a loss of ability. 

Differences in treatment

Depression is usually treated with a combination of medication and individual or group therapy. When treating autistic burnout, however, it is important to tackle factors related to autism and life stresses in addition to trying to address anything that may be related to depression. Many people experiencing autistic burnout require an adapted environment before they can improve.

As such, a first step is for autistic people to remove themselves from the situation that has triggered the burnout. This can be done by themselves or with the help of family, friends or healthcare professionals. Then they can assess which factors are contributing to their burnout. Skipping this step may prevent or impede complete resolution of the matter.

Any treatment will have to include education and awareness of what triggers the autistic burnout, and learning the early warning signs to get appropriate environment adaptation. Once those elements are assessed and dealt with, a more "standard" approach can be initiated with better chances of success.

What can cause Autistic Burnout?

As previously described, autistic burnout is caused by a combination of factors. Below is a list of commonly-cited reasons for autistic burnout, each of which will be described in detail later in this toolkit.

  • "Camouflaging"/masking autistic traits excessively 

     

  • Sensory processing differences (e.g. sensory sensitivity, overload, etc.)

  • Lack of proper sleep for extended periods of time

  • Physical/medical concerns (e.g. headaches, GI issues, etc.)

  • Social interactions that happen too frequently

  • Repeated or prolonged social and/or workplace conflicts or extreme stress

  • Lack of support/recognition of struggles from family, friends, coworkers, etc.

  • Unrealistic expectations in work, social, or personal situations

  • Lack of consideration, accommodations, and/or breaks from stressful situations

  • Unexpected or rapid changes in one’s environment

When one or more of these triggers occur too often over a short period of time, a manageable situation can quickly escalate to a crisis.

Camouflaging 

"Camouflaging" is a term that describes the hiding or ‘masking’ of autistic traits in order to appear more neurotypical to others. Autistic people are often under pressure to conform to societal norms. Many have developed their own ways to appear non-autistic via "camouflaging" that can help them to go somewhat unnoticed. Unfortunately, excessive camouflaging can require a great deal of energy and stress, which is why it is one of the most cited reasons for autistic burnout[6].

Masking autism traits can take many forms. Masking could be pretending to be okay when you are struggling to look neurotypical. For instance, a person may pretend that they are not bothered by a noise or by being in a crowd despite feeling overwhelmed and distressed. Another example of camouflaging is when someone stifles their self-soothing behaviours to avoid negative reactions from others. For instance, a self-soothing behaviour or “stim” that many autistic individuals find helpful is rocking back and forth. This action can bring comfort in stressful situations, but an autistic person may not allow themselves to rock because they do not want anyone to notice or make comments about them. 

An important aspect of the relationship between camouflaging and burnout is that it isn’t a single action or situation that leads to burnout, but rather a ‘cumulative load’[1]. When one has to constantly exert effort to mask their autistic traits, they are spending energy just to supress natural instincts/behaviours. This personal work and suppression of oneself is like a cost that adds up and over time, and can wear the person down. It is believed that this is why autistic people who regularly camouflage can experience a sudden "crash" and enter a period of autistic burnout[6]. 

Sensory processing differences 

Autistic individuals often describe problems with experiencing sensory overload or, in other words, become overwhelmed by the sensory experiences around them. Over the lifespan, autistic people usually learn how to cope with their challenges from sensory overload. 

It is important to note, though, that these sensory experiences can be magnified when there are changes in routine or unexpected challenges at work, school or home. Therefore, a person may have learned how to manage their sensory reactions in certain situations, but those strategies may no longer work due to excessive stress.

According to many autistic individuals, common sources of sensory overload include loud noise, blinking/flickering lights, being in crowded places, and being around intense smells. A person typically may be able to handle a loud, crowded bus ride home from work, but if there is an unexpected change in the bus route, the bus may become unbearable for the individual. As another example, a person may be able to work despite having trouble focusing when there are florescent lights above their desk. But if there is a conflict at work, the autistic individual may no longer be able to manage the flickering light and in turn, may be unable to focus. If these overwhelming sensory experiences happen for a prolonged period of time, the coping strategies that once worked may no longer be helpful. Over time, this may contribute to autistic burnout. 

When dealing with extreme fatigue, an evaluation of overall sensory issues can help find what may be specifically causing the overload. Once the sensory issues are identified, it can be possible to change the environment or develop strategies to prevent the sensory experience from contributing to autistic burnout. For more information about sensory issues and strategies to try at home, please see our Sensory Processing Differences Toolkit (insert link here).

Difficulties sleeping

All of us function better when we have a good night’s sleep. It is easier to problem solve, control our emotional reactions, and focus on a particular task when we are well-rested.

For a large number of autistic children and adults, sleep does not come easily[2]. Though some of these difficulties may be related to stress and anxiety, an increasing amount of studies show that those problems may be caused by dysregulated circadian rhythms or the body’s natural, internal sleep-wake cycle[2]. 

Trying to function on too little sleep makes it hard to manage responses to daily stress. If a person experiences insufficient rest for prolonged periods of time, they will likely have a hard time focusing on important tasks or controlling their responses in certain situations. For autistic individuals who may already struggle with getting enough sleep, additional periods of higher anxiety can make it that much more difficult to sleep[7]. This struggle can lead to much greater difficulty dealing with challenges in their day-to-day lives. It is believed that this may, at least in part, be why some autistic people who are experiencing burnout, say that all they can do is sleep – seemingly they have missed out on way too much of it for such a prolonged period of time!

One of the most important things you can do to prevent autistic burnout is to develop healthy sleep habits. We have developed some resources to help promote better sleep: (links to sleep toolkit and sleep video) 

Physical/medical concerns

When we don’t feel our best, it is hard to handle life’s daily stresses. Autistic individuals are more likely to suffer from certain medical conditions than the general population. For instance, gastrointestinal (GI) problems are extremely common in autistic children and adults[2]. There is also some evidence that autoimmune and/or inflammatory issues are more common in autism[2]. Regular headaches and migraines are also associated with autism[8]. Regardless of the physical issue, when we don’t feel well, it is hard to cope with life’s daily struggles.

One of the more challenging aspects of health concerns related to autism is that many autistic individuals struggle with interoception—the sensory system that allows us to identify what is happening within your own body[9]. Some people have a hard time noticing when their stomach is upset, if they have to use the washroom, or when their heart is pounding loudly. If someone is unable to tell when their body is tense or if their stomach is ‘in knots’, that individual may not recognize when they are about to be sick or when a rest or break is needed. 

Autistic burnout can occur after the onset of a new physical health issue[1]. This can include hormonal changes (e.g., medical treatment, puberty, menopause), sudden loss of physical capacities (e.g., accident, injuries), and the aging process in general. Once the medical issue is addressed, it can be easier for the individual to build strategies for dealing with any other stressors contributing to the burnout. 

Taking time to focus on the sensations in one’s body and keeping notes of symptoms experienced, can be helpful. Sharing these observations with you doctor can help identify patterns and may speed up a diagnosis which in turn, can help in getting supports.

Excessive demands for social interactions 

Interacting with others requires energy. We have to listen to one or more people, interpret what they are saying, plan our response, and then deliver our response in an appropriate way (and then very often, repeat this cycle). If the social interaction takes place in a crowded environment, autistic people may have to spend much more energy than others to block out other conversation and distractions, making it difficult to focus on the person with whom they are speaking. 

If many people are interacting at once (e.g. playing a game, working in a busy office setting), it can be very difficult to balance our understanding of the group dynamic with our responses. Doing this for a prolonged period of time can be exhausting, and many people need to ‘recharge’ after social interactions.

Autistic individuals often point out that they experience a much slower recovery from exhaustion that is generated by social interactions at work[10]. This fatigue can accumulate and make it more and more difficult to recover day after day. When people are expected to have many social interactions within a short period of time and without opportunity to ‘recharge’, they can feel overwhelmed. Also, if someone constantly has social and other demands that they have to live up to, they can eventually feel overwhelmed and resentful of others encroaching on their personal time. This can lead to irritability, frustration and what is seen by others as inappropriate outbursts or responses. 

Over time, these social interactions can be so exhausting that some autistic people lose skills, like the ability to maintain a conversation, simply because they are exhausted and no longer have enough energy to complete this task or process of engagement.

Social and/or workplace conflict

As described above, social interactions require energy. But when those interactions become conflictual or negative, the amount of energy required to manage these situations increases dramatically. Arguments, hurt feelings, and awkward interactions are not only overwhelming in the moment, but can ‘stick’ with us for long periods of time. Many autistic individuals describe replaying conflicts in their head over and over[11]. There are four major reasons people replay events in their heads: 

  1. To try and identify what caused the conflict (What went wrong?)

  2. To think about what would have been a better response (What should I have done instead?)

  3. To imagine what the fallout of this conflict may be (What happens next?)

  4. If the event was traumatic or similar to a previous traumatic experience, they may replay the events as part of a trauma response (e.g. flashbacks) – it can be helpful to seek the guidance of a mental health professional to address the trauma in a safe manner.

Many autistic people also have been diagnosed with a co-occurring anxiety disorder[4]. ‘Ruminating’ (thinking excessively about a difficult experience), perseverating (repeating a thought, action, or phrase after a stressful event), and rigid thinking (desiring predictability and having difficulty with unmet expectations) can be core characteristics of autism[12]. These same issues are also found in other co-occurring disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression. These issues are extremely common in anxiety disorders and can lead to problems with focusing, sleeping and eating. If an autistic person is also dealing with anxiety, then the amount of time and energy they spend worrying about conflicts, even relatively minor ones, can cause exhaustion and distress over time. This can lead to long-term health issues like headaches, upset stomach, and loss of quality sleep. 

Lack of support/recognition

When someone does not feel supported by their family, friends, employer and/or coworkers, it can be difficult for them to feel safe enough to share their struggles with them. For those that do attempt to communicate that they are feeling overwhelmed and need a break, a lack of understanding from those around them can cause problems. Repeated denial from family members, friends, co-workers or even healthcare professionals, can increase the risk for an autistic burnout episode[1, 13]. For instance, a person may feel exhausted after multiple family gatherings, and tell their parent that they don’t feel up for the next planned event. If the parent responds in an unsupportive way (e.g., “But you can’t miss that birthday party! What would people think? You have to be there!”), the autistic person is being told that they just need to push aside their discomfort and sacrifice their needs, energy and well-being, to please others. If this happens frequently enough, it can lead a person to regularly disregard their needs and the discomfort accumulates which in turn can lead to burnout. 

Unrealistic expectations

The world seems largely designed with the neurotypical population in mind. Generally, sensory experiences, work and school demands, and social expectations are oriented to the preferences and needs of people who are not on the autism spectrum. Various settings and daily practices are largely organized as if people have the same level of executive functioning, tolerance to sensory demands and stressors, emotional and physical energy, and are in good general health. When someone does not have these attributes in this assumed ‘cookie cutter’ way, that person can experience a mismatch between what is expected and what they are capable of in a given moment.

Many autistic people who have experienced burnout describe feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with expectations placed on them both by others and themselves[1]. It can be frustrating to see their neurotypical peers navigate personal and professional spaces with relative ease. Some autistic people have said that they feel like they ‘should’ be able to do the same, and when it gets to be too much, they feel like they have failed. Prolonged periods of not meeting one’s own or others’ expectations, can lead to hopelessness and may result in autistic burnout.

Lack of accommodations

When autistic individuals are not able to access the supports or rest that they need, it is possible to become overwhelmed which may eventually lead to autistic burnout. Needed support differs depending on the individual’s need and situation. For instance, accommodations at the workplace can include access to a quiet, distraction-free space to work, use of written instead of oral directions, or even the ability to work from home when possible. 

Social supports can take the form of people agreeing to meet in less crowded areas or friends being patient when an autistic person is struggling to follow or contribute to a conversation due to the distractions in their surroundings. Most importantly, having regular ‘breaks’ from expectations and demands may help to prevent or lessen autistic burnout[1]. 

Unexpected or major life changes

Change can be hard for anyone, but may be especially difficult for autistic individuals. As described at the beginning of this toolkit, periods of autistic burnout occur more frequently when there are major changes or multiple pressures in a person’s life[1, 14]. Be it a change of routine, moving to a new locale, transition in the family situation or work environment, such events that ‘on the surface’ might seem minor to most "neurotypicals" can quickly trigger a crisis for an autistic person. 

The transition between adolescence and adulthood is an especially difficult shift, with heightened risk for autistic burnout[15, 16]. Moving out on your own and getting a job within a short period of time can also increase the risk of burnout. Other common reasons for autistic burnout could include changes in housing, shifts in a job, or the ending of a relationship. During adulthood, challenges at work or in one’s personal life, interpersonal conflicts, or failure in a field where one used to thrive, can be triggers. Change in diet is also often cited as a trigger to repeated discomfort. If a person is trying to manage these changes on top of their regular day-to-day struggles, they can become overwhelmed, potentially over time escalating to burnout.

Some autistic individuals who are diagnosed as adults report experiencing burnout after receiving their diagnosis, which in itself is a transition from the ‘before I knew’ to ‘now that I know’ chapter of their lives. It can sometimes cause a ‘regression’ of skills like struggling to communicate as effectively as they once could. This may be due to a person having a name for their experiences and now experiencing intense emotions related to their diagnosis. Please see our ‘Late Diagnosis Toolkit’ (insert link) for more information.

How can you tell that it is Autistic Burnout?

There will often be a several signs prior to a period of autistic burnout. Paying attention to those "invisible" things that go unnoticed most of the time for "neurotypicals" is important. Realizing that these signs can present a huge challenge for autistic individuals is a good starting point. Autistic people often know about their own triggers, but may struggle at times to address them or perhaps remember how to deal with them. 

Below are some questions to ask yourself: 

 

  1. Do any of the possible reasons for autistic burnout described above sound familiar? Do you think any of these are happening for you right now?

  2. Are you noticing any increases in traits commonly associated with autism? For instance, are you doing more repetitive or self-soothing behaviours than is typical (e.g., rocking back and forth)? 

  3. Are you experiencing increased sensitivity to things in your sensory environment?

  4. Do you feel tired most of the time?

  5. Are you having trouble focusing on tasks at work or in school?

  6. Have you felt a loss in self-esteem? Do you feel like you are ‘not good enough’?

  7. Are you experiencing a loss of executive functioning skills (e.g., ability to plan, set goals, organize, etc.)?

  8. Are you shutting down and isolating yourself from others?

  9. Have you lost interest in activities that used to bring you joy or were soothing?

  10. Have you lost abilities that you once had (e.g. loss of speech)? 

You may notice that many of the items on this list are similar to questions that are asked of people who may be experiencing depression. As noted earlier, there is some overlap between autistic burnout and depression, but there are important differences. If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more questions on this list, you may want to consult with a mental health professional who is trained in working with autistic individuals. They can help identify the cause of distress and help determine a plan to move forward. 

How can you deal with Autistic Burnout?

Instead of thinking that the issue will go away on its own (which rarely occurs!), it is important to pay attention and help yourself or your loved one. Being compassionate and showing empathy (whether to yourself or your loved one), rather than criticizing without understanding, is important and can help. Most people find that being listened to and allowed the space to deal with their issues according to their own needs and direction (whether they are verbal or non-verbal), can help pave the way to improvement and offer a path to well-being. Minimizing demands and creating a safe space for rest and relief from stresses, over an extended period of time, is an indispensable tool for preventing one from falling into autistic burnout or to assist in recovery[1, 14]. Autistic burnout improves when a person feels supported, and is given space and time to feel less overwhelmed.

Mental health professionals can be a source of support for individuals at risk of experiencing autistic burnout. Having a therapeutic relationship with a professional with specialized training can significantly help to reduce the likelihood of burnout as well as potentially reducing the length or severity of an autistic burnout event.

If possible and relevant, taking advantage of sick leave in the workplace can improve one’s situation. With adequate support, autistic people can learn to find ways to manage their ‘energy reserve’ and eventually increase the amount of time they spend with others and get back to their normal daily activities. They can also find new ways to access resources that will help to control these situations in the future before they get out of hand.

Steps in Moving Forward

Much work and research are still needed in order to develop better awareness about, and support for, people experiencing autistic burnout. No specific treatment or specific therapy is proven to work efficiently in all cases, but with time, patience, and persistence, help can be found.

This may feel like a painfully slow process when searching for a treatment or therapy that is the best fit. But seeking help is a first step toward better understanding and accessing professional and community resources. As mentioned below, if you or the individual you are supporting needs urgent help or is at risk of harm to self or others, call 911 or access the emergency department at your local hospital immediately. In such instances, accessing emergency intervention in easing the crisis is of utmost priority. 

In the following section, we focus on some potential ways to prevent autistic burnout:

Friends and Family: Awareness and support

Awareness is a key factor to prevent an autistic individual from falling into an autistic burnout. Being listened to and heard is important. Having someone that can point out potential triggers before they escalate or cause problems can be extremely helpful. Reaching out to other autistic people who have experienced burnout can help by that individual providing strategies and in turn, helping the autistic person to feel less alone[1]. Identifying ways that people can alleviate or ease pressure at home or work can help the person when they feel ‘stuck’ and don’t know how to proceed.

Amidst the importance of support, a caution for friends and family is to avoid jumping right into ‘fixing’ the problem[1]. Being patient and listening to the autistic person allows them to develop their own coping strategies and insights into what they are going through. When we move too quickly into a problem-solving mode, the autistic person may have less control over their own healing and instead may be encouraged to approach the issue with an orientation or view that the ‘helper’ has ‘the’ answer on how a given challenge is to be fixed. The "solutions" presented may be as relevant as pretending that throwing an autistic individual out of a sixth floor will help them learn how to fly! Or throwing them in the middle of the ocean will teach them how to swim! Family and friends can offer support and advice if asked, but should always start from a place of listening and compassion. Remember, no one knows more about what is happening internally than the person experiencing autistic burnout! 

If there are concerns about self-harm or suicide, it is important to consult with a mental health professional or seek emergency services right away in order to find needed resources or supports.

Housing

Stable housing plays a huge role in the stability of autistic people and the prevention of autistic burnout. Changes in habits or daily life and relocating are major factors in triggering anxiety and potential autistic burnout[1, 16]. To prevent burnout if facing a move, prepare for housing transitions long in advance. Talking, training in relevant areas of life skills, and rehearsing beforehand what it will look like in the new location, can help greatly in preventing feelings of being overwhelmed. Remember, a calm, familiar, and secure environment is key to long term emotional stability.

How to get help

Autistic people often struggle just to realize they are leaning towards autistic burnout. 

Just like "neurotypicals", they may have a hard time to see the roadblocks preventing them from keeping on the path they’re used to; particularly, when they additionally face complex challenges in life.

Yet getting the help one needs when they need it, is critically important! This means having access to effective support through family and friends, if available. But as autistic people and their carers get older, help may be needed from community resources and healthcare professionals. Needed services include assessment and care for urgent or ongoing needs.

Finally, finding effective support will likely help to reduce the likelihood of, and length of, an autistic burnout episode. In creating a life of quality on one’s own terms, supports and positive engagement in the community are so important!  An autistic individual who begins to experience or display the first signs of autistic burnout is advised to seek help and support immediately. Don’t let the struggles fester… there is help! 

Below are references and resources that may be helpful as you move forward. 

Resources

*Many of the resources listed below are for particular regions in Canada. If you are interested in finding support groups or access to professionals who can help, please check the ‘LOCATE’ function on our website to look for resources in your area.

 

Autism BC 

autismbc.ca 

 

Autism Edmonton 

autismedmonton.org 

 

 

Autism Nova Scotia 

autismnovascotia.ca 

 

Autism Ontario 

autismontario.com 

 

Autism Yukon 

autismyukon.org 

 

Miriam Foundation 

miriamfoundation.ca 

 

Autism Alberta's Alliance 

https://autismalberta.ca/alliance 

 

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 

http://www.camh.ca/en/suicide-prevention 

 

Children's Autism Services of Edmonton 

https://childrensautism.ca 

 

Asperger amitié 

https://www.asperger-amitie.com 

 

Autism Housing Network 

http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org/independent-apartment-communities-what-are-they-and-why-do-they-matter 

 

Autism Society Alberta 

https://autismalberta.ca 

 

Centre for Autism Services Alberta 

https://centreforautism.ab.ca 

 

Sinneave Foundation 

https://sinneavefoundation.org 

 

Autisme Montreal 

https://autisme-montreal.com/en 

 

 

Additional reading 

 

Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE)  

aaspire.org 

https://aaspire.org/projects/pilot-study-on-autistic-burnout-and-suicidal-behavior 

Dora Raymaker;  http://doraraymaker.com 

 

Kieran Rose; Autistic Self-advocate 

www.theautisticadvocate.com 

https://www.youtube.com/c/KieranRoseTheAutisticAdvocate/videos 

 

Related articles by SPECTRUM Autism Research News 

https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/autistic-burnout-explained/ 

https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/autism-may-disrupt-bodys-circadian-clock 

 

Autistic Burnout - Causes and Prevention by Gavin Bollard 

http://ceril.net/index.php/articulos?id=777 

 

Ellis, H. Network Autism, Autism fatigue and burnout (2019) 

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/mental-health/autistic-fatigue 

 

Depressed mood in autism - Dr Kaite Gotham 

Kennedy Krieger Institute 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2my_yYD7alE 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Katherine_Gotham 

 

Psychiatry Advisor 

Depression With Autism: Effective Diagnosis and Treatmenthttps://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/depression-advisor/depression-with-autism-effective-diagnosis-and-treatment 

 

Psychology Today; Erin Bulluss, Ph.D., and Abby Sesterka  

Doing more is doing less - Reducing autistic burnout 

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/contributors/erin-bulluss-phd-and-abby-sesterka) 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/insights-about-autism/202010/doing-more-doing-less-reducing-autistic-burnout 

 

Autistic fatigue - a guide for autistic adults - National Autistic Society (England) 

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/mental-health/autistic-fatigue/autistic-adults 

 

Autism UK; Advice and guidance - Autistic fatigue; we are learning from the experiences of autistic adults.  

https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/mental-health/autistic-fatigue/professionals 

 

GoodTherapy 

Autism burnout; often a misunderstood element of autism 

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/autistic-burnout-an-often-misunderstood-element-of-autism-080620197 

 

Aspergers from the Inside 

How to avoid autistic burnout (Is it even possible?!) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9mI0NISBQI 

Depression vs Burnout in Autism - How To Tell The Difference 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HE-Q3jMJ38 

 

Katie MiA / Aghogday;  self advocate 

(Views From the Autism Spectrum and Beyond) 

https://katiemiaaghogday.blogspot.com/2013/04/burnout-on-autism-spectrum.html 

 

Amythest Schaber;  self advocate 

Ask an autistic/neurowonderful 

Ask an Autistic #3 - What is Autistic Burnout? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZwfujkNBGk 

 

Toudal, M. Network Autism,Energy accounting: an interview with Maja Toudal (2017) 

https://vimeo.com/213640278 

 

Purple Ella, self advocate 

Autistic Burnout 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUSUGHWcKt4 

 

Living autism - Ronnie Pinder; self-advocate 

https://livingautism.com/autistic-fatigue 

 

IndieAndy - Andy, UK, self-advocate 

Autism Shutdown Vs Autism Burnout - What's The Difference 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdgKacBozh0 

 

Undercover Autie 

Autistic Fatigue and Exhaustion 

https://www.undercoverautie.com/blog/2018/2/1/autistic-fatigue-and-exhaustion 

 

Dépression et antidépresseurs : mon expérience. Julie Dachez 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVU4veQ5IXcResources 

 

Glossary:

Co-morbidities: Conditions in addition to autism (e.g. ADHD, anxiety disorders, etc.). Co-morbidities can “mask” and/or amplify autistic traits and challenges.  

Executive functioning: Capacity to physically and mentally accomplish a task or set of tasks and/or to carry out activities such as planning, setting goals or organizing daily activities. 

Neurodivergent/Neuro-atypical: Refers to individuals who are diagnosed with a neuro-developmental and/or mental disorder such as autism, bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc. 

Neurotypical: Refers to individuals who do not have a neuro-developmental and/or mental disorder such as autism, bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc. 

Sensory over-sensitivity: Senses are amplified in an autistic individual to the point where what is typically experienced as a normal, bearable excitation of senses by a "neurotypical" individual, like a rub of one’s arm with the palm of a hand, or a neon light switched on, can be experienced as unbearable. This can trigger strong reactions or shutdowns.

Shutdown: When a person is so overwhelmed that it generates prolonged withdrawal or an incapacity to respond to others, resulting in an inability to go about usual daily activities.

References  

 

1. Raymaker, D.M., et al., “Having All of Your Internal Resources Exhausted Beyond Measure and Being Left with No Clean-Up Crew”: Defining Autistic Burnout. Autism in Adulthood, 2020. 2(2): p. 132-143. 

2. Bauman, M.L., Medical comorbidities in autism: challenges to diagnosis and treatment. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 2010. 7(3): p. 320-327. 

3. Frye, R.E. and D.A. Rossignol, Identification and Treatment of Pathophysiological Comorbidities of Autism Spectrum Disorder to Achieve Optimal Outcomes. Clinical medicine insights. Pediatrics, 2016. 10: p. 43-56. 

4. Matson, J.L. and P.E. Cervantes, Commonly studied comorbid psychopathologies among persons with autism spectrum disorder. Research in developmental disabilities, 2014. 35(5): p. 952-962. 

5. Cage, E. and Z. Troxell-Whitman, Understanding the reasons, contexts and costs of camouflaging for autistic adults. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2019. 49(5): p. 1899-1911. 

6. Livingston, L.A., P. Shah, and F. Happé, Compensatory strategies below the behavioural surface in autism: a qualitative study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2019. 6(9): p. 766-777. 

7. Mazurek, M.O. and G.F. Petroski, Sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorder: examining the contributions of sensory over-responsivity and anxiety. Sleep medicine, 2015. 16(2): p. 270-279. 

8. Vetri, L., Autism and Migraine: An Unexplored Association? Brain Sciences, 2020. 10(9): p. 615. 

9. DuBois, D., et al., Interoception in autism spectrum disorder: A review. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 2016. 52: p. 104-111. 

10. Tierney, S., J. Burns, and E. Kilbey, Looking behind the mask: Social coping strategies of girls on the autistic spectrum. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2016. 23: p. 73-83. 

11. Hare, D.J., et al., Anxiety in Asperger’s syndrome: Assessment in real time. Autism, 2015. 19(5): p. 542-552. 

12. Ibrahim, K., et al., Anger Rumination is Associated with Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 2019. 49(9): p. 3656-3668. 

13. Camm-Crosbie, L., et al., ‘People like me don’t get support’: Autistic adults’ experiences of support and treatment for mental health difficulties, self-injury and suicidality. Autism, 2019. 23(6): p. 1431-1441. 

14. Pearson, A. and K. Rose, A conceptual analysis of autistic masking: Understanding the narrative of stigma and the illusion of choice. Autism in Adulthood, 2021. 3(1): p. 52-60. 

15. Soeker, M.S., A descriptive, qualitative study of the challenges that individuals with autism spectrum disorder experience when transitioning from skills training programs into the open labor market in Cape Town, South Africa. Work, 2020(Preprint): p. 1-15. 

16. Mandy, W., et al., Easing the transition to secondary education for children with autism spectrum disorder: An evaluation of the Systemic Transition in Education Programme for Autism Spectrum Disorder (STEP-ASD). Autism, 2016. 20(5): p. 580-590. 

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash


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