Camouflage and Autism – a quick study

Article Title: Quantifying and exploring camouflaging in men and women with autism

Sixty participants were scaled on their internal state of autism vs their observed level of autism (that is, their inherent traits vs their chosen behaviour) to rate how the level of camouflaging (trying to appear neurotypical) affects the individual (stress, anxiety, depression etc). and if there is a sex based predictor for who camouflages better.


Autism Awareness Ribbon – source Wikipedia

An example of camouflage is someone who would normally avoid eye contact having learned to maintain appropriate eye contact, even though it is uncomfortable for them. This effort is costly and increases stress which may affect anxiety and depression.

It was found that women generally camouflage better than men, but with a lot of variability in both (so not a clear winner).

Men who camouflage well had more associated depression, while women who camouflaged well had also developed better social detectors.

Keep in mind this is a small and targeted study that as of writing this post, has yet to be repeated by others.

Observationally in my practice as a counsellor working with various neurodivergent peoples, this is fairly cromulent – matches what I have seen. I would expect that the depression noted in both, but more prevalent in men, is to do with internal identity mismatch – who am I? Why can’t I just be me? Why aren’t I valued, just my behaviours? I would be interested in a study that looks at people who are comfortable with their identity and camouflage well to see if they still have associated depression.

I’m also interested in the anxiety that may come along with not camouflaging well. This was not looked at as far as I could read in this study. Is it a thing, or just something I have noted in counselling? Does learning to camouflage make a difference?

Authors: Meng-Chuan Lai, Michael V Lombardo,
Amber NV Ruigrok, Bhismadev Chakrabarti,
Bonnie Auyeung, Peter Szatmari, Francesca Happé
and Simon Baron-Cohen; MRC AIMS Consortium

Link to article
https://journals.sagepub.com/…/abs/10.1177/1362361316671012…