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Autistic Burnout: Symptoms, Causes & Recovery

By Aayushi Bagga

Autistic burnout is a syndrome faced by people who have autism. Autistic burnout occurs due to long-term stress and physical and mental exhaustion. While trying to cope with this, an autistic person might be unable to carry out his daily activities as before. It might so happen that the individual might start losing skills.

While this condition is not yet listed under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), thus the term is not widely used. But there has been a lot of research that claims it is an actual situation. Recent studies broadly list the following symptoms that define autistic burnout:

  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Losing skills
  • Reduced tolerance for stimuli

Signs and Symptoms of Autistic Burnout

Knowing that burnout can impair an individual’s daily activities is essential. The symptoms of autistic burnout vary from person to person. One can always look out for signs to know if someone you know is going through it:

  • Difficulties in starting/completing tasks
  • Difficulties in decision-making skills
  • Problems in carrying out activities of daily living like cooking, cleaning, poor self-care
  • Issues in speech and communication
  • Difficulties in social interactions leading to exhaustion
  • Problems in maintaining eye contact
  • An increased urge for stimming (making repetitive movements or verbalizations)
  • Difficulties in emotional and self-regulation
  • Require alone time to regain energy
  • Difficulties in memory
  • Disturbed sleep patterns

Why does autistic burnout occur?

There are many reasons, some of which are:

1) Camouflaging or masking - It involves hiding their autistic traits and behaviours. For instance, they force themselves to make small talk, trying to maintain eye contact and suppressing the urge to engage in repetitive behaviours.

2) Trying to “fit in” and living up to the expectations of family and society can cause stress. It can also involve forcing themselves into uncomfortable situations like sitting in a noisy environment.

3) Significant life changes or trauma can cause stress, like changes in school, graduating from high school to work, death of a loved one etc.

These stressors can overwhelm an individual with autism and can trigger burnout. Therefore, it is vital to have support from family and loved ones so that they can overcome this phase.

What to do when experiencing burnout?

Keep in mind that this burnout is only temporary, and it will pass once you get the required rest and recharge yourself. Social situations can be draining. Thus it is essential to plan out recovery periods.

It is also understandable that if you are working or are a student, there are some obligations that need your attention. Thus some of the following tips can be adopted to make sure that both work and recovery periods can be managed.

  • Remove yourself from the situation that triggered the burnout
  • Plan out periods of rest in between social interactions
  • At work, you can use means such as earphones, adjusting the lights, taking frequent breaks and working in a quiet place.
  • Put in a request for work from home
  • Confide in a trusted colleague for emotional support
  • Sometimes these may not be enough, so take some time away and apply for leaves. Find out what facilities your organization can offer to support you.
  • At school, seek out quiet and calm environments, like the library.
  • Connect with your school counsellor or a professor who can aid you

Ways to Prevent and Recover from Autistic Burnout

In order to prevent something that impairs you, it is crucial to gather information about it, acknowledge it and then work upon it. Thus, self-awareness in the situation is critical. Over time, people with autism can learn that certain events can lead to burnout. They can sense subtle signs as well that they are close to burnout.

When they actively look out for these signs, they will be better prepared with strategies to prevent them. Examples include leaving social situations early, planning a recovery day, etc.

1) Gaining support from loved ones: Involve yourself with those people who can understand your condition and will genuinely support you and accept you as you are so that you don’t need to mask or camouflage yourselves in front of them. You can even join communities.

2) Formal support: Talk to your organization to receive proper support like work from home, adjustments in school work deadlines etc.

3) Decrease load: Take frequent breaks, avoid too many stressful activities and keep your social interactions to your level of comfort.

4) Set boundaries and be assertive: It is important to set healthy boundaries to manage the expectations of others so that it doesn’t end up distressing you. Then, seek help when you require it.

Seek help from mental health professionals who can work with you to identify patterns of signals and behaviours of burnout. In addition, you can reach out to our experts at connected minds for more information and tips on autism and autistic burnout.


Aayushi Bagga


Aayushi is a counselling psychologist and a seasoned content writer on all things mental health. She holds a master’s degree in Counselling Psychology, and her interest lies in family and relationship counselling. Her passion for spreading mental health awareness is immeasurable.

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