What is an Autistic Crash? And how can you avoid one?

Often people with autism (even if it is undiagnosed) will start to suffer from severe depression and anxiety, and perhaps panic attacks, or a nervous breakdown at some point in their life – but is this to do with the autism, or is it in fact to do with the lengths that they will go to, to appear neuro-typical, and fit in with the world around them?

One of the most common ways people with autism will try to make life easier for themselves, is to attempt to appear less autistic in public. This generally takes the form of watching what neuro-typical people do, and copying it; dressing in the same way, or talking about the same things.

After a while, they basically begin to fit in to this personality and persona – sometimes this is done because they wish to be more sociable and friendly, and simply don’t think they can if they are themselves, and other times it’s done because they do not wish to be bullied, or stand out too much from the crowd. Mostly it will start when they are in school, and by the time they are out of their teens it has become a personality that they can just pull on whenever they leave the house, to help them get through social situations more easily.

But the problem a lot of autistic people face is the sheer strain of having to pretend to be someone else when they interact with other people. Keeping the autistic parts of their personality hidden away will take all the energy they have, and when they return home after a social interaction, they will be completely drained – often having outbursts or meltdowns.

As this strain continues to build it can cause all sorts of issues such as the ones listed above, with depression being the most common. The easiest way for people to avoid these issues is very simple – they should follow the advice that every neuro-typical child is encouraged to follow, and be themselves.

Yes, this might not always be easy, but it is the same as somebody keeping their sexuality bottled up – hiding who they really are, and not allowing anybody to see will only put further pressure on them. Also, none of their friends will really know them for who they are. Most people agree that it is better to have a smaller circle of friends who love and respect them for who they are, than a large group of friends who think their made-up personality is fun.

The reality is that for people living with autism, life might not always be easy. But everybody who has spoken about putting on a fake persona, and using that to ease their difficulties, has also said how much of a strain this puts on their lives.  In the long-run it causes many problems because it is not solving any of the autistic persons issues, it is simply glossing over them for the sake of the neuro-typical people around them.

Editor’s Note: Recent research validates that  individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are at a higher risk for depression and suicidal ideation. How much “pretending” to be neurotypical could have an impact remains unclear. For a further discussion visit this article here.

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  • Kurt says:

    I can totally relate to this article All my life, in the few times that I have had friends, I’ve felt like I had to keep them separate. I don’t want a friend from work to meet a friend from home and I truly believe it is because I would be conflicted on which one emulate. If friend A knew me one way and all of a sudden I acted another way when friend B was around, my cover would be blown. Thanks for validating my feelings about this.

  • I really feel this, on many levels. Thank you.

  • Doug Mayes says:

    I’ve noticed a pattern to my depression and stuttering. When I start to enter one of these cycles then I just ride out the storm by avoidance. It may last months but eventually things return to normal.

  • Alison says:

    I used to suffer through this cycle, but after becoming suicidal, I finally figured out how to embrace who I am. I love who I am, flaws and all. I’ve chosen few or no friends over the exhausting struggle to fit in. I’d rather be happy alone, than miserable in company.

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