27 Jun 2023

What are the main signs of autism masking in women?

Autism masking (also known as camouflaging) involves suppressing or controlling behaviours that are associated with people on the autism spectrum. Masking is essentially not being …

Autism masking (also known as camouflaging) involves suppressing or controlling behaviours that are associated with people on the autism spectrum.

Masking is essentially not being “yourself” to fit in with society. It can involve many things, such as suppressing intense interests, stimming, copying non-verbal behaviours and developing social mechanisms to fit into various social situations.

For girls and women with autism, they may present different traits compared with boys and men. These traits often go unnoticed or are interpreted differently by society. Women who have autism may be able to mask their traits, but the effort to blend in could cause them to get overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.

For example, an autistic girl could be interpreted as shy or quiet, but still be part of a friendship group at school. Being introverted can often be seen as a more feminine trait, which can be brushed off as normal behaviour. This can make it difficult for a parent or teacher to know if they have autism or not.

Spotting the signs of autism in women can make it easier to determine if they have the condition. This article looks at the main signs of masking within women.

Examples of masking in autistic women

It’s worth noting that every woman and girl with autism has their own individual experiences and unique personalities. If you suspect you might have autism, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to camouflaging.

Here’s some of the main signs when it comes to autism masking with women:

Rehearsing social situations

Women on the autism spectrum may mask themselves by rehearsing themselves in social situations. For example, they may practise their social behaviour by reducing their fidgeting and correcting their posture to fit in better. 

Alongside that, they may also adopt rehearsed catchphrases, such as “good grief”, “interesting” or “that’s amazing”. By doing this, they can hold and continue conversations with people around them. 

This can compensate for struggles with non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions, body language and practising different reactions, which may lead others to think that they’re uninterested.

Hide or minimise their special interests

Women with autism often have their own intense special interests. However, to fit in with their friends, they might feel like they need to minimise or hide their own interests and try to pursue the same interests as their friends.

Forced eye contact

Making eye contact can be uncomfortable for both men and women with ASD and it may be particularly difficult for women who struggle with social communication. 

Women with autism might force themselves to make eye contact in one-to-one conversations in order to appear more engaged with the person they’re speaking to, even if they feel like it’s a challenge to do so. 

Bank of scripted answers to questions asked by people

As a coping mechanism, some women may develop a bank of scripted answers to answer questions. 

This allows them to have prepared responses, such as “I’m fine, thank you”, “This sounds amazing” or “It’s so nice to see you”, making it easier to navigate social situations and mask their autism in public.

Are you a woman who has ASD? Consider getting an autism assessment with The Autism Service  

Have you spent years wondering why you’ve been different to other girls and women in your life? The Autism Service offers Child ASD and Autism ASD assessments to give you a definitive answer to whether you are on the autism spectrum or not.

Our autism assessments are NICE-guideline compliant, meaning that you can get a full diagnostic assessment to find out if you are on the autism spectrum or not. We have clinics that are located all over the UK, so you can book an assessment at a location that’s accessible for you or your child.

Any questions about how we do autism assessments for you or your child? Contact our friendly team, based in our Head Office in Shrewsbury today. We’ll guide you through the process of booking, as well as finding out how an autism assessment works.

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