Part 1: Autistic Burnout 101

Updated: 4 days ago

Autistic Burnout Guide | Part 1 | 3/12/2021

INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS AUTISTIC BURNOUT?

Understanding the characteristics of autistic burnout enables both autistic individuals pursuing or preparing to embark on careers, as well as management within organisations, to cultivate workplace optimisation and embed inclusivity. While autistic burnout does overlap with elements of everyday burnout, it is distinguished by specific features. According to researchers, the most basic criteria must be met:

  • Significant mental and physical exhaustion

  • Interpersonal withdrawal

Furthermore, one or more of the following criteria must also be met:

  • Significant reduction in social, occupational, educational, academic, behavioural, or other important areas of functioning

  • Confusion, difficulties with executive function, and/or dissociative states

  • Increased intensity of autistic traits and/or reduced capacity to camouflage/mask e.g. increased sensory sensitivity, repetitive or stimming behaviour, difficulty engaging or communication with others


Other researchers in 2018 have also defined autistic burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic life stress and a mismatch of expectations and abilities without adequate support”. They note that autistic burnout is also characterised by:

  • Pervasive, long-term exhaustion (typically 3+ months)

  • Loss of function