Part 4: Diagnosis Disclosure & Masking

Updated: 4 days ago

Autistic Burnout Guide | Part 4 | 3/12/2021


Disclosure of any neurodivergent condition, especially in a workplace setting, may appear to be a straightforward matter to neurotypical people. However, the effect that the ease or difficulty of such a process is farther reaching and of greater impact than it may seem. While the act of disclosing and the potential trepidation of doing so can weigh heavily enough, those compelled, for whatever reason, to withhold from doing so are bound to masking their true selves. While manageable in isolated, occasional instances, the masking process inevitably drives autistic burnout among autistic individuals over time.

For those in particular who work full-time (or close enough) as part of an organisation, masking will be constant, in turn diminishing both the individual's capacity for productivity and optimum work performance and emotional wellbeing. In spite of this, though, autistic employees have chosen to persist with masking, rather than to disclose their condition among their work colleagues and managers.

According to lived neurodivergent experience, in this instance that of The Neurodivergent Coach founder Samantha Nuttall, two key considerations emerge in establishing one’s readiness to take the step towards disclosure. One is the concept of acceptance, and the other relates to trade-offs.

Acceptance As confirmed by research, acceptance in a workplace is as significant a determinant as any in both an employee’s satisfaction and performance. For neurodivergent people, acceptance can be achieved by contrasting individual strategies, depending on perceived wisdom of disclosing or withholding, based on attitudes observed within an environment:

  • Avoiding disclosure - Fit in with the crowd and mask differences and obstacles

  • Pursue disclosure - Masking is not acceptable or viable, and adjustments to work environments must be accommodated instead.

The ‘Trade-off’ Irrespective of disclosure strategy, a trade-off is inevitable. Most obvious of all, electing to mask their autism and avoid disclosure increases the prospect of an individual succumbing to autistic burnout, as their performance declines, mental health suffers and even physical health declines, essentially as a consequence of pursuing success in spite of being their complete, true selves. While occupational successes may materialise, in this instance, they are a product of a strategy most likely unsustainable, as the anxiety of maintaining a facade of a kind takes its toll.