Prolonged Adaptation Stress Syndrome is what happens when someone pretends to be something they’re not on an everyday basis. It is exhausting and soul-eating. This greatly contributes to the high level of mental illness in the trans community or autistic burnout in the neurodiverse community.
Well said, and with interesting links I’ll quote from below.
For purposes of sharing her observations in a more formal manner, Taylor arrived at the acronym PASS, Prolonged Adaptive Stress Syndrome, to describe the eight commonly observed symptoms that may be present in varying degrees in individuals who have spent years living an energy-exhausting lifestyle.
- Immune System Suppression
- Reduced Function of the Frontal Lobes
- Altered Neurochemistry
- Memory Problems
- Discouragement or Depression
- Self-Esteem Problems
That wasn’t written specifically about autistic masking and burnout, but it sure does resonate.
we call “falsification of type” the development of some typological attitudes that allow the creation of an adaptive functional persona, through the repression of our “natural” gifts. This adaptive persona is developed for the sake of acceptance and adaptation to different environmental contexts.
Sometimes it is difficult to realize one’s natural gifts, due to an over-identification with an adaptive persona. And a person might be extremely good and skilled with “false gifts” since they were trained and developed over a long time.
The way to encountering the deeper Self and ones natural gifts is not necessarily thinking about what one is good at, but rather noticing what brings enjoyment, meaningfulness, abiding pleasure, ease and peace. Each of us knows, at a deep level, what brings those qualities, independent of how much space and time they have in our lives. They are qualities of being, not qualities born from living falsely.
Again, that wasn’t written specifically about autistic masking, but “over-identification with an adaptive persona” sounds like my life before learning about masking and burnout from other autistic people.
As we come to understand depression in the transgender community more accurately, it’s become clear that the major cause is what’s referred to as “minority stress;” that is, “stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimization.” The good news, then, is that as social relations and culture change over time, negative attitudes toward transgender people may be reduced, which will then reduce the stressors which trigger anxiety and depression.
Why are there greater mental health stresses on autistic people from gender-minority groups? To quote from the research paper,
“The increased rates of mental health problems in these minority populations are often a consequence of the stigma and marginalisation attached to living outside mainstream sociocultural norms (Meyer 2003). This stigma can lead to what Meyer (2003) refers to as ‘minority stress’. This stress could come from external adverse events, which among other forms of victimization could include verbal abuse, acts of violence, sexual assault by a known or unknown person, reduced opportunities for employment and medical care, and harassment from persons in positions of authority (Sandfort et al. 2007).”
I’ve experienced several moments of burnout in my life and career. Being something that I neurologically am not is exhausting. Wearing the mask of neurotypicality drains my batteries and melts my spoons. For a long time, for decades, I didn’t fully understand what was going on with me. I didn’t understand the root causes of my cycles of burnout. Finding the Actually Autistic community online woke me to the concept of autistic burnout. When I found the community writing excerpted below, I finally understood an important part of myself. Looking back on my life, I recognized those periods when coping mechanisms had stopped working and crumbled. I recognized my phases and changes as continuous fluid adaptation.
Oh, hey, that’s me. 🙂
This sparks a future blog post idea: “Continuous fluid adaptation” and “over-identification with an adaptive persona”
Let’s conclude with a snippet from the poem that started this post and gave it its title.
So many others were encouraged
to throw off a false role and free
themselves from expectations,
to find their own path.
Throwing off the false roles of adaptive personas “developed for the sake of acceptance” sure does feel good. I work toward a future where everyone is safe to do so.