What is masking?
Masking is when a neurodivergent person presents in a way that makes them seem like they are neurotypical.
Masking may also be called “camouflaging.” This is when a neurodivergent person tries to cover up their traits by copying the behaviours of people who are not neurodivergent. Masking may be seen as a way for some neurodivergent people to fit in socially, avoid being stigmatized, or feel more accepted.
Examples of masking
- Forcing yourself to sit still when you really want to move
- Using scripts to be able to engage in ‘small talk’ even when this feels very unnatural to you
- Mimicking or copying other people in social situations so that you will be accepted
The impact of masking
- Masking can hide the person you really are, it can mean that your true needs and any adjustments that could help may not be identified and met
- If you are very good at masking, people may not believe you when you tell them that something is wrong or that you are struggling.
- Masking often replaces outward stress with internal stress. This can lead to the development of anxiety and depression as needs may not be identified and met and people feel that they are not able to be their true selves
- Masking can make it hard for you to know what is real and what is an act. You may feel as if you are not able to be yourself and instead turn into someone else so that others will like you.
Masking is causing me (or my child) some challenges. What can I do?
- Encourage your child to be their own unique selves. Help them understand that they should not be ashamed or feel pressured to be someone that they are not.
- Masking takes a lot of energy. When you are in situations where you feel you have to mask, make sure to build in time and space afterwards to rest and replenish your energy, ideally by doing things that make you feel safe and that make you happy.
- Understand that you are not alone in how you experience life. It can be helpful to connect with other people going through the same struggles so that you can feel less alone. For example, join a support group neurodivergent people, or find an online community where it will be safe to express yourself without judgment.