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Autism, camouflage and teenage girls

More and more often, unfortunately, I am witnessing a situation where teenage girls “suddenly” become depressed, stop eating or lose weight to the point of anorexia. And this goes to the extreme: depression with thoughts of suicide and self-harm, with food intolerance, nausea and vomiting.

Many of them were subsequently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Moreover, we are not talking here about cases when there are objective reasons for strong feelings, for example, unhappy love or family troubles. And we are talking about girls from prosperous families who have loving and caring parents. It would seem, what are they missing? But the girls themselves are beautiful, smart and girlfriends. But something goes wrong.

Girls are naturally more social than boys. At some point in their lives, girls with ASD begin to notice that they are different from their peers. And they begin to imitate the behaviour of others in order to hide the difference. This is called “masking” or “social camouflage”. This is given in order to be accepted by their peers. And up to a certain point, this tactic works well...

But over time, the burden of this additional “work” becomes unbearable. Let me describe to you with an example how this might feel to you. For example, you got a job in a company, say, from China, without knowing the language. This job is your only chance. And you need to pretend all the time that you understand everything, are happy, laugh when others laugh, participate in events that make no sense to you, assent in dialogues with colleagues when you don’t even understand what they’re talking about... And your work lasts for a little over a decade... Approximately that much time passes from the day the child went to school at 5 years old until adolescence... How do you like it? Is this hard? Difficult? And this is in addition to your main job responsibilities. So the onset of a deep crisis is only a matter of time.

That is, the cause of the crisis is camouflage in autism. But let's go further, what is the reason for camouflage? How are these girls so different from their peers that they need to carefully hide their true selves?

The fact is that people with autism have problems with emotions. Moreover, there are two extremes:

- people do not feel or understand their emotions,

- people feel their own emotions, and others too, and experience other people’s emotions as their own. This is called "hypersensitivity". And they don’t understand how to separate their emotions from others.

In a word, both there are problems with emotions.

What are emotions? In Davis's terminology, emotions are self-created energy. This energy comes from the world of our instincts. All our instincts, according to the science of psychology, are subject to two rules: to avoid pain - to seek pleasure... That is, this self-created emotional energy determines for us what is good (pleasure) and what is bad (pain). A feeling arises: I like it - I don’t like it, I want it - I don’t want it. A person is looking for “himself”: who he is, what he is, what is good and bad for him. Where he needs to go and these two landmarks are shown, it’s like a corridor along which you walk.... I’ll give an example: for me personally, good work is when you have to think, and bad work is only physical work. Everyone determines their own life criteria and guidelines, based on their own emotions.

So, people with autism have a very difficult time defining this corridor: those who do not feel emotions have no corridor walls, and it is not at all clear where to go. Therefore, they follow the majority, advice, fashion, common sense... And those who are too sensitive - their corridor is very narrow, it presses and it is unpleasant to walk along it, you will find pain everywhere.

Of course, all people with autism have a “narrow” interest. This is what captivates them with terrible force. The avalanche of energy here is simply amazing. And if society approves, then this is simply an outlet for people with autism! Many autistic people have also learned to identify their strong emotions, but the nuances of feelings are still inaccessible to them.

Without understanding their own emotions, people with autism do not understand the emotions of other people. People who are hypersensitive to other people's emotions cannot help but get hurt by life, they constantly feel sorry for someone, they live in anxiety and stress.

Returning to our girls, some girls hide their hypersensitivity, while others hide their misunderstanding of other people's emotions and behaviour.

If you want to help your loved ones improve their relationship with the world of emotions, then the Davis Autism Program can help you. You can read more about Davis’s approach to autism on my website in the “Autism” section.

© Copyright 2024

Elena Nikulina, licensed specialist DDAI (Davis Dyslexia Association International) for the correction of dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Syndrome with or without Hypo/Hyperactivity, and other problems in training according to the author's method of Ronald Davis, methodologist RDAF (Ronald Davis Autism Foundation ) to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Director of Dyslexia Correction and Support Centre, London, UK.

For more information on how to treat dyslexia, ADD(D) and other learning difficulties, see Ronald Davis' books The Gift of Dyslexia, The Gift of Learning, and Autism and the Seeds of Change: Achieving Full Participation in Life Using the Davis Approach to autism." — Abigail Marshall (author), Ronald Dell Davis (author).​

Link to the RDAF website and full description of the programs:

© Copyright 2024

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