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Is social camouflaging associated with anxiety and depression in autistic adults?

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BACKGROUND: There is inconsistent evidence for a clear pattern of association between 'camouflaging' (strategies used to mask and/or compensate for autism characteristics during social interactions) and mental health. METHODS: This study explored the relationship between self-reported camouflaging and generalised anxiety, depression, and social anxiety in a large sample of autistic adults and, for the first time, explored the moderating effect of gender, in an online survey. RESULTS: Overall, camouflaging was associated with greater symptoms of generalised anxiety, depression, and social anxiety, although only to a small extent beyond the contribution of autistic traits and age. Camouflaging more strongly predicted generalised and social anxiety than depression. No interaction between camouflaging and gender was found. LIMITATIONS: These results cannot be generalised to autistic people with intellectual disability, or autistic children and young people. The sample did not include sufficient numbers of non-binary people to run separate analyses; therefore, it is possible that camouflaging impacts mental health differently in this population. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that camouflaging is a risk factor for mental health problems in autistic adults without intellectual disability, regardless of gender. We also identified levels of camouflaging at which risk of mental health problems is highest, suggesting clinicians should be particularly aware of mental health problems in those who score at or above these levels.



Adults, Camouflaging, Gender, Mental health, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Anxiety, Autistic Disorder, Depression, Disease Susceptibility, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Health, Middle Aged, Public Health Surveillance, Self Report, Social Behavior, Surveys and Questionnaires, Young Adult

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Mol Autism

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC