Associations between social camouflaging and internalizing symptoms in autistic and non-autistic adolescents

Autism. 2021 Aug;25(6):1580-1591. doi: 10.1177/1362361321997284. Epub 2021 Mar 12.


Autistic individuals have more mental health difficulties than non-autistic individuals. It is important to understand why this might be. Research has shown that camouflaging, or strategies used to hide autistic traits, might contribute to mental health difficulties in autistic adults. We examined whether this was also the case for autistic adolescents. This study included 140 adolescents ages 13-18 years (62 non-autistic, 58 female). All participants answered questions about camouflaging, autistic traits, and mental health difficulties. We found that autistic and non-autistic adolescents who reported higher levels of camouflaging also reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. We also found that camouflaging might be particularly stressful for females. These findings improve our understanding of camouflaging during adolescence and point to potential ways to support autistic adolescents, such as help with social skills, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. The findings also support the importance of increasing autism acceptance in the general population.

Keywords: adolescents; anxiety; autism spectrum disorders; camouflaging; depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Social Skills