Defining autistic burnout through experts by lived experience: Grounded Delphi method investigating #AutisticBurnout

Autism. 2021 Nov;25(8):2356-2369. doi: 10.1177/13623613211019858. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


Autistic burnout has been commonly described in social media by autistic people. There is little mention of autistic burnout in the academic literature. Only one recent study has used interviews and reviews of social media descriptions to try to understand autistic burnout. Anecdotally, autistic burnout is a very debilitating condition that reduced people's daily living skills and can lead to suicide attempts. It is suggested that autistic burnout is caused by the stress of masking and living in an unaccommodating neurotypical world. We wanted to create a definition of autistic burnout that could be used by clinicians and the autism community. We used the Grounded Delphi method, which allowed autistic voice to lead the study. Autistic adults who had experienced autistic burnout were considered as experts on the topic, in the co-production of this definition. The definition describes autistic burnout as a condition involving exhaustion, withdrawal, problems with thinking, reduced daily living skills and increases in the manifestation of autistic traits. It is important for future research that there is a specific description of the condition. In practice, it is important for clinicians to be aware that autistic burnout is different from depression. Psychological treatments for depression potentially could make autistic burnout worse. Further awareness of autistic burnout is needed, as well as further research to prove this condition is separate from depression, chronic fatigue and non-autistic burnout.

Keywords: Delphi; autistic burnout; burnout; definition; grounded theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Burnout, Psychological
  • Humans