The associations between camouflaging, autistic traits, and mental health in non-autistic adults

Mark Somerville*, Sarah E MacPherson, Sue Fletcher-Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Camouflaging is frequently reported in autistic people and entails the disguising of autistic traits in social situations. Camouflaging is associated with poor mental health in autistic people. This study examined the manifestation of camouflaging in a nonautistic sample, examining the relationship between autistic traits, self-reported camouflaging, gender, and mental health.
Method: In total 110 nonautistic adults completed standardized self-report questionnaires that measured autistic traits, mental health symptoms, and camouflaging behaviors. Hierarchical multiple linear regression models were used to analyze data and examine the unique contributions of autistic traits and camouflaging to mental health.
Results: Self-reported autistic traits were associated with increased symptoms of poor mental health. However, autistic traits were not associated with mental health symptoms when controlling for self-reported camouflaging, and self-reported camouflaging predicted increased mental health symptoms over and above the effects of autistic traits. Women had poorer mental health than men in our sample, and in women there was a stronger relationship between camouflaging and mental health than in men.
Conclusions: Camouflaging may contribute to poor mental health outcomes in the general population, just as it does for autistic people, to the extent that camouflaging more clearly relates to mental health profile than self-reported autism traits. This suggests camouflaging is an important construct for understanding mental health in general, and for exploring the complex relationship between autism and autistic traits.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Early online date4 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • camouflaging
  • autistic traits
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • mental health


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