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Ways Adults with Autism Cope with Stress

A photo of several crumpled up pieces of paper with the text, "Ways adults with autism cope with stress."

I recently read an interesting research article that discussed coping strategies used by adults with “high-functioning” autism. What I appreciated about this article was that they interviewed adults with autism directly. While we know that self-reported data is not always accurate, I think it’s important to consider the perspectives of individuals who actually have autism. So, I’m grateful that more research like this is being conducted.

I’ll share a few points I found particularly interesting. You can read the rest in the full article (see the reference at the end of the list).

  • Autistic adults may have significantly higher stress levels compared to adults without autism, and stress levels may influence social functioning (Bishop-Fitzpatrick et al., 2015, as cited in Dachez and Ndobo, 2018).

  • Most previously published research on coping and autism has focused on parents and caregivers, rather than on the individuals with autism themselves.

  • Common coping strategies identified by the 31 study participants included:

  • Engaging in their special interests to calm down, relax, and give meaning to the world.

  • Finding a sense of relief when they finally received their autism diagnosis.

  • Seeking support from animals.

  • Using humor during stressful situations.

  • Many study participants reported that they tried to “normalize” themselves by putting on a “social mask.” One participant described his efforts to “erase the autistic aspects when I’m outside.” The authors of this study reported that this strategy can be exhausting for the person with autism and may prevent the person from being in tune with themselves.

The authors of this article also point out the need to help individuals with autism develop healthy coping strategies.


Dachez, J. & Ndobo, A. (2018). Coping strategies of adults with high-functioning autism: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Adult Development, 25, 86-95.

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