This is about occupational burnout but its premise had me thinking about ways in which autistic burnout is and isn’t similar.

First, our research confirmed the established finding that burnout is not a monolithic phenomenon, but rather, it can present as any combination of three distinct symptoms: exhaustion (a depletion of mental or physical resources), cynical detachment (a depletion of social connectedness), and a reduced sense of efficacy (a depletion of value for oneself). To recover from burnout, you must identify which of these resources has been depleted and take action to replenish those resources.

I found most interesting the idea of “cynical detachment (a depletion of social connectedness)”, given the ways in which it can be addressed in the case of occupational burnout.

On the other hand, when burnout is due to cynicism, self-care may not be the most effective strategy. When feeling alienated, focusing on yourself may lead you to withdraw further, while being kind to others can help you regain a sense of connectedness and belonging in your community. In our study, we found that when participants were instructed to focus on alleviating others’ challenges, they did things like offering words of encouragement or taking a coworker out to lunch, and then reported lower levels of cynicism the next day. Even just taking a few minutes to comfort a colleague or listen to their concerns led to a reduction in burnout associated with cynicism.

This makes less sense in the context of autistic burnout, since the social cynicism mostly is the result of your typical surroundings—which includes people—dissuading your atypical brain from being itself. In that case, the suggested remedy of reaching out to people itself presents an obstacle, as other people’s problems with your atypicality is something only they can fix. It’s beyond your control.