Measuring Camouflaging in Autism with the CAT-Q

Measuring Camouflaging in Autism with the CAT-Q


The post discusses measuring camouflaging in autism using the Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire (CAT-Q). Camouflaging refers to strategies that allow individuals with autism to hide or mask their autistic traits in social situations. The post explains what camouflaging is, why it is essential to measure it, and the adverse effects of excessive camouflaging, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and delayed diagnosis.

The CAT-Q contains 25 items rated on a Likert scale and measures two subscales: compensation and masking. The post also discusses the questionnaire’s reliability and validity, its clinical applications, and its importance as a research tool. Additionally, details are provided on the questionnaire’s use in the contexts of gender, age, and culture and the impact of camouflaging on diagnostic and support services for autistic individuals.

The post concludes that the CAT-Q is an essential and innovative tool for measuring camouflaging in autism. It has the potential to improve diagnostic accuracy, tailor treatment plans, and provide a deeper understanding of the autistic experience.

Read more: Measuring Camouflaging in Autism with the CAT-Q

Understanding Autism Camouflaging

The Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire (CAT-Q) is a recent tool designed to measure how individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) camouflage or mask their autistic traits in social settings. Camouflaging involves strategies to compensate for and hide autism characteristics, enabling individuals to blend in more easily.

What is Autism Camouflaging?

Autistic individuals often learn to camouflage their behaviors to cope with social demands. This can include:

  • Masking unusual mannerisms or stims
  • Mimicking socially appropriate body language
  • Forcing themselves to make eye contact
  • Pretending to be interested in conversations
  • Using learned scripts for small talk

While camouflaging helps autistic individuals adapt their behaviors, it requires significant cognitive effort and can be mentally draining.

Why Measure Camouflaging?

Excessive camouflaging has been linked to several adverse outcomes, including:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Low self-esteem and poor sense of identity
  • Exhaustion and burnout
  • Delayed autism identification and lack of support services

The CAT-Q provides a standardized method to assess and quantify various camouflaging behaviors among autistic youth and adults.

About the CAT-Q

The CAT-Q contains 25 items rated on a 7-point Likert scale, with total scores ranging from 0 to 150. It measures:

  • Compensation: Conscious techniques to mask autism traits
  • Masking: Subconscious masking behaviors

The CAT-Q can be completed by individuals as young as 16 or by caregivers on behalf of those unable to self-report reliably.

Reliability and Validity

Initial studies show that the CAT-Q has excellent internal consistency reliability (α = 0.94) and good convergent validity with other measures of schema compensation strategies. Higher CAT-Q scores are correlated with increased anxiety, depression, and stress, suggesting that high camouflaging behaviors contribute to psychological distress. Scores tend to be higher in females, indicating gender differences in social masking behaviors among autistic individuals.

Clinical Applications

Using the CAT-Q can assist clinicians in several ways:

  • Improve accuracy of autism screening and diagnosis for those who mask well
  • Determine the need for mental health and coping supports
  • Guide psychoeducation about the costs versus benefits of camouflaging
  • Inform treatment planning for social skills and self-advocacy
  • Track treatment progress by reassessing camouflaging over time
  • Raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by highly camouflaging individuals

Research Utility

The CAT-Q also serves as a valuable research tool, enabling scientists to explore:

  • Genetic, neurological, and cognitive underpinnings of camouflaging
  • Differences in camouflaging across autism subtypes, age, and cultures
  • Long-term outcomes associated with varying levels of camouflaging
  • Interventions to reduce excessive masking behaviors
  • Gender differences and social/cultural influences on camouflaging

Accessing the CAT-Q

The CAT-Q was developed and validated in 2020. Access typically requires permission and a license from the test authors or publishers. It is a promising tool that could become widely used in clinical and research settings.

CAT-Q Scoring and Interpretation

The CAT-Q consists of 25 items rated from 0 (not true) to 6 (very true). Total scores range from 0 to 150, with higher scores indicating more camouflaging behaviors. Preliminary score interpretations are:

  • 0-52: Minimal camouflaging
  • 53-104: Moderate camouflaging
  • 105-150: Excessive camouflaging

Comparing subscale scores can provide insight into conscious versus unconscious masking tendencies.


The CAT-Q has some limitations:

  • Potential biases in self-reporting
  • Initial samples were predominantly White/Non-Hispanic
  • Unclear if it captures all facets of camouflaging
  • Cut-off scores and clinical meanings are still being established
  • May need refinement for some age groups and non-autistic conditions

Despite these limitations, the CAT-Q is a promising step in understanding camouflaging in autism.

Future Directions

The CAT-Q will likely undergo further research to:

  • Validate across more significant, more diverse samples
  • Develop informant-report versions
  • Establish clinical norms and cut-off guidelines
  • Evaluate effectiveness in other clinical populations
  • Create additional subscales or factor-scoring models
  • Adapt for cross-cultural contexts
  • Examine impacts and trajectories in longitudinal studies

Camouflaging Across the Lifespan

Camouflaging behaviors can emerge at a young age and evolve:

  • Childhood: Driven by a desire to fit in and avoid bullying.
  • Adolescence: Heightened self-awareness leads to more effortful camouflaging.
  • Adulthood: Tied to masking difficulties in employment and relationships.
  • Older Adults: Struggle with the energy required to continue camouflaging.

Gender and Cultural Factors

Research suggests that autistic females may engage in more pronounced camouflaging than males due to societal pressures and gender norms. Cultural differences also influence the need and strategies for camouflaging.

Impact on Autism Services

Camouflaging can impact autism screening, diagnosis, and intervention services. A formal camouflage assessment with the CAT-Q can help identify and address these issues.

Camouflaging and Mental Health

High CAT-Q scores are associated with increased anxiety, depression, and stress. Camouflaging can lead to poor self-esteem, burnout, and delayed access to support services.

Interventions for Camouflaging

Potential interventions include cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, psychoeducation, social coaching, and classroom accommodations. The CAT-Q can help measure progress and identify those in need of support.

In conclusion, the CAT-Q is an innovative tool that quantifies camouflaging behaviors in autism, providing valuable insights for clinical practice and research. It helps improve screening accuracy, tailor support services, and raise awareness of the challenges faced by autistic individuals who camouflage their traits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the CAT-Q?

The Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire (CAT-Q) is a self-report tool for measuring the extent to which individuals with autism mask their traits in social situations.

Why is measuring camouflaging important?

Measuring camouflaging is crucial as excessive masking can lead to increased anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and delayed autism identification.

How is the CAT-Q scored?

The CAT-Q consists of 25 items rated on a 7-point scale. Total scores range from 0 to 150, with higher scores indicating more camouflaging behaviors.

Who can use the CAT-Q?

The CAT-Q can be completed by individuals as young as 16 or by caregivers for those who cannot self-report reliably.

What are the clinical applications of the CAT-Q?

The CAT-Q helps improve the accuracy of autism screening, guide treatment planning, and raise awareness of the challenges autistic individuals face in camouflaging.

Are there any limitations to the CAT-Q?

The CAT-Q has limitations, including potential biases in self-reporting and the need for further validation in diverse populations.

How can I access the CAT-Q?

Access to the CAT-Q typically requires permission and a license from the test authors or publishers.

Conclusion and Call to Action

The CAT-Q represents a significant advancement in understanding and measuring camouflaging in autism. By quantifying this often-overlooked aspect of the autistic experience, the CAT-Q provides valuable insights for clinicians and researchers. Share this post to raise awareness of the CAT-Q and its importance in improving the lives of autistic individuals. For more information and related content, explore our other blog posts on autism and support strategies.


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My name is Adi, and I am the proud parent of Saar, a lively 17-year-old who happens to have autism. I have created a blog,, with the aim to share our family's journey and offer guidance to those who may be going through similar experiences.Saar, much like any other teenager, has a passion for football, cycling, and music. He is also a budding pianist and enjoys painting. However, his world is somewhat distinct. Loud sounds can be overwhelming, sudden changes can be unsettling, and understanding emotions can be challenging. Nevertheless, Saar is constantly learning and growing, and his unwavering resilience is truly remarkable.

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