In February Burnett announced on Instagram that she had undergone a psychiatric evaluation which determined that she is autistic. More specifically, she identifies as “100% PDA,” or pathological demand avoidance, a profile of the autism spectrum disorder characterized by resistance to the demands and expectations of others. Burnett, who is self-diagnosed, says she struggles when she perceives a lack of autonomy or control in a situation.

Learning about PDA has helped bring some clarity to her longtime mental health struggles, which date back to her adolescence. Being on The Bachelor put those struggles on the “back burner” and made her forget “how messed up I was and how bad I felt because I [was] so consumed with the current moment.” She began self-medicating with alcohol, using booze to numb any feelings of anxiety or discomfort around others. But even after going sober she still felt like a piece of the puzzle was missing. She was “begging for help,” she says.

Her revelation, nearly a decade later, has been “life-changing” and “healing.” Burnett has come to find a community of women who can relate to her feelings and experiences. She now feels less alone, and says that no longer wondering “what’s wrong with me?” has helped her anxiety levels.

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