Face Mask Related Anxiety

**Before reading this, please know I am not trying to start any pro-mask or anti-mask debates.  Please leave those comments off this post!  If I see any, they will be removed quickly.  Thank you!**

Life sure has changed during this time of social distancing & wearing face coverings!  One thing that I personally have struggled with is masks.  For some reason, I have never been able to wear those things.  I’ve tried many times over the years to wear them while doing certain household activities with no success.  I would put one on, & my heart began to race as a panic attack quickly followed.  Learning we were required to wear them in stores about broke my heart.  Finally, I have been able to get my agoraphobia under control enough to where I could go into public places alone but I can’t because of my reaction to wearing masks.  ARRGGGGHHH!!!! 

Recently I got fed up about this obnoxious mask induced anxiety, & googled this situation.  I figured it can’t just be me.  There must be others out there with this same problem.  Apparently there are!  Plenty! 

According to the various articles I read many people struggle with wearing masks.  I don’t mean the people you would expect to struggle, such as those with respiratory problems like asthma.  Many perfectly healthy people struggle.  Some folks have been the victim of a crime where the perpetrator wore a mask or bandana, so seeing others wearing them or even wearing them themselves can trigger panic attacks.

Other folks have been through very difficult & even traumatic medical procedures, so seeing or wearing masks is a reminder of that trauma.

Some folks have sensory processing issues, such as those with brain injuries, which can make wearing a mask feel as if it is smothering them.

Still others who panic about face masks fall into a different category.  Victims of child abuse.  There are a few suspected reasons for this behavior.

  • When most of a person’s face is covered, it can be difficult to pick up on subtle cues to their moods.  Children of abusive parents often rely on giving their children such cues to make the children behave as they want them to.  Missing those cues resulted in punishment.  Being unable to read those cues, even years after the abuse, can create a great deal of fear.
  • If someone tried to strangle or suffocate a child, or if a child was locked in a small room or closet, masks can recreate the claustrophobic feeling.
  • Some abusive parents put their hands over their children’s mouths as a punishment.  That too can cause panic with masks.

I found some things that have helped me to work with this mask induced anxiety, & I hope these tips help you too.

Since I can’t wear a mask, I have compromised with a bandana.  Yes, I realize I look like a gunfighter in the old west, but at least I can wear it without as much panic as I would have with a mask.  Bandanas are open at the bottom too, which means if panic starts, I can pull the bottom away from my face slightly.  This helps me feel less claustrophobic while still offering some covering as protection to others.  It also helps me to calm down.

Reminding myself that I can still breathe, I’m safe, I’m not smothered & am safe is helpful too.  Grounding behaviors like this are very helpful during flashbacks, but they also can be during panic attacks.

I put on my bandana at the last possible moment before entering a place where masks are required, & I remove my bandana as quickly as I can when out of those places to minimize the time I wear it as much as possible.  I also remove it as needed by going somewhere private, such as a bathroom stall or my car.

It also helps to avoid wearing masks in hot places when possible, because wearing them can make you very hot.  That can add to panic or upset sensory processing issues.

I also don’t go into public places alone.  My husband is very helpful in keeping me focused if I get too panicky.  Having another safe person with you can help a lot in this situation too! 

I hope these tips help you manage your mask related anxiety!  xoxo

5 Comments

Filed under Mental Health

5 responses to “Face Mask Related Anxiety

  1. annealcroft

    Cynthia, thank you for bringing awareness to this very important issue.

    Most of what you describe of your experience with the mask-trend, or as I call it, the masquerade, no doubt many people relate to.

    Recently, an employee of a small country gift shop literally stalked me because my mask wasn’t covering my nose. I tried to explain to her that I do the best I can because my glasses fog up and I can’t see. Because I have had eye surgery and difficulty with my eyes, this creates a real problem for me. I also have sensitive skin and trouble with skin cancer, so the mask irritates me skin which is something else I now have to deal with. Then yes, there are also the other considerations such as panic and feelings of claustrophobia. Having to wear a mask during the dog days of summer has been brutal and exhausting. I found myself feeling exceptionally depleted, so much so that I actually had to avoid going anywhere for a few days and lost out on some business opportunities as a result.

    A few weeks ago a legislator from Iowa made the case that masks are in fact a medical device and should require a prescription.

    The one good thing about wearing a mask, though, is that now when can talk to myself while I’m grocery shopping nobody notices! LOL!

    We all look like Frito Banditos, or as you say, like characters from the Wild West! Who would have ever thought?

    There’s an old Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” Well…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • On Sep 1, 2020 10:12 AM, CynthiaBaileyRug <comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote

      I’ve heard of many people in similar situations to yours.  Sadly not many people seem to understand not everyone can wear masks.  I hope more people understand this issue after reading this & considering other people’s plights!My husband said he’s stuck his tongue out at difficult customers at work behind his mask!  Apparently masks have plenty of benefits!  Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • annealcroft

        “My husband said he’s stuck his tongue out at difficult customers at work behind his mask! Apparently masks have plenty of benefits! Lol”

        LOL! That being said, think I’ll start wearing mittens, too!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. One of my blogging friends posted a now-deleted comment on my blog, stating that anyone who won’t wear a mask in public is a narcissist. She has serious health issues and she believes that if she catches covid-19, she will die. She stated that because anyone could be an asymptomatic carrier and not know it, therefore anyone not wearing a mask around her, could potentially kill her. Since they care more about their comfort or their appearance than they do about the possibility of killing susceptible people, they must be narcissists, she said.

    Under her comment, I tried to politely explain that there are many people who can’t wear masks for health reasons, either physical or mental, and there are people who genuinely believe that the covid-19 thing is a hoax. ALL of those people are not narcissists, in my opinion.

    She and I had been blogging friends since around 2010. We are close to the same age, and her life history is so much like mine, it’s eerie. We had exchanged phone numbers and email addresses a long time ago. But — simply because I disagreed with her idea about everybody who won’t wear a mask being a narcissist — she told me that she never wants to talk to me again. Not on blogs, not via emails or texts, and no more phone calls.

    This happened back in May, I think it was. It really, REALLY hurt. I had considered her my best friend. I had been making plans to go visit her, when the pandemic changed everything.

    The thing is, like I told her, I 100% agreed with her that everyone should wear masks in public if they possibly can. But some people can’t. I get that. As a former nurse, I already knew how uncomfortable it is to wear a face mask for a long time. But, labelling everybody who doesn’t wear a mask a narcissist, and ditching a long, very close friendship, simply because I politely disagreed with her comment on my blog — hello? Isn’t that awfully narcissistic of my former friend????

    I did not tell her that I thought she was behaving in a very narcissistic way, because I didn’t want to hurt her. For years, she wrote a blog about narcissistic abuse, which is where we first became acquainted. But seriously, if you have an opinion and you believe that anyone who disagrees with your opinion for any reason, must be a narcissist — whew. If that isn’t narcissistic, then I don’t know what is! Maybe she has focused on narcissism for so long, she has become paranoid and she now thinks that everybody, who isn’t an exact clone of her, is a narcissist.

    It’s sad. I wanted to write a post about it, but I was worried that she might be lurking on my blog and see it. And I really don’t want to hurt her. I pray for her. That’s all I know to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • annealcroft

      Thanks for sharing this story. Your experience with your friend is similar to mine.

      When CCP first broke out, a friend I’ve treasured suddenly erupted in rage over people in her state protesting the erosion of their rights as protected by our Constitution because of the mask mandate. She was so scrupulous and paranoid about CCP that she made her husband, who was still going to work, bunk out in the basement.

      We got into a spat about the people she began assaulting and condemning as “rednecks” — you know, the ignoramus who fight for their country.

      When I told her I was grateful for the rednecks because they are the ones who change my tires, drive the AAA truck when my car is broken down, pump my septic tank, and all the rest of the good jobs a college degree transcends, she severed ties.

      Until recently, when she ran into another family snag with her siblings that has to do with the settling of her mother’s estate which apparently is because her mother left no will. I was a friend of her mother’s and find it difficult to believe to this day that her mother didn’t leave any kind of will or instructions, largely because she left explicit instructions about her funeral arrangements. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, and I refuse any longer to become involved in triangulation because her siblings have also contacted me in the past.

      Where I’m headed with this is that I’ve detected undertones of narcissism in my communication with her over the years, in spite of the fact that I have really cherished her friendship. Moral to the story is, now I find myself treading on this ice with her, simply because I have learned that our values are NOT the same. After our spat about the masks which was more intricate than what I indicate here, she told me point blank that she “could never think the way you do.” Meaning, the way I think. Of course not, because she is not thinking for herself. I put God first.

      Incidentally, for decades I have persevered through the challenges of a seriously compromised immune system that has included many clinical considerations including cancer. Not once have I felt threatened in any way by those who are not able to wear masks. What kind of a Christian would I be to believe that a virus that is so intelligent as to be able to vanish during riots has more power than our Blessed Lord?

      This, to me, is the cutting edge of narcissism and why this discussion is in fact relevant to CCP.

      One day, not long ago, a masked stranger showed up at my front door. He had a handheld device and began asking me questions about the Census. I politely told him that I had already responded to the Census and asked him to leave my premises. Later I learned that other people had been imposed upon as well. A masked stranger.

      There are two sides to this coin and thanks to you and Cynthia for saying what needs to be said in order to expose all that needs to be considered by everyone in order to determine the absolute truth so that we can decide for ourselves what is and is not necessary.

      Blessings,
      AA

      Liked by 1 person

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