Since the rise of COVID-19 disease all around the globe in 2019, most countries have made it mandatory to wear a mask in public places. Coronavirus attacks our acute respiratory system and wearing a mask can prevent it.
In general, the Coronavirus is spread when a positive individual sneezes, coughs, breathes, or talks. When we wear a mask, the transmission of infectious respiratory COVID-10 droplets can be reduced to a great level.
Now that masks are a part of our everyday life, researchers have found that consistent mask-wearing is closely associated with specific psychological effects in us. In this article, our experts shed light on what changes wearing a mask has brought to our lives.
Why Do Masks Bring Difficult Feelings?
We all are trying hard to stop the spread of Coronavirus. And we are taking some hard steps to make it happen such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, isolating ourselves, etc.
But at the same time, incorporating these changes into our day-to-day lives is not as easy as it seems, especially wearing a mask. Many people find it very difficult to keep on wearing a mask for a long time or even deal with this overall concept.
While some people may struggle to have a conversation with the people with masks, some might not want to talk with those who haven’t. And for people with mental health issues, masks can pose some serious mental health risks.
Common Challenges of Wearing A Mask Continuously
Seeing people with covered faces may make you feel scared or uneasy. People suffering from any kind of trauma, anxiety, depression may see them as dehumanized, sinister, or threatening.
As Mental health and COVID-19 are closely related, seeing people wearing masks or wearing them ourselves can trigger a sad memory from the past. For example, the death of a dear one from COVID-19. You may also end up feeling claustrophobic or trapped when wearing a mask.
Masking limits the air you breathe. As a result, some may feel panicky or anxious because of the affected breathing ability. This can lead to dizziness or sickness if continued for a long time.
The next side effect is linked with the way we look wearing a mask. When we cover our face with a mask, it changes our appearance. Ultimately, negative feelings about our body image or identity can be born.
Apart from this, a specific material continuously touching our face skin might make us very uncomfortable. This feeling can be difficult to deal with at times and may create sensory overload.
There’s yet another issue with masks. If you wear glasses, masks cause them to fog. When you breathe out without a mask, the air dissipates in the atmosphere. However, with the mask, it goes right up into your bifocals which causes fogging. It affects your ability to see and might make you feel overwhelmed.
And then, masks remind us of the virus we are battling with. People struggling with anxious thoughts may get disturbed because of this as it can make them feel unable to relax or on the edge. Seeing masks-wearing people everywhere might make them think that there’s danger everywhere. In fact, several mental health patients have reported that they feel like they are full of dirt and germs when they see people wearing masks.
Is There Any Severe Distress Or Mental Impairment Related To Wearing A Mask?
While the research on this is still going on, there isn’t any link between certain mental impairments of severe distress and wearing a mask yet. However, current mask regulations may trigger specific symptoms of existing mental illness. And because of those, you may feel severely distressed or impaired.
The following are some of the examples:
- Hearing voices
- Suicidal feelings
- Self-harm feelings
- Dissociating (happens to people with dissociative identity disorder)
- Anxiety symptoms
- Panic attacks
We believe that it can be difficult to realize if wearing a mask makes you feel unwell or mentally disturbed. However, you need to keep one thing in mind — no one knows your own experiences better than you; so, you are an expert.
Masks Can Foster False Sense Of Security
Many people feel that they are 100% protected from the Coronavirus if they wear a mask. Yes, it is true that masks are well-documented and are proven to reduce the risk of COVID-19. However, they lead to a false sense of security which might make us more susceptible to the virus and other illnesses. It is always wise to wear a mask in addition to frequent handwashing, physical distancing, and frequent disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces.
How To Cope With Face Coverings And Masks?
You may not feel completely comfy with masks. But you can try the following ideas to improve your experience with them.
If you struggle to breathe properly wearing a mask, try this:
- Add soothing scent to your mask
- Reduce the time with mask
- Keep your body cool
- Try differently fitted masks
- Relax before and after wearing a mask
If you feel physically uncomfortable with the mask, try this:
- Try another type of mask of face covering
- Try securing your face covering in a different way
- Try different fabrics for your mask
If you have body image or identity issues masks,
- Choose a see-through or transparent mask
- Treat mask as a fashion accessory
If you are anxious about other people covering their faces,
- Distract yourself when you are out in the public
- Try to focus on non-living things instead
- Let the person with the mask know how you feel
The psychological effects of wearing a mask are possible, especially with people with mental illness. You can be supportive by not judging them and acknowledging them in a friendly way. We all have a common enemy at the moment and it’s necessary to follow all the protocols and wearing a mask is the most important of all.