Masks Can Cause Anxiety for Some, But There is Help

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Emily Kumlien
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Madison, Wisconsin - For some, it may feel so strange it can cause things like rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, dizziness, feeling hot or sweating, or other symptoms they may not recognize as a fairly common, but serious condition – anxiety.


Maura Grasshoff, a UW Health behavioral health social worker, noticed posts on social media of people expressing how wearing a mask made them feel these symptoms, but they never knew what they were feeling was anxiety.


“I just thought, ‘they don’t even know what they’re feeling is an anxiety attack,’” she said. “The good news is you can treat anxiety; there are things we can do to help people feel more comfortable in settings where a mask is mandatory, like the grocery store or public building.”


It isn’t just mask wearing that can cause anxiety, according to Grasshoff.


Anxiety can be felt when others don’t wear masks and you feel they should, or because people can’t see one another’s faces, which is an important part of interpreting peoples’ moods or reactions, she said.


“Some people may even feel a bit sad because they can’t see others’ faces and smiles,” Grasshoff said.


Tips for managing anxiety around masking:

  • Call it out: Identify that you are experiencing anxiety and it is a normal response. Practice saying calming statements such as “this will pass” or “I am safe and I will get through this;” find what works for you.
  • Regulate your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths in your nose and out your mouth.
  • Focus on the present. Anxious thoughts might cause you to worry and think about the “what ifs” of wearing a mask or being in public in one.
  • Get comfortable with your mask. Practice wearing it at home for short periods of time and taking breaks if you feel anxious. Try building up to longer periods of time.
  • Find a mask that is the right style and fit for you.

If you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it:

  • Talk with friends and family about your anxiety; you might find that they can relate.
  • Seek support from a therapist if you are struggling with anxiety or other mental health concerns.
  • Contact the Behavioral Health Access Line at UW Health to schedule with a therapist: (608) 233-3575


Videos: Tips to Help Calm Anxiety When Wearing Masks for Kids and Adults


Maura Grasshoff offers tips to help adults ease their anxiety when wearing a mask.




Maura Grasshoff offers tips to help kids wear masks.



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Date Published: 07/22/2020

News tag(s):  daily updatecoronavirusbehavioral health

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