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Can face masks contribute to mental health concerns?

Some experts believe so.
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Posted at 8:56 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 09:00:47-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — We have been told for months to wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. But that simple act can be distressing for some people.

“Having to wear a mask all day can certainly be different and anxiety-provoking,"President and CEO of BestSelf Behavioral Health Elizabeth Woike-Ganga said. "It may trigger some type of bad memories and certainly it’s not ideal.”

Woike-Ganga said these masks could be a trigger for people who were already dealing with mental health concerns.

“Certainly, if people have an anxiety or a panic kind of disorder, or sometimes they find it difficult to catch their breath as part of their anxiety, the masks can also certainly, contribute to that,” she said.

According to Mind for Better Mental Health, covering your mouth and nose can cause you to feel trapped or claustrophobic. But, that can become easier to handle with practice.

“We can get use to a lot of things over time. So I think some of it is that desensitization of just kind of doing it over and over again, and maybe using some soothing self-talk to talk to yourself through it," Woike-Ganga said.

But if the stress is too much to deal with on your own, help is available.

“And sometimes it will just be a few sessions for people to work through those newer anxieties,” Woike-Ganga said.

While masks can contribute to anxiety, there are also other factors at play.

“Well I think it’s more than just the masks. I really think it’s about the stress that the pandemic has caused overall in our society, Woike-Ganga said. "I think that all of that has a lot of people with heightened anxiety in general, so certainly masks can contribute to that, but I wouldn’t call masks the underlying cause.”