CLEVELAND — Wearing a mask may be an added challenge in people’s everyday lives, but it’s done with the goal of keeping others safe and comply with state and local mandates. Cleveland Clinic Psychologist, Dr. Susan Albers said, however, for the 15 million Americans who struggle with social anxiety, wearing a mask is liberating.
What You Need To Know
- Wearing a mask feels liberating for many with social anxiety
- Dr. Susan Albers said many people with social anxiety fear the day when it’s appropriate to go out without the mask
- She encourages people to use the mask as a means to step outside their comfort zone
“When you have social anxiety, you have a persistent fear of judgment from other people,” Dr. Albers said. “You may spend hours worrying about what you have said, what you have done if it was appropriate or not and what people think about it.”
Wearing a mask may relieve social pressure.
“It creates, not only a physical barrier, but masks create a psychological barrier,” she said. “It feels like it can be a guard or a shield against people who looks, their stares or evaluation."
Dr. Albers said many people with social anxiety fear the day when it’s appropriate to go out without the mask.
“For people with social anxiety, it's important to remember that this is a temporary solution to a chronic problem,” She said. “So now is the time to start working on your social anxiety, only wear your mask when it's really necessary.”
Still, Dr. Albers encourages people to use the mask as a means to step outside their comfort zone.
"Remember that superheroes wear masks, and they do so to be anonymous and when we feel anonymous, according to psychological research, we are bolder, we step out of our comfort zone and we adopt other roles that we don't traditionally do,” Dr. Albers said. “So today, when you're wearing your mask, think about how you could be more like a superhero, how you could be kind, compassionate or step outside your box.”
Dr. Albers said while social interaction can be stressful, it’s also nourishing.
It’s important to remember the benefits: social interaction releases endorphins, lowers cortisol which is our stress hormone, and releases feel good chemicals.