TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Wearing face masks or face covering has become mandatory during the Covid-19 pandemic as it is the key to protect oneself and others from virus transmission.
For some, these medical devices can be challenging to use. It does not mean they neglect the basic health principles, but it has something to do with mental health conditions, particularly anxiety. This is now known as mask anxiety.
People with a history of an anxiety disorder, especially panic disorder, and claustrophobia often get triggered by wearing a mask, as quoted from Cleveland Clinic. According to psychiatrist Brian Barnett, MD, the symptom can manifest psychologically or physically such as rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, chest tightness, sweats, and dizziness.
This discomfort condition, of course, must be controlled. Moreover, wearing a mask is required when going outside amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Barnett shares several tips to deal with mask anxiety.
- Find a mask that suits you
Dr. Barnett suggests trying different types of masks at home. This exploration will help desensitize yourself to the sensation of the face mask. Practice slowly for minutes and then try to tolerate it for a longer time. You may also add aromatherapy or comforting scents to make it more calming.
- Challenge anxious thoughts
Try challenging your negative thoughts when wearing a mask. When you are anxious that you may have a lower flow of oxygen to your lungs, the psychiatrist says you can remember of health workers who are just fine wearing it regularly.
Dr. Barnett continues that you can remind yourself “that wearing a face mask, even if it makes you anxious, is one of the few ways that you can maintain control over this unsettling situation.”
- Seek professional help
If the aforementioned self-directed interventions cannot help with your anxiety, you may want to seek professional mental health treatment, Dr. Barnett says. In more severe cases, cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy or anti-anxiety medications may be necessary to help minimize or even get rid of your mask anxiety.
SARAH ERVINA DARA SIYAHAILATUA | CLEVELAND CLINIC