Face Masks Are Alleviating Social Anxiety

People are reporting that wearing masks make them feel less anxious and more confident

Allie Volpe
Elemental
Published in
6 min readOct 19, 2020

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Photo: LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

For as long as she can remember, Betsy O’Donnell, a Delray Beach, Florida-based UX designer, has lived with social anxiety. As a child, this usually manifested as a fear of using public bathrooms and talking to other kids. Now 31, O’Donnell goes to therapy and takes medication to manage her anxiety but she still experiences unpleasant pangs of stress before giving presentations at work or when meeting new people.

But this spring while waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, O’Donnell noticed she suddenly wasn’t fixating on what to do with her hands, whether she was unintentionally scowling at a stranger, or if she was being judged from afar. The inner monologue of potential stressors was quieted simply because she, like other shoppers, was wearing a face mask. “I feel more myself,” O’Donnell says. “I definitely don’t smile as much to be polite, which is very nice, and I don’t get [self] conscious about my ‘resting bitch face.’”

Mandated in most states, facial coverings have become part of the daily wardrobe and an essential tool, supported by scientific evidence, in slowing the spread of Covid-19. But for some people with social anxiety, face masks can also be a veil of…

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Allie Volpe
Elemental

Writes about lifestyle, trends, and pop psychology for The Atlantic, New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Washington Post, and more.