Research suggests mask-wearing can increase struggles with s
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People who struggle with social anxiety might experience increased distress related to mask-wearing during and even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is also possible that many people who didn't struggle with social anxiety before the pandemic may find themselves feeling more anxious than usual as we emerge out of the pandemic and into a more uncertain future—especially within social situations where our social skills are rusty and the new rules for social engagement are yet to be written."

The researchers reviewed existing literature addressing three factors that they hypothesized might contribute to social anxiety associated with mask-wearing: hypersensitivity to social norms, bias in the detection of social and emotional facial cues, and propensity for self-concealment as a form of safety behavior.

"We found that mask-wearing by people with social anxiety is likely to be influenced by their perception of social norms and expectations, which may or may not be consistent with public-health guidelines and can vary widely by region and context," said the lead author of the paper.

The paper also highlights that people with social anxiety have difficulty detecting ambiguous social cues and are likely to interpret them negatively. These individuals also tend to worry about sounding incomprehensible or awkward. "We believe that both issues are likely to be magnified during interactions with masks," he said.

Another highlighted impact is that masks can function as a type of self-concealment strategy that enables people with social anxiety to hide their self-perceived flaws. Therefore, the desire for self-concealment may motivate their use of masks over and above their desire to protect themselves from contagion.

In particular, the effects of mask-wearing on social anxiety are likely to be substantial and clinically relevant.

Anxiety, Stress & Coping
Source: https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2021.1929936
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