'No-mask anxiety real,' doctor says

As more of us go out without our masks, some people report feeling anxious about it.

According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 50% of Americans report feeling anxiety about returning to in-person interaction.

"No-mask anxiety is a real thing," said Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, UW Health psychologist. "Many people are feeling anxious and unsettled."  

It looks like a return to normal and losing the mask may be harder than people initially thought.

"Almost 50% of Americans were reporting anxiety about returning to in-person interactions," said Mirgain. 

FILE - Surgical masks on a white surface stock photo.

  (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Doctors at UW Health say this mask-less anxiety is part of something called "Risk Tolerance."

"It really gets down to a concept in medicine and psychology that we call risk tolerance," said Dr. Gregory Demuri, pediatric infectious disease specialist, UW Health. "An example of risk tolerance is smoking. People are willing to take that risk of lung cancer. They know they have that risk and yet they smoke."

If your concern for not wanting to lose the mask stems from something health-related, doctors say, trust the process.

"Follow scientific advice. That’s the biggest thing. So the CDC has made some recommendations and as those kind of get liberalized, then people have to make their own decision with what they’re comfortable with, just like other risk taking behaviors," said Dr. Demuri. 


But if you worry about rejoining pre-pandemic social norms and expectations, psychologists say do what makes you happy, healthy and safe.

"There’s no shame there," said Dr. Mirgain. "You want to go at your own pace. It’s really important to stay true to your convictions and do what feels right for you."