A new study indicates that the use of face masks by individuals with social anxiety may increase distress, particularly during a pandemic.
Researchers from the University of Waterloo published their findings in the academic journal Anxiety, Stress and Coping.
Researchers cited the unusual situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic involving a lack of social engagement as a potential cause of the increased distress social anxiety sufferers may have felt.
The research methodology was simple: existing research was analyzed to determine whether a correlation existed between social anxiety and mask-wearing.
According to the study’s lead author, “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.”
The study’s lead author also stated, “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.”
What the study concluded, “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.”