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5.20.21 – WBAL – ELLICOTT CITY, Md.

Many Marylanders are celebrating the loosened face mask order, but for some, the changes come with heightened anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its mask guidance rules, announcing that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks indoors.

But that can present a problem for those who suffer from anxiety, and even those who do not.

Many people who spoke Thursday afternoon with 11 News said they feel most comfortable leaving their mask on when around people, but they can feel uneasy in some situations.

“Keeping it on in a lot of situations, it’s pretty common for me. I feel I’m very comfortable keeping it on,” said Max Eber, of Ellicott City.

“If the tables are too close together, I feel a little uncomfortable, so I have it on until I’m eating, and then I take it off, put it back on,” said Lisa Hedges, of Ellicott City.

Dr. Drew Pate, chief of psychiatry for LifeBridge Health told 11 News that mental health professionals are now familiarizing themselves with a new phenomenon known as “mask anxiety.”

“It’s up to you if you’re fearful of not taking it off,” Pate said.

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, half of people surveyed said they feel uneasy about readjusting to in-person interaction post-pandemic.

“One of the things people have to remind themselves of is that being cautious and safe has been a tremendous asset to our community in the last year, but now that you’re fully vaccinated, we should really want to embrace the freedoms and the consequences that come with that,” Pate said.

Pate said for people who are fully vaccinated and who are experiencing mask anxiety, take things at your own pace, try and set a schedule and work up to feeling more comfortable.

“First, give yourself permission to be anxious and accept that’s the way you’re feeling, and then decide how you want to begin to back off the mask wearing,” Pate said.

Mental health professionals want to reiterate that there is no shame in going at your own pace. If you want to leave your mask on, leave it on. If you want to take it off, take it off. Do what makes you comfortable.