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Wearing a Mask Can Trigger Panic in Trauma SurvivorsDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, many public places — from stores to restaurants to schools and parks — are requiring people to wear masks. Unfortunately, this can be a surprising trigger for trauma survivors, especially if they were in a situation where they felt they could not breathe. To prevent this from happening and avoid additional future trauma, there are ways you can teach yourself to embrace wearing your mask.

Common Reactions from PTSD Survivors

There are multiple scenarios where wearing a mask can be challenging for a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor. The mask might feel suffocating, which can evoke an immediate fear of impending doom. If you survived being robbed by a masked figure, seeing everyone else wearing masks might bring you right back to the moments when your life was in danger.

When businesses and government agencies force others to wear masks, it takes away a person’s sense of choice, which often leads to a loss of control. It can feel like reliving the trauma all over again. PTSD can also make it hard for your body to identify if you are living in the past or the present. The body remembers the trauma and how the brain attached to stimuli from the past.

Certain smells, sights, and other sensations can make the body believe that you are in danger based on whatever you experienced in the past. Some PTSD survivors have to make a tough choice about whether they should wear their mask and live through their trauma all over again, or not wear the mask and deal with the negative looks and complaints they may get from others.

To Wear or Not to Wear

Ask yourself if you can wear a mask without experiencing a panic attack. If panic attacks come easily to you, especially as a result of wearing a mask, then do not wear one. There are places out there where you are required to wear a mask or they will not let you in, but you have to make the choice that’s right for you. If you feel like wearing a mask and/or seeing everyone else in masks will trigger you, ask a friend or relative to get your groceries or run errands with you.

If you want to be able to return to civilization while people are still wearing masks, consider speaking to a counselor to help you change your thought patterns. With some work, perhaps you can learn to think of your mask as a form of protection to avoid experiencing any past or future trauma.

Wearing a mask is just one of many new normals that we are all experiencing. The Guest House is here to help you through these uncertain times. At The Guest House, we offer a wide range of therapeutic modalities, such as individualized therapy, group therapy, yoga/meditation, cinema therapy, adventure therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, and music therapy. We explore the trauma that brought you here, so we can teach you how to heal. We are available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To learn more, call us now at (855) 483-7800.