No-mask anxiety: Local doctor says no shame in taking it slow


CLEVELAND (WJW)– The Centers for Disease Control says you don’t need to wear a mask outside if you’re fully vaccinated and in two weeks Ohio is lifting all mask orders.

For many folks, they’ll never go back.

“It’s just an aggravation when you go to a bar and you’re having a drink and you go to the store it just gets aggravating,” Raul Cedeno said.

“I’m done with it. I’m ready to get rid of the mask… I’m tired of it. It’s an inconvenience. I forget it too many times,” Ed Binkley said.

After more than a year of wearing them, for some folks, going without them feels a little strange.

“If I’m walking around a crowd, I cover my mouth when I walk by. I don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not. It’s just the chances that you take out here in the world period,” Teresa Croxton said.

No-mask anxiety is a real thing.

The American Psychological Association said about 50 percent of Americans are anxious about going back to the way things were pre-pandemic.

As states, localities and businesses change their mask rules allowing vaccinated people to go without, for many folks it’s just unsettling.

But it’s OK to feel that way. This is perhaps a chance for folks to think about helping others.

“Take the anxiety and the mask wearing is maybe an opportunity to be a little more kind, a little more gracious with yourself and with others,” said Dr. Eric Berko, director of behavioral health and family medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center

He said mask anxiety is very real for many folks because it’s hard to change habits overnight, especially since masks are such a key part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. He said taking things slow and reacquainting yourself with social and work situations is a good way to move forward.

“You can pick a safe place with safe people, and just gradually go out there. Keep a mask in your pocket,” Berko said. “It’s OK if you feel uncomfortable, just put it on. There’s no harm or shame in any of that gradually get yourself out there and I think you’ll start to feel better and better.”

Berko said some people may feel peer pressure to start going mask-less and he said that can cause more anxiety. His advice: You do you and don’t worry about what other people think about your approach to your own safety.

“I feel a little bit more safe now that I got the vaccine. I like the masks . This one is really pretty so I don’t mind it. I like it and you know, what’s the harm?” Kevyn Chavez said.

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