“Wearing a mask triggers my anxiety. Am I alone in this? What should I do?”


Hi. Wearing a mask during quarantine is triggering your anxiety or your past history of trauma,
and it's freaking you out. You don't know what to do. What do you do? Well, that's today's question
on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm
the founder and clinical director of Teen Therapy Center. I'm also the executive director
of the nonprofit organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California.
Everyone's day at noon, I answer your parenting questions. And let's jump into today's very
topical question. This is more about me than my kids. I hope that you don't mind talking about
this. I don't. Thanks for your question. I am embarrassed to say that I hate wearing these masks
for quarantine. I understand their importance, but I feel like I am suffocating when I have
it on. I hate leaving the house now, but I have to so I can get groceries and such. It also brings
up a lot of anxiety for me. I can't see other

people's faces and it freaks me out. Everyone on Facebook is posting about how important it
is to make the sacrifice and have pride in wearing the mask. And I want to. I feel so alone about
this. My teenagers dismiss my worries, and I don't think it is appropriate or fair to burden
them with the history of my issues. Is anyone else struggling with this? What should I do? Uh,
are you the only one struggling with this? No, you're not. A lot of people are struggling with
this. It's actually a really common issue for a lot of people that's not really talked about.

And also, you know, your question is, you know, you don't want to burden your kids with your your
past issues in your history You're probably right. They're probably not capable of handling
it So, what do you do about this? Actually before we go into what do we do? Let's talk about why
it may be happening There could be a lot of different factors. So I'll just you know, name a few
anyone with a history of anxiety Could be triggered by past trauma whether it's past child abuse
domestic violence any kind of, you know, choking or suffering in the past. It doesn't even have
to be a history of trauma. It could be just plain old anxiety, which is a common trait among humans.
Wearing the mask can be really triggering. It could trigger some of the wires that got crossed
way back in the day. And whatever wires together fires together. It's a common phrase. And so
what that means is, if you had a past where you were, you know, there was a choking Or someone covered
your mouth and it traumatized you

in some way. This is just one example of many Wearing the mask can trigger that before you even
realize you're triggered you can put the mask on and before you know it You're hyperventilating
you're sweating profusely You're shaking you want to scream you want to run you want to hide
and you don't even know why you can't even your Logical mind is not connected to that And just
saying we'll calm down doesn't work right because it doesn't if it did You wouldn't need to be
watching this right now. You wouldn't have these anxiety feelings right now. So it's similar
to, you know, there's a lot of psychosomatic things that we all go through. There's a lot of issues
that we respond to in a negative way. And again, there's many of those. So it triggers the fight,
flight, or freeze. And when you have that mask on, you start hyperventilating, all you want
to do is run and hide because you feel like you can't breathe. Even though logically you know
you can, emotionally that hardwiring is there is

because it's a defense mechanism to help make sure you don't experience that again. Also, I
lost my train of thought. I was gonna say something else about that. Oh! So, oh my gosh, don't
you hate when it happens, especially when you're live on Facebook and you forget that really
key moment point you're gonna say? Live Facebook. What are you gonna do? Anyways, what I would
suggest you do is don't suffer alone. Don't go through this alone. Oh! I know what I want to talk
about before suffering alone. Seeing other people in masks. That can be traumatizing. Perhaps
you had a trauma in your past about seeing someone in a mask or someone hurt you wearing a mask.
Or just being able to see people's faces. We're all social animals. We all connect with other
people. We judge how we are doing in life by facial reactions. So if someone's wearing a mask,
and let's say a mask and sunglasses, their whole humanity is hidden from you. And now, inside,
you just see them as a threat. Logically, you may know

that they're just going to buy laundry detergent just like you are. But emotionally, it triggers
that. So, what do we do about this? Don't go through this alone. Talk to someone. Talk to a therapist.
We're all doing online sessions right now. We're very accessible. Talk to a friend you trust.
Don't suffer this alone. Anxiety, depression, trauma flourishes when it is a secret. When
it loses the secrecy, it tends to calm down. Now, I'm not saying you have to walk through every
step by step of your past trauma. That is not necessary. To go to a therapist, you don't need to
talk about the trauma. That could be make things worse for you. If you want to talk about it, you
can. But it's really up to you where you're at, what you're ready for. So it's really important
to be in tune with what you need. Talk about what you're feeling. There's a lot of ways to deal
with trauma anxiety without talking about the actual event or the actual issue. There's a lot
of ways to go about that. So talk to a therapist,

please. Talk to a friend you trust. Talk to a relative you trust. Don't talk to your teenagers
about it. They're probably not qualified to handle this. They are not qualified to take care
of your feelings. When you're an old person in a wheelchair drooling, then they can take care
of you. But until then, until they're on their own, and they're financially independent, and
they're their own adults on their own two feet, it's our job to take care of them. But please,
please, please, don't suffer alone. Go talk to someone. Get help. This is something that is
manageable. I I don't know how long this quarantine is gonna go. It's gonna go for a while probably.
So masks are gonna be part of our everyday life. So if you gotta wear the mask, find some way to
deal with it. Whether that's deep breathing, meditation, and here's the quick thing about
meditation. And you don't have to be a master person at meditating to get something out of it.
When you breathe in and you breathe out, just focus on your

breathing. You don't have to clear your mind of everything because most of us don't ever get
to that point. But it's just try to have that one moment of focusing on just your breath. And when
our little monkey brains go this way and think about bananas or whatever it is recognize Oh,
I'm away and come back bringing back to center That is the work of meditation which helps us come
back to center We're in a present state of anxiety helps us reduce that anxiety by wait a minute
I'm not having a fight or I'm not getting beat up or I'm not doing having this experience I'm actually
here in the parking lot about to go in the grocery store again work with someone to help with this
It is not gonna work with one time. It's practice practice practice. Anyways, thank you for
your question. You are not alone I promise you please keep your questions coming. I'll be back
next Wednesday at noon answering your parenting questions live on Facebook My name is Kent
Toussaint, and I'll see you guys next week.

By now, wearing a mask when you go out has become a part of life. News and social media are flooded with reminders to wear a face mask and do your part to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, sometimes the need to don a mask brings up discomfort and (valid) anxiety. This week’s Tips On Teens question is from a parent having a tough time adjusting to the new normal:

“This is more about me than my kids. I hope that you don’t mind talking about this. I am embarrassed to say that I hate wearing these masks for quarantine.  I understand their importance, but I feel like I am suffocating when I have it on.  I hate leaving the house now, but I have to so I can get groceries and such. It also brings up a lot of anxiety for me.  I can’t see other people’s faces and it freaks me out.  Everyone on Facebook is posting about how important it is to make the sacrifice and have pride in wearing the mask and I want to. I feel so alone about this.  My teenagers dismiss my worries and I don’t think it is appropriate or fair to burden them with the history of my issues. Is anyone else struggling with this?  What should I do?”

Tips On Teens is a vlog that our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, hosts every Wednesday at 12:00pm on Facebook Live.  He will be answering parenting questions submitted to us by you to our email at TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com.  Send us any questions you might have about parenting kids and teens and Kent will be answering them every week!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.