Explains why masks or face coverings can cause difficult feelings, and gives practical tips on how to cope. Includes information on exemptions for mental health reasons.
These are some ways in which you may struggle with wearing a face mask or covering:
If you don't wear a mask because you are exempt, there may also be things that you are worried about:
“I get very anxious about all the people who wear masks, they make me feel like I am full of dirt and germs.”
You might worry about seeing other people wearing masks when you are out in public. For example:
You may also feel anxious or upset around people who are not wearing masks:
Some people may be 'exempt' from wearing a mask, or have a 'mask exemption'. This means having a reasonable excuse not to wear a mask, including certain physical and mental health problems.
To read the full guidance on who is exempt from wearing a mask, visit:
If you have disability which prevents you from wearing a mask and you are treated worse because of this, you may also be protected by the Equality Act.
You do not need to prove that you are exempt from wearing a mask. There is no legal document or proof that you need to carry on you.
If you are challenged about not wearing a mask, you could:
Unfortunately, you might find that not everyone understands, or is supportive. This can be hard to cope with, but you're not alone. Consider trying some self-care tips and ideas to help look after yourself.
You may never feel totally comfortable with masks. And if you are exempt, you do not need to wear one. But if you wish to wear a mask or face covering, the tips below may help to make your experience feel a little easier.
You will also find tips to try if you struggle being around other people wearing face masks.
If wearing a mask makes you feel panicky or like it's harder to breathe, you could:
“It's so hard to wear a mask and carry on all day when underneath I feel sheer panic.”
If wearing a particular material creates sensory overload, you could:
“I feel very claustrophobic and the masks make my face sore.”
If wearing a mask steams up your glasses and makes it hard to see, you could:
If covering part of your face makes you feel uncomfortable in your body image or identity, you could:
If seeing other people in masks makes you feel uneasy or afraid, these are some ideas which may help:
Under 18? We have tips for young people on coping during the pandemic
There are many ways we can be supportive to people who might be struggling with masks:
If you are out in public and around other people, these are some questions you could ask to ‘mind your mask manners’ and help others feel comfortable:
It's also OK to state your own needs and ask for support from people around you, so that you feel more comfortable. But if you are unsure whether others will observe coronavirus guidance, these requests might feel awkward.
Here are some suggestions on ways to speak up about what you need:
This information was last updated on 2 December 2021.
References and bibliography available on request.
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