Can Mask-Wearing Become An Addiction?

In Japan, what started as wearing a mask to limit allergies devolved into a pathological mask dependency for some people.

By S.G. Cheah3 min read
Can Mask-Wearing Become An Addiction

In an article in Strait Times, Yuzo Kikumoto, a therapist who helps clients get over their mask addiction, said his clients had grown accustomed to living anonymously behind a mask and couldn't stop.

"While some people used to feel safe or secure when going out with a mask, it has reached a stage where they cannot go out without wearing a mask. That's how serious it is getting," Kikumoto said, "The mask acts as a security blanket, and people with this addiction cannot talk to people without wearing a face mask. And society's acceptance of interactions behind masks perpetuates such a dependency.”

Kikumoto saw the number of mask addicts in his practice increase 50% between 2009 and 2017. And that was before a global pandemic requiring mask-wearing in 2020.

So, can wearing a mask in response to COVID turn into an addiction? A quick google search on addiction tells us to look out for these four behaviors as general signs of addiction. Let’s explore this.

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Lack of Control, or Inability To Stay Away from a Substance or Behavior? Check.

The whole rationale behind the universal mask mandate is “to protect other people from being infected with COVID-19 if I have the virus.” The mantra that comes to mind is “My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.” Covering your face and restricting your respiratory system is more about serving a social purpose.    

So isn’t it quite troubling when you see some people still covering their faces when they’re by themselves (indoors and out), or even while driving alone? Then there are also those who will insist on wearing a mask while they’re exercising at the gym. In this case, the question is, why? Who are they protecting?  

When a person continues to cover their face even when there’s no one around them, wearing a mask stops being “about the science of protecting other people” and becomes about an obsessive psychological need to feel safe and comfortable. 

In a lot of ways, it’s almost like alcohol addiction. We probably wouldn’t call someone an alcoholic if they only get drunk in a social setting since we often view alcohol as a social lubricant. However, we would definitely agree that someone has a problem with alcohol addiction if they feel the need to get drunk in a solitary setting. 

Decreased Socialization, Like Abandoning Commitments or Ignoring Relationships? Check. 

So…how many times have we seen people treating others who disagree about wearing a mask with utter contempt? We often observe excessive yelling and aggressive hostility by people who take offense at others who refuse to wear a mask. 

Oftentimes, it’s hard to distinguish the difference between a mask-wearing-junkie who is suffering from a delusional psychosis from a regular junkie acting hysterically on an episode of A&E’s Intervention (a television series about confronting drug addicts for rehab). Don’t believe me? Take a look. 

These are the kinds of behaviors that lead to the decreased socialization among the people who are around us. Addicts who are under the influence of drugs tend to destroy not only the personal relationships they have with friends and family, but also the camaraderie of the community that surrounds them. 

Putting two and two together, suddenly it makes sense why the same people who are addicted to wearing a mask are also addicted to social distancing and lockdowns. 

Ignoring Risk Factors, Despite Potential Consequences? Check.  

That mask you use – whether it was sitting on the car’s dashboard, hanging on the rearview mirror, stuffed in the glove compartment, or just lying on the floor next to the pedals – how often have you picked that up, dusted it off, and put it on so you could go pick up groceries?  

We all know how unhygienic it is to reuse a mask multiple times. Yet, unless someone is absolutely diligent about doing their laundry every day, or has the disposable income to buy countless disposable masks, it’s unrealistic to expect that someone will just wear a fresh face mask every time it’s needed. 

But if someone is addicted to mask-wearing, caution will be thrown to the wind as they fish for a mask that has been worn multiple times over. Like a junkie who shares bodily fluids with their needles, a mask-junkie accepts the risk of re-using masks that have been contaminated with their previous bodily fluids. 

Physical Effects, Like Withdrawal Symptoms or Needing Higher Dosage for Effect? Check. 

Recently, the news cycle made waves when it featured a snippet of Dr. Anthony Fauci recommending that it would be a good idea to double-mask. Forgive the flippancy, but doesn’t that kind of sound like a drug pusher telling his addicted customer that it’s time to double up on the drugs? 

Like an addict hooked on drugs – seeking out more substance to feed their addiction – we’re now witnessing recommendations to double-mask. If one mask isn't enough, double up the dose  and wear two masks. But why stop at two? Wear three masks! Four masks!

While that may be comical at face value, it’s more important to take a step back and ask “Wait, is mask-wearing even absolutely necessary?” The CDC itself revealed that mask mandates barely lowered COVID-19 cases and deaths by only 1.32% during the first 100 days after the mask policy was implemented.

So really, like an addict who feels the need to soothe their anxieties with drugs in order to feel better, it does seem like there’s an addiction to mask-wearing because it has the same psychologically pacifying effect as drugs. 

Closing Thoughts 

While mask dependency might not be a real physical addiction like substance and chemical abuse, it does seem as though the obsession with mask-wearing is a growing part of society’s mass delusion psychosis. In order to fix this problem, it’s crucial we examine the general societal pressure to wear a mask. The more society compels everyone to keep covering our faces, the more it will feed into furthering the mask dependency and delusions. 

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