No matter what I do, I can’t unlock myself from ‘mask phobia’

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No matter what I do, I can’t unlock myself from ‘mask phobia’

This very real condition, often met with scepticism, could see sufferers stuck in self-imposed lockdown

Hilary Freeman

I have a recurring nightmare. Something, an invisible presence, is holding me down; heavy on my chest and tight across my nose and mouth. I try to scream, but no sound comes out. It’s terrifying.

For me, a mask is the living embodiment of my nightmare. That’s because I’ve recently discovered I suffer from a type of claustrophobia that’s been dubbed “mask phobia”. Every time I put on a mask I panic, grow dizzy and nauseous, and hyperventilate. My ears ring and I think I'm going to black out.

At the start of the pandemic, when the medical evidence remained inconclusive, it was easy to argue that masks were pointless. But now the bulk of scientific opinion is in favour of wearing them, to protect ourselves and others, it’s harder to object. It’s not that I don’t want to wear one, I just don’t know how to do it without making myself ill...

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