Mask removal-Empty face syndrome: what is it and how to deal with it?

Mask removal - Empty face syndrome what is it and how to deal with it

Psychologists have perceived that, after so many months wearing a mask, stopping using it can generate in some people a curious syndrome related to fear and anxiety. We tell you why it happens and how to deal with it.

Mask removal - Empty face syndrome what is it and how to deal with it

We have been using a mask for more than a year and now we can stop wearing it outdoors, as long as the safety distance can be maintained. This situation – in principle liberating – has, however, given rise to a new mental health disorder related to the Covid-19 pandemic that psychologists have dubbed “empty face syndrome.”

The “empty face syndrome” is a set of symptoms related to anxiety that can appear, to a greater or lesser degree, when the mask is removed.

“This syndrome can cause feelings of anguish, worry and a feeling of agitation. It can even cause physical symptoms such as tachycardia, a feeling of shortness of breath, muscle tension, dizziness …” explains Laura Palomares, psychologist at Avance Psicólogos in Madrid.

The syndrome, which only some people present, ultimately causes symptoms related to anxiety due to the feeling of lack of protection against the virus that can be generated by taking off the mask in the street.

The Covid-19 pandemic is leaving behind a list of mental health disorders until now non-existent related to the adaptation of people to an unprecedented situation. The “empty face syndrome” is the last of them and it is also one of the most curious.


Laura Palomares, director of the Avance Psicólogos center, explains that the empty face syndrome is related to fear and psychological strategies that give us a sense of security.

Human beings have an enormous facility for learning behaviors that give them security: it is a survival mechanism that has always worked effectively in our species.

“When we associate an action or behavior with safety, especially in situations of alert or stress, we implement it with great intensity in our lives,” explains Palomares.

“Feeling fear is positive in some cases, since it protects us in cases of danger. Hence, it is difficult for some people to start removing the mask or it even creates stress”, concludes the psychologist from Avance Psicólogos.


The “empty face syndrome” is a fear or phobic behavior. For this reason, Laura Palomar’s recommends facing him in the same way that we would face any similar behavior.

The director of the Advance Psicólogos center proposes three tips to overcome this little phobia:

1. Give us some time to adapt

Understand that what is happening to us is normal and that it simply takes a time to adapt: ​​the feelings and symptoms that we appreciate may occur at first, but over time they will disappear.

We all need a time to adapt to changes, especially when proposing changes in learning that have safeguarded our survival, so it is very important to respect each person’s time.

2. Go step by step

When fear is very high, it is very important to expose yourself gradually. It is advisable to start by removing the mask in very large places in the open air, where there are hardly any people, to progressively move to somewhat more crowded places. Progressively, we will increase the exposure times, but slowly, very slowly.

In addition, knowing that in closed places it is still not convenient to remove the mask forces us to always carry it with us and to have the peace of mind that others will also wear it.

3. Think about social benefits

Attention to the positive aspects of removing the mask can help us. The face has thousands of facial muscles that give rise to gestures and micromanages, these give us invaluable information about how the other is, and it is essential to generate bonds and socialization.

Knowing that by gradually adapting to letting go of the mask our social relationships will benefit is a very strong motivational engine, especially when that benefit begins to be experienced.


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