Wednesday, July 6

What is ‘Empty Face Syndrome’ and why do some people get it?

On May 21, 2020, a ministerial order was published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) that established the mandatory nature of masks. From that moment, this garment became the maximum ally of all to fight against contagion and, despite the inconvenience that many people could get from its use, the vast majority ended up getting used to it and incorporated it into their daily belongings. So much so that, according to psychologists such as Jorge Lareo del Cláritas Psychological Institute, some people have been able to develop a kind of dependency on the mask. It is what many professionals have agreed to call ‘Empty face syndrome’ and, although Lareo insists that it is not a disorder or mental illness that appears in the manuals, he also warns that they have been detected, especially after the The government will eliminate the obligation to protect oneself with a mask in open spaces, a growing number of cases that share similar symptoms and that can be included in that fear of removing the garment. But why can someone get the syndrome? And not only that: what is the symptomatology? And, once diagnosed, how can it be treated?

To define it briefly, the psychologist Jorge Lareo understands the syndrome as “a set of symptoms that are firing up among people of an anxious nature at the fact of removing the mask and showing their face.” He insists that “he does not have scientific evidence because it is something very recent, but that the term is useful to locate all these symptoms and solve them.” It is an alteration that can have two origins. “On the one hand,” he points out, “it may have to do with an obsessive and uncontrolled fear of contagion.” However, the ‘Empty Face Syndrome’ can also emanate from the fear of showing up socially again: “We have spent a lot of time sheltered behind the mask and some people may have developed a refusal to show their facial features and expressions.” The symptoms that appear in each of the slopes may be similar, but the treatment applied to them must be different.

Normally, the people most likely to develop a syndrome like this are those who already suffered from some type of psychological pathology before. “Anxious profiles, for example, may experience symptoms of ‘Empty Face Syndrome’ more easily than others,” Lareo emphasizes. But what are those symptoms? Mostly they have to do with anxious pictures and fear. “In addition,” he completes, “in this type of case, avoidance behaviors are also frequent.” These are evident among those profiles that have developed fear or anxiety regarding exposing themselves without a mask and social relationships: “In those cases it is very easy for them to stop going out so as not to have to be in the commitment to show themselves, that they abandon their circles of friends, etc “. Finally, the psychologist warns that, although it is less common, this type of symptoms can lead those affected to an increase in the consumption of alcohol or other substances to try to cope with the anguish and stress that situations generate for them. that are exposed.

Therapy: moving from avoidance to confrontation

“In everything that has to do with anxiety and phobias,” Lareo resolves, “the goal is to move from avoidance to confrontation.” For this, one of the therapies that are most used today is cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses, on the one hand, on attacking those fears, those irrational thoughts and, on the other, on facing the avoidance behaviors of which he speaks the psychologist, that is, in helping the patient to face up — always from less to more — to the situations that cause him the most stress. “Of course,” he concludes, “it is very important to take into account the origin of each case.” Therapy will be very different if you have to face a profile of extreme fear of contagion, or if you have to work with a fear of exposure, low self-esteem or a bad self-concept: “The important thing is not to stay on the surface and look for past issues that may be underneath that ‘Empty Face Syndrome’.