It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen, and I wondered what was in store for a child who has become afraid to go out without a security blanket strapped to his face.

As it happens, it’s not only the children who are becoming dependent on their masks.  Adults are succumbing to a need for face coverings.  In Japan, mask dependency has been studied since 2009, when counselor Yuzo Kikumoto coined the term for wearing masks to relieve anxiety or to foster anonymity.

Masks became a part of Japanese culture during the Spanish flu pandemic over a hundred years ago and were regularly used during flu season over the century.  As time went on, the Japanese began to wear masks less for the purposes of hygiene and disease prevention.  Instead, they began to welcome wearing masks to address anxiety.  At the Akasaka Medical Office, psychiatrist Noboru Watanabe studied mask dependency and found in a 2018 study that masks can actually exacerbate social anxiety disorder.  Dr. Watanabe also concluded that mask dependency is a type of process addiction.