We’re all going to come out of this with new phobias

I’m starting to think I never want to be around people again, what with all their filthy, moist exhalations.

On the plus side, I’ve always wanted an excuse to wear a mask and cover this homely face. I look forward to the new support for industries that make fashionable face wear — I would like a formal mask for special occasions, a professional mask for work, and a wild & crazy mask for partying in the streets (alone, of course). I may also need a spider mask for those days I’m focused on arachnids, even though they tend not to sneeze.


  1. cartomancer says

    It has resulted in all kinds of schizophrenic thoughts on my part (not in the clinical sense, but you know what I mean). On the one hand I have always felt somewhat starved of human intimate contact, given that I’ve never had any, and found myself craving it on occasion. Which was depressing, but you get used to it over the years. Now this pandemic comes along and I both crave it and find myself repulsed by the idea of it, all at once.

    On the other hand, masks do seem the way forward fashion-wise. Though just the lower face ones are a bit limiting – full face masks are definitely the way to go.

  2. hemidactylus says

    I’m getting seriously over the hypoxia or hypercapnia that clouds my day as the hours drag on wearing a mask. It’s frustrating. I feel more in tune with Cypher in The Matrix who just wanted to enjoy a steak than Bane.

    And I now have a phobia of and contempt toward maskless people. Here I am suffering asphyxiation and they are oblivious.

  3. Saad says

    “When will we go back to normal?” is synonymous with “when will we be okay with accepting strangers’ respiratory/saliva droplets on our faces again?”

  4. Jazzlet says

    Saad sums it up concisely as they do so frequently. :-)

    It’s a different exit point, but this is why the lid should always be down before you flush. Doing so does have the side effect of stopping the seat wars some households have, but you put the lid down to keep most of the micro droplets in the toilet not all over the bathroom

  5. KG says

    Indeed so. In the UK, disgustingly, many public toilets have no lid at all.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    I saw an old movie with a packed party scene the other night, and found I had a visceral feeling of disgust. It may take a long time to work that off.

  7. raven says

    I look forward to the new support for industries that make fashionable face wear —

    Already there long ago.
    Quite a few people around where I live have fashionable and colorful face masks of one sort or another.
    Children have cartoon, Disney Princess, and superhero face masks.
    I’ve seen Spiderman face masks.

    My shopping mask is a nice spring print, made by a talented friend.
    One of these days, I’m getting a tie dyed one off the internet for summer days.

  8. raven says

    I know what PZ means by new phobias.

    When the pandemic hit where I lived, when I went out, people would flinch and avoid me.
    Like I was a potential danger to them.
    Which I was, as a potentially infected person with a lethal virus.
    It wasn’t personal at all.
    I did the same thing to them.

    After a while, giving people a lot of leeway and space becomes automatic and you don’t
    think about it, you just do it.

    The teenagers and college students were a bit different.
    As a Boomer, I qualify as an old person in a high risk group for death by Covid-19 virus.
    They sort of looked at me like I was a dead person walking.
    There is some truth in that as I also felt like a dead person walking.

  9. springa73 says

    I am very grateful that my obsessive-compulsive disorder does not currently take the form of contamination or disease fears. Many people who already had such fears before Covid-19 must have been suffering terrible anxiety over the last 2+ months, and continue to suffer from it.

  10. wzrd1 says

    Oddly, I’ve been long aware of how far respiratory droplets and worse, coughs and sneezes travel and linger – the studies were publicized in the ’70’s, right on national TV in the US.
    So, that doesn’t trigger anything close to a phobia beyond what respect that such things already have long had.

    Our youngest was released from the hospital the other day, after receiving plasma from a donor who recovered.
    We’ve both noticed occasional hypoxic periods, typically at night when laying down, sitting up increases the oxygen saturation.

    Once this is over, I’m thinking of a space suit, screw masks and face shields!

  11. says

    Myself, I’ve seen the masks as just another thing to accessorize. Think about it. You can take your mask and paint it with fabric paint, bedazzle it, sew on a patch, have it screen printed. I look at it as a new canvas to express myself through.

  12. unclefrogy says

    like cartomancer above I have always felt similar
    my life has been some what isolated due mostly from social discomfort of one sort or other.
    Over the years I have learned to get through the days even when the loneliness becomes oppressive with the use of therapy and positive self talk. So while the “lock down” is tough it is not very different from what my life has been the big difference is that it is imposed by authority and conditions not some weakness on my part. I already know how to live through the feelings of isolation. I had a conversation with some one about the opening up of society, they said I did not really want o go outside my house. I replied that I did want to go out I think about it often but I do not want to get sick and die and I do not know where the f’n virus is and since I am now in the group called elder and my circumstances allow me the benefit I will “error on the side of caution” .
    still going from sad to frightened to anger in random order with felling good added in between
    uncle frogy

  13. jrkrideau says

    I’m starting to think I never want to be around people again, what with all their filthy, moist exhalations.

    You’ve lived for years in Minnesota and never noticed? A conversation outside on a brisk, sunny, February day is a pretty good hint. And I am often horrified when I walk by an idling car and realize the amount of particles I am breathing in.

  14. jack16 says

    I use a chimney type “mask” which I enhance with a piece of a coffee filter. This leaks around my nose unless I breathe thru my mouth. Need a good way to close the mask over my nose.

  15. hemidactylus says

    @16- jack16

    The variety of paper and cloth masks I now have mostly have some sort of wire along the nose area to bend for better fit. When I wear eye protection the fogging indicates imperfect seal. If not for this I might suffocate. I have been using coffee filters in the cloth masks which only increase my discomfort. I also use a face shield which often fogs and can’t be helping the ventilation issue. Towards afternoon I want to scream but would be too stifled by barriers for anyone to hear. I seriously struggle with the impulse to quit my job and become a hermit. Not sure I can last until a vaccine becomes readily available. But being jobless means no health benefits if (or when) I get infected. I can’t be the only one wishing this was a nightmare I could pinch myself out of. And surely my situation is far from worst case. But I find it more difficult to justify going to work as time wears on.

    How the hell do construction site welders do it? Or firefighters? Maybe the extended 8 hour per day struggle to breath coupled with 30 minute morning walks beforehand will harden my respiratory system in preparation for COVID symptoms. Or at that point I won’t care anymore and find a blessing in it.

  16. John Morales says


    But being jobless means no health benefits if (or when) I get infected.

    USA! USA!

    Lucky me, I’m in Oz, where mask-wearing is not a thing.


    Though I did have to do it when I was visiting my mum in the intensive care unit, and shit was that uncomfortable!

    The elastic bands pulled back on my ears and chafed after a few minutes, my nose and mouth got steamy hot and sweaty, etc. And I’m speaking of tens of minutes only.

  17. hemidactylus says

    @18- John

    The cloth masks someone made for me have behind the head tie straps. I learned not to get too tight to be too restrictive on head movement (and resultant neck strain) or have my eyes start bulging. The paper masks have bands to affix behind the ears. Fun. The chafing sucks as does constant tension on little used muscles. I think I am developing callouses and learning to relax my ear tension (which until now I didn’t realize was a thing). Good thing I’m not prone to headaches or asthma.

    Oh and in related news I gave myself a haircut last Saturday. Mistakes were made in the back. Learning curve. But damn it feels nice to not have bangs annoying me as much if not more than my mask. I actually impressed myself on how I cut the front. New normal.

  18. ajbjasus says

    #4 Jazzlet.

    Indeed, and I have also wondered how effivpcient those air blade hand dryers are at dispersing microdroplets.

  19. christoph says

    There was a CSI episode years ago in which one of the techs explained how expectorate is spread by talking or even just breathing. It spreads for an impressive distance-you’d be covered in microscopic droplets just having a conversation with someone. I had an aversion to eating in restaurants for quite a while after watching that.

  20. says

    I long ago developed an aversion to shaking hands thanks to seeing an adult really digging into their nose in public. I play Magic The Gathering, and I always cringe when an opponent sticks out their hand after a match. I’m really hoping this puts an end to that practice once and for all.

    It doesn’t help that at the beginning of all of this I read a story about hand washing and how many people, and particularly how many men, don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

    I’m not even sure about playing MTG again as my favourite format involves passing packs of cards around to build a deck on the sport.

  21. christoph says

    @ Tabby Lavalamp, # 22: There’s a Far Side cartoon showing a man exiting a men’s room. As he exits, a neon sign lights up above the door saying “Did not wash hands.”

  22. paulburnett says

    Microdroplets can be visualized with a laser pointer in a dark room. Just hold the beam in front of someone sneezing or over a flushing toilet.

  23. John Morales says

    Phobias are, definitionally, anxiety disorders — irrational fears.

  24. John Morales says

    For cat owners, you do know those cats lick their, um, bits, as well as groom by spreading their saliva over their fur, right? But it’s nice to pet them.

  25. says

    That’s a thorny place in language I’m not sure how to work with yet. The political use of phobia versus the medical use of phobia. “Irrational fear” works in some ways, but doesn’t distinguish them and is insensitive with respect to the medical phobias.

    The medical phobias are rational with respect to perceptual filters and trauma. The actual threat level doesn’t matter to the nervous system. I’d just stop calling the medical phobias irrational because a brain circuit is the reason and that matters.

  26. ajbjasus says

    A note of caution about where this hygiene obsession might inadvertently lead – Ultimately our personal microflora is an important part of a healthy body. Over enthusiastic hygiene techniques indiscriminately kill the lot and we can end up with an unhealthy balance after the recolonisation. I guess it’s another example of the paradox of the realities of living.