Ask Dr. Alan: The Dangers of Denial

Ask Dr. Alan: The Dangers of Denial

By Dr. Alan Leavens

I have recently had several requests from ex-patients who would like me to write a note to their employer exempting them from wearing a mask because of anxiety, panic, or “claustrophobia.”

I have politely declined. I believe it is truly rare for anyone to have a panic attack because of wearing a mask. In one case, a gentleman stated he did not believe masks help prevent transmission. He said there is no real proof that it helps. He then said that he hasn’t seen anyone who had Covid-19, implying somehow that the deaths and horrendous illnesses that are currently raging across the world are “fake news.” 

This is denial in its purest form. When science and research from many, many reputable sources are tossed aside in favor of unsubstantiated false claims and outright lies, the denial becomes quite dangerous. Large parties, shoulder-to-shoulder beach gatherings, unmasked meetings, concerts, and other “super-spreader” gatherings have resulted in thousands of new Covid-19 cases and multiple deaths. All over the world, new waves of infection are filling hospital beds, many as a result of denial of the reality of Covid-19. The truth of this pandemic is so uncomfortable and traumatizing to so many people that they go out of their way to avoid the inevitable depressing feelings that result. If we don’t know how to cope with this reality, it is easier to pretend that it’s not real. 

We are all partially responsible for contributing to the safety of the world. If we ignore it, if we deny it, we are shirking our responsibilities. Non-deniers are open to accepting scientific facts, no matter how painful they might be, and then try to solve the problem. Powerful people in important positions who avoid the truth, also avoid making tough decisions that may result in having a seriously negative effect on the populace. If we don’t personally see the destruction that this virus is inflicting on humanity, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It merely means that you are not a direct witness to it. 

I do therapy online with employees of a large hospital chain in the U.S. who are post-Covid-19, and I can attest to the staggering number of people who have been infected, then passed the infection on to family members, only to then watch their suffering and death. These incidents cannot rationally be denied. They are real and quite disturbing. There is no easy solution to this deplorable situation. But denying it exists when proof is unassailable only makes things more difficult for those who are sincerely doing their best to educate others who do not understand. Avoiding the reality of a particular dilemma can exacerbate the problem and cause more damage and pain to those who are trying to fix it. We can all do our best by listening to the world’s experts and following their continued guidance through this pandemic.


Alan Leavens PhD, is a California licensed Clinical Psychologist, living and working in SMA. For questions or concerns that you wish him to address, please email: aleavens@drleavens.com

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