Social anxiety disorder (SAD) can feel crippling for those who are dealing with it, and with good reason. Interactions that may seem routine for others can provoke panic in people with SAD. While people with the disorder may find it crippling, many lead happy lives and have successful careers.
What are the best jobs for people with social anxiety disorder? Read on to find out.
Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is an extreme fear of being judged or rejected by others in social contexts. Many people who suffer from SAD are concerned about exhibiting their anxiety or facing criticism from others in public, so they often avoid social situations or experience extreme distress, including panic attacks, when they do participate. For this reason, SAD can disrupt people’s lives greatly, since they may avoid social situations and even turn down job offers that involve extensive interaction.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 15 million American adults suffer from SAD. SAD should not be confused with shyness, although many adults who have it often are extremely shy as children.
Can someone with social anxiety get a job? The short answer is yes, many adults with SAD do have thriving careers.
So, how can you work with SAD? Perhaps the easiest solution is to find a remote job with limited interaction. This can be limiting, though, and many remote jobs do require some level of interaction.
As an alternative, consider careers in which you won’t be required to engage in high-stakes social scenarios — a business manager tasked with giving a board presentation, for example, would be a difficult role for someone with SAD. However, jobs that involve social interactions that aren’t integral to the nature of the work, such as information technology, can provide a good balance of low-stakes social exchanges with independent work.
Is severe anxiety considered a disability? Many people experience anxiety. However, when an anxiety disorder becomes debilitating, it may interfere with your ability to do work, and you may be eligible to collect disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration requires you to provide medical evidence that you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and have been unable to work for at least 12 months because of it in order to be considered for Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income Benefits.
Working with animals may not be the most lucrative career, but it often provides a good deal of flexibility and allows you to do something you really love (assuming you love animals, of course). Depending on the nature of the work, you’ll probably need to interact with some humans, such as clients’ owners, but this can help you hone your skills and boost your confidence.
Consider jobs like:
• Dog walker or trainer
• Veterinary assistant
• Rescue worker
For the math-minded, accounting offers plenty of high-paying work, much of which can be done independently. Keep in mind that you will need to meet with clients occasionally and interact with colleagues depending on whether you work for yourself or for a business or firm.
Programming is a high-paying job that involves lots of independent work and often the ability to work from home. You’ll need a fair amount of coding and programming experience (check out these courses to get started) even for entry-level jobs, but once you’ve put in the time and effort, you’re likely to find plenty of opportunities.
Similar jobs include:
• Information technologist
• Web developer
In this important role, you’ll use advanced equipment to aid in diagnosing and treating patients. While this job does involve interaction with others, you’ll largely be speaking with patients, and the conversation will be kept to a minimum as you work with the equipment.
Many people working in the medical field find their jobs rewarding, and this role gives you a real opportunity to make a difference.
Some specialties in the field include:
• Ultrasound technician
• Medical laboratory technician
• Radiologic technologist
• and others
Writing covers many sub-categories, such as blogging, journalism, creative writing and more. You’ll need to work hard to make a living as a writer, especially if you’re freelance, but the work can be fulfilling. Plus, if you suffer from SAD, you might appreciate that it’s typically a solitary activity. True, journalists may need to put themselves out there a considerable amount, so if that intimidates you, consider exploring the many other types of writing you can do.
Writing can also help you build your confidence as you receive feedback and undergo the editorial process. Sometimes critiques can be harsh, but you’ll learn important coping skills and be able to refine your work — as well as learn how to tolerate criticism.
Salary: $68,230 (landscape architect)
Do you love the outdoors and have an artistic eye? Landscaping is ideal for people with SAD because it allows them to get outside without having to deal with intense social interactions. You will need to meet with clients and employers, of course, but this type of communication is necessary for many jobs — plus, it will help you get comfortable talking to people in low-stakes settings.
Being an entrepreneur gives you the ultimate flexibility and ability to govern yourself. There are some potentially intimidating requirements for people with SAD, such as networking, hiring employees and working with clients and investors, but once you get your business off the ground, you’ll be able to hire others and outsource many of the less desirable tasks and responsibilities.
If you have a partner who’s more comfortable with the social aspects of the business, consider leaning on her to carry out these tasks while you work on the behind-the-scenes functions.
People with SAD and other disorders themselves are often in a prime position to help others dealing with mental health disorders and problems. You may be worried about speaking to patients at length, but your ability to empathize with their situations makes you an ideal listener and helper. Use the tools you’ve built in therapy or on your own to assist others.
• School counselor
• Rehabilitation counselor
• Marriage and family counselor
• Substance abuse counselor
• Mental health counselor
• and others
If you’re a teenager looking for a job while coping with SAD, you may find it difficult to avoid social situations. While you’re focusing on building your confidence and skills (therapy can be helpful), some jobs to try include:
Put in some hours at local businesses, medical facilities, law offices and other organizations helping with filing and other behind-the-scenes work. Many of these jobs can be flexible and won’t require a great deal of social interaction.
Working at a library often involves independent activities like shelving books. If you’re up for it, assisting with community programming can be a great way to get involved and participate a bit in social situations without having to play a defining role or be the center of attention.
While this work will require you to interact with others, you’ll typically do it in a one-on-one setting. This can be an ideal opportunity to gain confidence since you’ll have a higher level of expertise in a given subject than your student. Remember that this isn’t a social situation; you’re working with the student, and she’s likely looking up to you as someone with skills she’s trying to gain.
Many of these jobs to involve some, often a small amount of, social interaction, but this is an important step in building skills and learning how to confront the problem head-on. It’s also essential not to let your SAD stand in the way of pursuing your dream career. If you want to build skills to enable you to cope with stressful social situations and gain confidence in your career and life in general, you should seek the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist.