We all know how awkward and uncomfortable things can be when we’re in social situations. May it be meeting new people, speaking in public, attending job interviews, or presenting at a business meeting. But most people can get past that feeling and still function throughout the day.
However, that may not be the case when it comes to people who have a social anxiety disorder. The stress of these situations can be too much to handle.
Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as social phobia) is more than just being shy.
It is the constant fear of being judged or watched by other people. It is the feeling of being extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations that even something as simple as lining up at a cafe to order something on the menu can be challenging to do. So meeting new people, no matter how short the interaction may be, can be very nerve-wracking.
The things that most people would consider “normal” can make them extremely uncomfortable.
Those fears can negatively affect all aspects of their life (not just the social), and things could slowly fall apart. Day-to-day activities, especially the ones that require them to be outside and interact with others can be hard to do.
But having social anxiety disorder doesn’t have to stop you from reaching your full potential. You can still strive to work hard and be able to achieve your goals in life! So we asked experts to recommend the best jobs for people with social anxiety disorder.
Let’s have a look:
David J. Puder, MD
Medical Director, MEND (Lola Linda University Health)
Jobs that are not dependent on interactions with people
There are some people who are highly introverted who often want to work in jobs that are less anxiety provoking, like working at a library working, in computer science, working as a janitor, and in other jobs that aren’t dependent on interactions with people.
Often, working in a kitchen at a food service business can serve as a bridge to working with others, which can be especially beneficial for people who may have been out of work for a while due to poor mental health.
Move from non-social jobs to more social jobs as a strategy
Starting with a job as a dishwasher, or another non-social position, and then move up to more stressful or social jobs as confidence builds can be a great strategy.
Sometimes people with anxiety who have been out of the workforce may have a harder time finding a job initially and may need to work night shifts. Jobs like stocking shelves or night shifts as a factory job can be great for socially anxious people, as they’re not interacting with a lot of people, but they’re able to do their job, have an income, and be comfortable in the setting.
It’s also important to recognize when you may need more help. If anxiety becomes too much, or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker or professional counselor.
Related: How to Get Rid of Social Anxiety?
Be a writer or work with animals
In my experience as a psychiatrist, the best jobs for those with a social anxiety disorder are not ones that wholly isolate an individual, but instead have limited interactions that occur under high stress or pressure situations.
I find that people suffering from social anxiety flourish most in careers such as writers or working with animals.
Writers with social anxiety typically thrive because it is a relatively independent job but can encourage positive social interactions as well.
Related: How to Improve Your Social Skills
Freelance copywriters, technical writers, and even copyeditors can be good opportunities to interact with others through the editing and revision process while maintaining a relatively secluded work environment.
People who struggle with social situations can also enjoy working with animals. Many find that animals provide calming energy and they feel more approachable than other people. Jobs such as dog walkers, vet techs, pet sitters, and groomers can provide an independent work environment. These jobs also allow for some social interaction with customers, without those interactions feeling overwhelming.
Physician | Author | Founder, GoldenStateofMinds
When an individual has social anxiety, they can experience it so severely that it inhibits their pursuit of life goals, prevents them from forming relationships, or inhibits them from pursuing career or school, being assertive, or being in public places.
Most individuals with social anxiety disorder hide their symptoms and so well that their friends and family are unaware they are dealing with a mental health illness. Being nervous about a school presentation, an onstage performance, a first date or a big speech is not defined as social anxiety; instead, these are normal things in life that cause an individual to feel overwhelmed.
Social anxiety becomes a medical condition when everyday social interactions cause excessive fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.
Individuals with social anxiety can have challenges in the workforce, especially when they work around a large number of people. Seeking professional therapy coupled with finding a job where one feels comfortable is the best way to navigate this problem.
Working remotely can be a fantastic option for anyone with social anxiety, as they do not have to be in front of many people.
Jobs that require minimal interactions with other individuals are some of the best career paths for individuals with SAD:
- Dog trainer
- Computer programmer
- Entrepreneur (work for yourself)
Shari A. Brady, LPC, CADC
Licensed Clinical Therapist | Author, “It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s What’s Eating You“
In line with the person’s “core value system”
The best jobs for people with Social Anxiety Disorder are jobs that are in line with a person’s “core value system”. Core values are used in psychotherapy to assist in a behavioral change such as social anxiety as well as addictions, eating disorders, career dissatisfaction, and general unhappiness.
Social anxiety is best treated with “exposure therapy” whereby the person suffering from social anxiety is exposed to similar social situations which cause anxiety but in smaller increments. So if a person suffers from social anxiety and wishes to overcome this, the most beneficial job would be an environment where the necessity to interact with others would be tolerable. Eventually, the anxiety will diminish over time, as the person essentially becomes “desensitized” to the social interactions.
If a person has social anxiety and his/her core values dictate the best possible career is working as a stand-up comedian, undergoing exposure therapy combined with talk therapy could teach the person how to manage the symptoms of social anxiety, thus rendering this person capable of eventually performing.
Most important to understand: Motivation is key in overcoming any type of change.
Knowing one’s core values is the key to unlocking the factors which will keep a person engaged in the change process long enough to see results.
Clinical Psychotherapist | Counselor
Find a job with your support system
If you have access to the family business they can be present to help with the more stressful parts of the unknown. Same for if your friends work in a place with some career opportunities jump at them!
It’s like sticking your toe in the water. Sure the jobs will be uncomfortable at first but at least there will be some comfort there with you to help ease you in. Then over time, you’re working with people who you’re acquainted with.
Avoid the temptation to find an isolated position in an office in a basement
The challenging part about social anxiety is after the initial clinical symptoms are treated exposure is the next part of overcoming. Find a job with secondary benefits.. maybe high pay or health insurance.. maybe a job you’re passionate about.
Hopefully, find a job that the motivator is enough to tolerate the uncomfortable. After that jump in. Social Anxiety will not improve if you isolate yourself. Decide that you’re going to fight and then decide that even tho you may never love social environments, they won’t defeat you or prevent you from experiencing a good successful life.
Jobs in our online social and economic world
Rather than necessarily getting stuck in low-paying or labor-intensive jobs (dishwasher, night time security or cleaning crew, cabbie/driver, toll booth operator), I’ve noticed that the opposite is more often true. These clients often have higher intelligence, as well as the more predictable sensitivity. These talents can be put to use quite readily in our online social and economic world.
The better-income jobs I’ve noticed:
- Online investing/day-trading
- Software developer/coder
- Technical writing
- Online sales and service positions that involve minimal and scripted conversations
An underlying theme is that in our day of social media and life dominated by blue tooth, it is more possible than ever to live, work and stay distracted without having to leave home or directly interact with people “in the flesh”.
At the same time, there is a probable risk of remaining trapped within the strict boundaries of social anxiety.
Marissa Katrin Maldonado, M.B.A.
Founder, The Treatment Specialist
Social anxiety disorder, whether clinically managed or not, can surely limit the types of career choices for those who struggle with SAD. However, many with this condition have exceptional talents and skill sets that just need the right vocational fit to really maximize career potential.
Some excellent employment options someone with SAD might consider include accounting, scientific research, entrepreneurship that has limited public interface, freelance writing or editing, artistic endeavors, psychotherapy, animal care such as dog training, vet technician, or grooming, business, film editor, computer programing, landscaping or plant care business, and radiology technician.
It isn’t necessary to be a people person to excel in an amazing career where you find fulfillment and purpose. By identifying strengths and cultivating them through the appropriate academic or training pathways, someone with SAD can surely succeed professionally.
Career Counselor, Resume Genius
Jobs with stable teams
As you know, people with SAD experience overwhelming anxiety in certain social situations, such as meeting new people, speaking on the phone, giving presentations, or even eating in front of people—it varies by individual. These situations might make us nauseated, want to run away from a situation, or even have a panic attack. It may be tempting to assume that people with social anxiety can thrive only in roles suited for introverts, like editing, web development, or graphic design.
However, many of us with SAD are extroverts and crave interaction with other people just as much as everyone else. Many people diagnosed with this condition are referred for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Speaking from experience, the best jobs for those of us with SAD are ones that are compatible with the approaches therapists use in CBT.
CBT involves addressing the negative thoughts that people with SAD feel in social situations—feelings that lead to low self-esteem and anxiety. In addition, it involves gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations in a manageable way.
Rewarding jobs for someone with SAD allow them to gradually take on new challenges, such as giving presentations to increasingly larger audiences or speaking on the phone—preferably under the guidance of their therapist, who can tie these new challenges in with their therapy.
Additionally, those with SAD are more comfortable around people they know: it’s with people we know well that extroverted people with SAD actually feel at ease enough to act extroverted!
Jobs with stable teams are preferred by people with social anxiety since we don’t have to handle the stress of meeting new people day in, day out.