Jobs for People with Social Anxiety: 11 Top Career Areas
You don't have to be held back by your chronic fear of personal interactions. In fact, you deserve a shot at a satisfying career just like everyone else. And here's the thing: Jobs for people with social anxiety do exist. Lots of them. You may just need a different way of thinking about the challenge of finding one that suits you.
First, keep in mind that you're not alone. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) affects about 15 million people in the U.S. (almost seven percent of the population).* But over 13 percent of people will experience social anxiety at some point in their lifetimes. It's a condition that ranks as the world's third-largest mental health problem.** Yet, it is also very treatable, especially in the care of a specialist who truly understands social phobia or SAD and how to use methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you.
Plus, the variety of jobs for people with anxiety in social situations is a lot larger than you might think. Working alone is not the only option. Many people with SAD have discovered that, over time, facing their fears in a more socially oriented career actually helps them overcome their anxiety. Combined with professional treatment and a little patience, it can break the cycle of fear.
So explore the following vocational areas with an open mind. They each offer a number of possible careers for people with anxiety around others.
(Note: The yearly salary ranges displayed for each occupation are based on U.S. estimates from 2014.*** Most workers earn incomes close to the middle of their respective wage ranges. But some workers may earn more or less than the salaries being cited.)
Imagine getting to use advanced technology every day to make a real difference. The health care sector is full of jobs that involve using sophisticated and fascinating equipment to aid in the proper diagnosis or safe and effective treatment of medical patients. Yes, these jobs do involve some direct interaction with people. But since your focus will be placed heavily on helping patients and expertly using interesting technology, these roles can offer a way of taking the focus away from you while gently building your social confidence. Examples include roles like:
- Medical laboratory technician—$25,890 to $60,810
- Radiologic technologist—$38,110 to $81,660
- Cardiovascular technologist—$28,420 to $87,170
- Ultrasound technician—$48,720 to $97,390
- Sterile processing technician—$23,030 to $49,480
2. Beauty Professional
Why not pursue a career that's all about making other people the center of attention? As a specialist in the beauty industry, your goal is to delight and pamper clients who are happy to be in your presence. And that's the key: You'll know that they've chosen to be there. In fact, the positive feedback they give you can go a long way in helping your brain rewire itself based on real, positive experiences rather than the fear-based scenarios you might normally imagine. Examples in this category include careers such as:
For some people who have social anxiety, working in an artistic capacity can be very beneficial. Engaging your mind in creative tasks is often like escaping to a different world, far away from your day-to-day worries. It's why taking an acting course can, paradoxically, help you overcome the feeling of stage fright around other people. Plus, in many design and arts-related jobs, the amount of social interaction is fairly limited on most days. Some of the best jobs include examples like:
4. Direct Health Care or Social Assistance Professional
Turn your experience with severe social anxiety into a strength. Think about the power of observation you've probably acquired. And consider how your own challenges have helped make you more sensitive and empathetic to the needs of others. These are valuable traits that can be used in a caring role in which you help people overcome their illnesses, injuries, or physical or mental health disabilities. Plus, they help you see firsthand just how important and respected you are in the eyes of other people. Explore careers such as:
- Licensed practical or vocational nurse—$32,040 to $59,510
- Physical therapist assistant—$32,640 to $76,940
- Alternative medicine practitioner—$41,100 to $144,380
- Massage therapist—$18,860 to $74,860
- Counselor—$26,300 to $68,790
5. Construction or Industrial Tradesperson
Just like creative careers, many skilled trades enable you to experience a sense of escape or of being "in the zone." And that means you're not focusing so much on your personal anxieties. Instead, your mind is engaged in building things, solving problems, and doing it all safely. So a lot of tradespeople find that they don't feel much social anxiety on the job. Plus, you might get to work outdoors, which can also have a calming effect. Check out roles in the trades like:
- Carpenter—$26,220 to $76,750
- Commercial Diver or Underwater welder—$30,320 to $88,470
- Electrician—$31,410 to $88,130
- HVAC technician—$27,790 to $71,690
- Plumber—$29,680 to $89,720
- Industrial maintenance technician—$23,650 to $74,010
- Welder—$25,940 to $60,000
- Wind turbine technician—$37,010 to $71,820
6. Transportation Mechanic or Driver
This is another category of the skilled trades that offers good possibilities for people with chronic social anxiety. It allows you to place your attention on cars, trucks, or even airplanes, which may be something you have a lot of interest in. Interpersonal interactions are often minimal, leaving you free to concentrate directly on the objects or road in front of you while putting aside your social fears. Consider jobs such as:
A lot of social anxiety sufferers turn to this career sector for good-paying jobs that can often be performed alone, or at least with limited interactions with others. But as they gain professional experience and grow their technological expertise, many of them also end up developing more confidence in their ability to handle a variety of social situations. Their fears of being judged by other people are frequently overcome by the fact that they receive a lot of respect for their skills. Look into roles like:
Although this category certainly includes many jobs that require a lot of social interaction, it also includes options that are often more "behind the scenes" in nature. Consider possibilities like careers in which you get to work with numbers or engage your mind in doing some kind of analysis. Such jobs frequently involve only a little bit of interpersonal communication each day, and not so much that it becomes overwhelming. Think about jobs such as:
It might seem counterintuitive, but making other people happy can sometimes go a long way toward lessening your own social anxiety. And that's why some jobs involving a lot of direct interaction with customers or coworkers can still be suitable for people being treated for SAD. They allow you to focus your anxious energy on ensuring that others feel satisfied with their experiences. Over time, that can change your perception of social situations for the better. Check out careers such as:
You might be like many others with social anxiety and experience a sense of comfort around animals. So why not pursue a job that lets you work closely with a variety of loveable pets or other creatures every day? In the process, you might just discover that your anxiety starts going away, little by little, until you no longer notice it. Consider roles like:
11. Garden or Landscaping Specialist
Like animals, plants frequently have a soothing effect on people with anxiety. As a result, jobs in this category are known to be some of the most suitable options for anyone who needs to work but feels they can't spend a lot of time engaging with other people on a regular basis. Good examples in this area include careers like:
How to Determine Your Next Step
When you get right down to it, almost any job that you have a strong interest in could be suitable for you. Jobs for people with social anxiety don't necessarily have to be placed in their own special category. By finding a way to get professional treatment, you open the door to being able to pursue your real ambitions. Then you won't be letting social anxiety dictate your life choices or career possibilities. You'll be in charge of your own potential.
So make a commitment to find help. And start exploring the career and educational options you're most enthusiastic about. Use your zip code to begin finding schools with exciting training programs in your area today!
* Anxiety and Depression Association of America, website last visited on June 2, 2015.
** Social Anxiety Association, website last visited on June 2, 2015.
*** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on April 21, 2016.