Does Working Cure Social Anxiety?
Working with social anxiety isn't a cure for social anxiety disorder, but working with the disorder has taught me a few things. Other people may look at social anxiety disorder and think that people just need to get over their irrational fears or worries and become productive members of society, especially when it comes to working. I was one of those people who wondered how I would ever be able to work considering the paralyzing anxiety I felt from having to deal with the public, using the phone, and other work-related things. I felt (and sometimes still do feel) the constant pressure of that stigma saying suck it up and go to work. So I did, and here's what I learned from working with social anxiety.
Burnout from Working with Social Anxiety
Although I just referred to working with social anxiety in the past tense, there are still social anxiety symptoms I experience to varying degrees on a day-to-day basis. Most times, I push myself through it, but then comes the burnout at work followed by a mental health day. Doing the jobs I have has taught me two things: that I seriously have to consider if burnout is worth it, and also that social anxiety can be challenged.
Besides my online work, my jobs have been face-to-face, customer service-related. My first job was particularly bad for my mental health for a number of reasons, including pushing myself too much, and that one wasn't worth the grief.
My time as a journalist has been an interesting test of my social anxiety. I talk to people on the phone and in person regularly, something I never would have thought possible a few years ago. Some days the overload is too much and I need downtime, but for the most part, I'm okay.
Working with Social Anxiety and Facing Self-Doubt
When it comes to talking to people, there’s always the thought of making a fool of myself, but what I’ve learned from speaking with people for stories is almost everyone has that same fear. Not necessarily to the extent of anxiety, but it's there. I’ve had politicians, CEOs, and other authoritative figures say to me, “Make me sound smart.”
You’d think they’d be more worried about the facts being correct, but they’re just as worried about sounding “stupid” as I am (Anxiety, Criticism, and Conquering Self-Doubt).
Knowing that has made the interviews a bit easier to bear because I can often use that intellectual knowledge to override the irrational inner dialogue. It’s not easy to argue with your own thoughts, but it is doable with practice.
Does that Mean People Are Right? Should I Just Suck It Up with Social Anxiety and Work?
In a word, no.
People like to use the examples of "if they can do it, you can too, so stop making excuses."
But that's not always the case. You have to evaluate what's right for you and your situation, which is something you can try to do yourself or with a professional (Social Anxiety Treatment: Social Phobia Treatment that Works).
Exposure at each of my jobs has shown me I can do things anxiety tells me that I can’t or shouldn’t, but I wouldn't recommend what I've done on my own because of the toll it has taken on me. Exposure therapy is something to consider with a professional.
So, Does Working Cure Social Anxiety?
Absolutely not, but, in my case, I am better at managing social anxiety (Social Anxiety: A Spectrum from Shy to Avoidant) because of work.
I’m still working on balancing things out so I don’t hit that burnout point as often, but knowing that I don’t have to be immobilized by the thoughts in my head (and the accompanying physical symptoms of anxiety) has been life-changing in a very positive way. And that’s something I wish for everyone.
Barton, L. (2018, April 27). Does Working Cure Social Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2018/04/what-working-taught-me-about-social-anxiety
Author: Laura A. Barton
Interesting, good food for thought. Working from home is the only way I can manage my symptoms. I'm fortunate to have a skill which allows me to work from my home. I've tried working outside of my home several times, I think the longest I lasted at one place was 6 months.
Hi Judy. It's good to hear that working from home is an option for you. Going out into the traditional world of work isn't for everyone, and that's totally fine. We each have to do what's best for us. :)