From a clinical point of view, the best job for someone who has social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a customer service job. You may be puzzled by this answer, as this is the last thing someone with social anxiety wants- to be in the presence of lots of people. Not only is there a lot of people with a customer service job, but you also have to interact and communicate with them!
When I suggested customer service jobs to my patients with social phobia, some thought I was crazy or didn’t know what I was talking about. Some even became angry with my recommendation for them to be in a customer service role and insisted that I knew nothing about social anxiety disorder. But of course I would not recommend anything as a doctor without a clinical reason for it. And of course, if you have social phobia, then you need multi-modal treatments to help you eradicate social anxiety symptoms and to get your life back where you are not isolating yourself to your house. But when I recommend a customer service job to my patients with social phobia, there is a clinical reason for it, and being exposed to such a customer-oriented job helps them to recover from their social phobia over the long term.
Here’s why- if you have bonafide social phobia, then you have an intense fear of social scrutiny. So say you are faced with a line-up of customers. You then think to yourself that you might embarrass yourself, people will think you are stupid, or people will make fun of you and not like you. These thoughts make you anxious, and your uncomfortable anxious feelings make you avoid social situations.
However, when you avoid dealing with people, you never get to find out that people are not really making fun of you, but instead appreciate good customer service (and they dislike bad customer service). So avoiding contact with people only serves to maintain your belief that people are making fun of you, and it is this avoidance that maintains your. To break the cycle, you need to have contact with people…this is the classic “face your fears” intervention. As you become more and more exposed to social situations, you may find that it is not so bad after all, and you may even find customer service to be enjoyable!
Of course this is a slow process, and not only do you have to expose yourself gradually to your feared social situations, you also have to institute your own coping skills to help you relax when you are having an anxiety attack in social situations. I’m not saying this is easy or that it is fast…I’m saying that being in a customer service job will help you over the long term to recover from social phobia, if you work hard at the exposures to your feared social situations and continue to utilize relaxation techniques to calm you when you are socially anxious. And you will most likely need to continue with your therapist and psychiatrist until your social anxiety symptoms are manageable to the point where you can eventually do the face-to-face encounters with customers in your new customer service job. Your therapist may even recommend that you see an occupational therapist to help train you for your new job.
Of course, you can just pick a job which comes naturally to someone with social phobia, which is a job where you have no contact with people, like a job based at home on the internet. But if you choose this type of anti-social job due to your social anxiety, then the disorder continues to control you and your behaviors. Why not break this negative, vicious cycle and choose a job which does not come naturally to you? Pick the job that your anxiety is telling you not to pick- pick a customer service job, and hence steer your life towards long-term recovery from social phobia.