Choosing a meaningful career can be exciting, yet also overwhelming. This may be especially daunting for a person living with anxiety. However, many career paths are available for people with an anxiety condition.

Anxiety disorders describe a group of mental health conditions that typically involve persistent or recurring feelings of nervousness and worry. They can also include physical symptoms, such as altered breathing, sweating, and difficulty sleeping.

Living with these symptoms can complicate a job search due to the desire to find a fulfilling role that does not exacerbate these sensations. When looking for a job, there are many variables to consider to help a person find a suitable role for their personality and skills.

This article will discuss factors to consider when choosing a career and suggest potential job options to explore for people living with an anxiety disorder.

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The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) suggests that anxiety disorders are the most common mental condition in the United States, affecting 40 million adults.

The ADAA also indicates that work may contribute to this, with many people noting that work anxiety impacts their day-to-day lives. Therefore, people may want to consider the following factors when on the job hunt.

Strengths

Some people may fixate on how anxious traits can make job searching difficult. Instead, they can highlight beneficial traits associated with anxiety, such as negative mood, which has the potential to drive creativity. In real life and work, individuals could achieve better creative performance through moderate self-focus.

A 2017 study notes that it is possible to utilize anxiety to boost motivation and performance.

Meanwhile, research from 2020 suggests that people living with anxiety process threats differently, allowing them to react quickly. This may help individuals be more resourceful, productive, and creative in work environments.

Focusing on an individual’s positive traits may help them discover suitable roles.

Triggers

Anxiety triggers refer to situations that may activate an anxious response. Many aspects of a job, such as expectations, finding work-life balance, and deadlines, can result in anxiety.

While it may not always be possible to identify or avoid certain triggers, people can evaluate which jobs may be less suitable for them. For example, people who find that loud or constant noise worsens their anxiety may prefer a calm job in a quiet environment.

Managing anxiety

A 2021 study adds that people with anxiety may experience difficulties with productivity and managing their occupation. So, it may be beneficial to implement strategies to help manage anxiety at work, such as:

  • recognizing symptoms of anxiety and how to handle them
  • practicing time management and organization skills
  • planning for potential problems at work and preparing how to overcome them
  • communicating anxious thoughts and asking for help
  • setting boundaries and taking regular breaks
  • using employer resources and benefits
  • keeping desk and workspace organized
  • savoring success
  • planning a vacation

Read more from our hub on mental health.

Job specifics

It is also important for people to consider nonnegotiable requirements from a role, such as finances, working hours, and location.

Finances can be a top source of stress and anxiety, affecting nearly 2 in 3 adults. A person may want to assess what salary they would require for financial stability. Additionally, a person needs to establish a healthy work-life balance, otherwise, their mental health may worsen.

The proximity of a job can also impact a person’s mental health, especially if a person experiences anxiety commuting to work. Remote and flexible roles may help reduce stress and improve productivity by avoiding potential sources of anxiety such as co-worker interactions, distracting environments, and a lack of personal space.

Research from 2021 shows that promoting remote work can reduce psychological and physical stress responses. However, full-remote work has the risk of worsening presenteeism — the practice of being present at work for more hours than required.

Certain jobs that may be suitable for people living with anxiety can include:

All salary estimates are annual.

  • Lab technician. This job typically involves testing and analyzing various biological and chemical samples. The role can vary depending if a person works at a hospital, university, clinic, or research institute. It may be suitable for a person who enjoys the methodological nature of lab work. People will usually require a Bachelor’s degree and could earn around $54,000.
  • Veterinary assistant. This role will involve supporting the veterinarian in their daily tasks and can include handling, feeding, and exercising animals. It might be a calming and suitable role for people who like animals and help reduce anxiety symptoms. People will require a high school diploma and may earn up to $30,000.
  • Accountant. Accountancy typically involves collecting and documenting financial data and checking documents for accuracy. This may be a suitable role for someone who enjoys numbers and attention to detail. A person will require a Bachelor’s degree, and an accounting certification can boost prospects. People could earn roughly $74,000.
  • Librarian. Librarians can work in a variety of settings, such as museums, universities, and public libraries. As such, this role may be suitable for those who prefer quieter or slower paced environments. The role may involve helping the public find information and resources. A person will often require a Master’s degree and earn up to $61,000.
  • Fitness trainer. Staying active can help manage anxious symptoms and maintain mental fitness. If a person is passionate about fitness, they may enjoy helping others to pursue their fitness goals. A person will require a high school diploma and professional certification. People may earn around $41,000.
  • Writer. If a person enjoys writing and is seeking a flexible role, they may consider a career as a writer or editor. Many of these roles are freelance and may enable a person to work from home, which is particularly significant for certain people. To become a writer, a person will usually require a Bachelor’s degree and can earn roughly $67,000.
  • Software designer. Careers in computing often require people to be meticulous and possess problem solving skills. Many roles may allow people to work by themselves, while others may need them to work in a team. A person in this field will typically require a Bachelor’s degree and can earn up to $110,000.
  • Graphic designer. This is a creative role that typically combines illustrations, photo editing, and layout design skills to create visual content. Being creative may help to disconnect from stress. This job may also provide freelance opportunities which is more flexible. A person may require a Bachelor’s degree and can earn roughly $53,000.
  • Warehouse worker. If a person would prefer to avoid interacting with others if they experience social anxiety, a warehouse role may be suitable. It typically involves unloading merchandise, organizing stock, and placing items on the sale floor. This work may take place outside store hours, so may be good for people seeking night work. This is an entry level role, and a person could earn up to $30,000.
  • Janitor. If a person prefers independent work and routine, cleaning may be a good fit. Carrying out routine tasks reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable. The role can provide satisfactory visible results, keep a person active, and allow them to listen to music, a podcast, or audiobook as they work. This is an entry level job and people may earn around $29,000.

If anxiety symptoms make it difficult for a person to manage their work responsibilities, they can consider asking their employer for reasonable accommodations.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, some people may be eligible for accommodations to help them manage their anxiety disorder. Potential accommodations may include:

  • remote working from home
  • using noise-cancelling headphones
  • an emotional support animal
  • a different type or new positioning of desk
  • removal of certain tasks that trigger anxiety
  • receiving instructions in writing, instead of verbally

Each individual will have different preferences for a role, and a career that is not suitable for one person may be ideal for another. However, it may be advisable for people living with anxiety to avoid stressful careers.

Evidence from the Health and Safety Executive United Kingdom government agency suggests higher stress, depression, or anxiety rates in professional occupations.

Notably, it highlights the following groups as having higher rates of work-related stress, depression, or anxiety:

  • health professionals
  • teaching and other educational professionals
  • protective service occupations
  • customer service occupations

Managing an anxiety condition while job searching can be very challenging, and these difficulties may continue after securing a job.

However, people can attempt to reduce their anxiety by choosing a career that supports their mental health and implementing strategies and accommodations to benefit their well-being.

If people are experiencing trouble identifying suitable careers, they may consider discussing options with a therapist or career counselor. Additionally, if a person is experiencing anxiety at work, they can inquire about workplace accommodations.

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition that can impact a person’s ability to work in certain environments. However, many careers are available that are suitable for everyone’s unique personality and skillset.

Choosing a career involves finding a fulfilling role that can also accommodate their well-being. This may include work that plays to their strengths while avoiding potential triggers for people living with anxiety. Some people may also benefit from contacting career guidance services.

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