Generalized Anxiety Disorders and Career Decisions

GAD Can Affect Every Part of Your Life, Including Your Work

man interviewing for job
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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect all aspects of your life, including ​relationships with loved ones and your job. Anxiety can make performing at work difficult and stressful, diminishing your confidence in your abilities and can be a large factor in your career. Specifically, choosing a career making a change to a new job can be extremely difficult for people with GAD for a wide range of reasons.

Social Cognitive Career Theory

One theory on career development that has substantial research support is social cognitive career theory (SCCT). In short, SCCT demonstrates that the process of making choices in careers follows a path:

  • Personal variables, which are all aspects of yourself, including your personality, interests, skills, education, and expectations, are brought to the situation. These contribute to career self-efficacy, your belief in your ability to be successful in a certain career. They also contribute to your expectations about outcomes, such as what you think your lifestyle will be if you pursue a certain career path.  
  • If self-efficacy and outcome expectations are positive and the potential decision matches with personal variables, it is likely that a choice will be made regarding career. However, this process is not easy for many people, especially if you have GAD. For example, you may not have the skills to pursue a certain career or you may not have the resources to get the education needed to enter into that path. People with GAD have an additional hurdle in this process due to anxiety.  GAD can interfere with a clear vision of your actual abilities and the likelihood of certain outcomes. It can become difficult to choose a career path that you believe will have positive outcomes, which may cause you to remain stuck in indecision or in a career you are already dissatisfied with.

    Career Tips for People with GAD

    There are some tips that you can use to get a clearer and more accurate view of your abilities and potential outcomes:

    1. First, notice the role of your worry in this decision-making process. Once you can recognize the role of anxiety and worry and where it makes things difficult, it is easier to begin to remove its influence.
    1. Think about how someone you trust and who knows you well would see the situation. How does this person see your ability and how would she believe the situation would turn out? After doing this, allow yourself to let that idea soak in. See if you can hold onto it.
    2. Look for real and concrete "data" about yourself. For example, look at actual data you have about past job successes and performances, such as a past review from a manager. Take note of those that turned out well and those that did not go well in hindsight and use these to help guide you.
    3. Finally, make backup plans. If you consider a new career and are excited by it but you have low outcome expectations, make a backup plan in case things don’t work out. Perhaps consider going part-time instead of full-time until you're comfortable. Another option is to build a significant emergency fund to fall back on before you take the plunge into a new career. 

    Generalized anxiety disorder can be very harmful to your career trajectory. If you find yourself stuck and afraid to take the next step, talk with a therapist. Therapy can help you manage your anxiety and get a better picture of yourself to help you in your job. 


    Zamora, D. "Anxiety at Work". WebMD, 2006.