Thursday, 3 September 2009

Great response by Ysabeth to the question: can I stop working because of my social phobia:

Ysabeth responds:
"I think the important question is not "CAN you stop working?" but "SHOULD you stop working?" Let's consider some aspects of this decision.

1) A doctor (or counselor) is a useful *resource* but should be giving you advice, not orders. YOU are responsible for your own life and so you should make the decisions, taking into consideration the best information and advice possible. (People who aren't able to make sound decisions are usually in need of a hospital stay.)

2) If you're asking yourself whether you can or should continue working, then that indicates you have a serious problem. So whatever you decide about work, you should definitely seek help with your anxiety issues. Chances are you need some new skills in your head; and there may be physical, spiritual, or other aspects needing attention as well. Do not simply quit working and use your anxiety as an excuse to sit on your arse doing nothing forever. That way lies misery.

3) Explore, and actually list if you can, the practical ("My boss has complained that I am not doing my assigned tasks.") and emotional ("ZOMG I CAN'T DO THIS!") and financial ("I have some money saved, but it won't last forever.") reasons for and against stopping work.

4) Ask yourself some questions, such as:
* Have you had to stop one or more tasks due to anxiety issues? How many, how often?
* Does your social phobia make your coworkers, boss, clients, etc. uncomfortable around you?
* Is your social phobia bad all the time, or does it come in cycles?
* Do you feel that your job is making your anxiety worse? That is, can you point to things (an abusive supervisor, sexual harassment, short deadlines) that specifically make you miserable; such that you might do better in a different job? And do you feel calmer when you are not at work, including when you are with different people?
* Does it seem like you are simply overloaded, such that you get better when you have some time to relax and get more sleep?
* Has anyone else suggested that you stop working, temporarily or permanently, or switch jobs? Do you agree or disagree?

5) If your anxiety issues are impacting your work enough that there is a real risk of getting fired, then seriously consider taking a leave of absence or resigning before that happens. Getting fired for cause almost always makes it harder to get another job. However, check with your company first because some make counseling available to employees who need it.

6) As a possible alternative to leaving the workforce, temporarily or permanently, consider switching jobs or even careers. Some people find a particular field really stressful but are fine when they change to one that suits them. If your job is crushing or unsatisfying or terrifying, that's not good for anyone! Spend some time exploring whether there is some other kind of job you would enjoy and do well.

7) Avoid making permanent, long-term decisions like "I'm going to quit my job and never work again!" at this time. If you're so strung out with anxiety that you're thinking about stopping work, then you're not in a suitable frame of mind for making important decisions. Instead try to focus on short-term things like getting help or discussing your job situation with a counselor if you already have one, and maybe taking a brief leave of absence. That may put you in a better state of mind for considering your long-term plans."

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