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Articles   |    
Employment Barriers, Skills, and Aspirations Among Unemployed Job Seekers With and Without Social Anxiety Disorder
Joseph A. Himle, Ph.D.; Addie Weaver, Ph.D.; Deborah Bybee, Ph.D.; Lisa O'Donnell, M.S.W.; Sarah Vlnka, M.S.W.; Wayne Laviolette, M.A., Psy.S.; Edward Steinberger, M.S.; Zipora Golenberg, M.A.; Debra Siegel Levine, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300201
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Dr. Himle, Dr. Weaver, Ms. O'Donnell, Ms. Vlnka, and Dr. Levine are with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (e-mail: himlej@umich.edu). Dr. Bybee is with the Department of Community Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing. Mr. Laviolette, Mr. Steinberger, and Ms. Golenberg are with JVS Detroit, Detroit, Michigan.

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

Abstract

Objective  The literature has consistently demonstrated that social anxiety disorder has substantial negative impacts on occupational functioning. However, to date, no empirical work has focused on understanding the specific nature of vocational problems among persons with social anxiety disorder. This study examined the association between perceived barriers to employment, employment skills, and job aspirations and social anxiety among adults seeking vocational rehabilitation services.

Methods  Data from intake assessments (June 2010–December 2011) of 265 low-income, unemployed adults who initiated vocational rehabilitation services in urban Michigan were examined to assess perceived barriers to employment, employment skills, job aspirations, and demographic characteristics among participants who did or did not screen positive for social anxiety disorder. Bivariate and multiple logistic regression analyses were performed.

Results  After adjustment for other factors, the multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that perceiving more employment barriers involving experience and skills, reporting fewer skills related to occupations requiring social skills, and having less education were significantly associated with social anxiety disorder. Participants who screened positive for social anxiety disorder were significantly less likely to aspire to social jobs.

Conclusions  Employment-related characteristics that were likely to have an impact on occupational functioning were significantly different between persons with and without social anxiety problems. Identifying these differences in employment barriers, skills, and job aspirations revealed important information for designing psychosocial interventions for treatment of social anxiety disorder. The findings underscored the need for vocational services professionals to assess and address social anxiety among their clients.

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Table 1Classification of employment skills and job aspirations, by Holland Code
Table Footer Note

a Holland Codes also include artistic and investigative categories; however, none of the employment skills or job aspirations assessed by the vocational service agency fell into these categories.

Table Footer Note

b Participants’ perceived employment skills were identified by their selection of occupations that matched their skill set.

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Table 2Characteristics of 265 clients at a vocational service agency with or without social anxiety disorder
Table Footer Note

a Scores range from 0 to 8, with scores <3 indicating insufficient basic reading and literacy skills.

Table Footer Note

b Scores reflect the number of barriers endorsed from a total of 3 for disability, 4 for experience and skills, 4 for resources, and 1 each for criminal record and appearance.

Table Footer Note

c Scores reflect the number of occupations endorsed from a total of 3 for conventional, 6 for realistic, and 4 for social jobs.

Table Footer Note

d Participants were asked to choose their top 3 from a total of 22 job aspirations, but some selected more or fewer. Scores reflect the proportion of job aspirations endorsed under each Holland Code from a total of 3 conventional, 3 enterprising, 9 realistic, and 7 social jobs.

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Table 3Associations between characteristics of 247 clients of a vocational service agency and a positive screen for social anxiety disorder
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