Social Anxiety Isn’t Helping Women Close the Pay Gap

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(WOMENSENEWS)– April 12, is Equal Pay Day, the day symbolizing how far into the year women must work in order to catch up to what men earned in the previous year alone.

It’s an anxious topic in many ways, given the connection between the pay gap and women’s financial insecurities.

It’s also a topic that directly involves the problem of social anxiety, a condition afflicting about 15 million people and a disproportionate number of women.

Joanne Davila, a clinical psychologist and professor at Stony Brook University in New York, says social anxiety disorder can take a toll on career prospects.

“People who are socially anxious are afraid that others are going to evaluate them in a negative, harsh, critical manner,” Davila says. “And consequently they get anxious, worried, and nervous in situations where that can happen.”

More than just being shy, social anxiety disorder is a condition based in fear of being embarrassed or judged in social situations.

“Women’s wages are already lower than men’s and [social anxiety disorder] decreases it even further,” Sanna Kuusikko-Gauffin, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oulu in Finland, said in an email interview.

Furthering the problem, there’s evidence that the income gap itself might lead to both anxiety and depression in women and with more and more evidence connecting women’s mental health to wages, recent reports on the wage gap are increasingly troubling.

Last year, it was reported that the income gap between men and women had not improved since 2007 and this month on International Women’s Day, ThinkProgress relayed disheartening findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

In 2015, compared to men, women actually saw a decrease in their weekly earnings. Further, while both men and women received increases in their median incomes, the percent increase of men’s wages was nearly three times that of women.

Too Little Being Said

Reluctance to talk about anxiety is part of the problem.

Like most mental health topics, there’s a pervasive negative stigma around social anxiety preventing many people from discussing it or seeking help. “It adds another layer to the problem,” says Davila.

The good news, however, is that celebrities are opening up.

In January, Oprah began a discussion of mental illnesses, including her own bouts of depression and anxiety.

Male athletes have also helped push the problem to the surface in the past few years.

We’ve seen professional baseball player Zach Greinke take time off from baseball to receive treatment for social anxiety that was inhibiting his career. NFL running back Ricky Williams was diagnosed with the disorder, and shortstop Khalil Greene was put on the MLB disabled list because of social anxiety.

Putting celebrity faces on the disorder is a productive step towards a more informed dialogue on the topic and a step away from negative stigma.

Social anxiety can impair job commitment, reduce productivity, and increase missed work hours. There’s even evidence that social anxiety correlates with lower incomes and employment rates, which means bad news for women in particular.

As far as the wage gap is concerned, change is unfortunately limited to the pace of legislation and changing practices in the workplace.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the time frame for filing complaints against unfair pay based on gender and both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have flagged wage disparity in their campaigns.

Cognitive Therapy

In the meantime, to the extent that social anxiety contributes to wage disparity, the good news is that it is rather treatable through cognitive behavioral therapy, an established treatment that works to reduce fears associated with social situations.

According to Davila, “Cognitive behavioral therapies focus on helping people change the way they think about socially evaluative situations and expose them to those situations in ways that let them see that either their worst fear isn’t going to come true or that they can handle it if it does.”

The bad news, though, is that while women are more likely to be affected by social anxiety, they’re less likely to seek treatment for it.

A recent study also showed that small amounts of testosterone might help women suffering from social anxiety.

Individuals with social anxiety disorder typically avoid eye contact with others and particularly if the expression is aggressive or angry, but socially anxious women given testosterone didn’t avoid eye contact with angry faces any more than their healthy counterparts did.

“This is only a first experimental study, and we still need to test whether it can work in a clinical setting,” says Dorien Enter, a Ph.D. candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and an author of the study. “It could be interesting for future investigations to explore whether adding testosterone as a pharmacologic enhancer in the first few therapy sessions can boost efficacy of exposure therapy in SAD.”

2 thoughts on “Social Anxiety Isn’t Helping Women Close the Pay Gap

  1. The mindset presented in this article IS the problem we are endlessly attempting to rope women into inappropriately dealing with to their owndetriment. We are shockingly quick to blame women for their normal feelings (the soltions to which, in this and many other cases) simply require the development of SKILLS; as “mental illness’s” and “disorders” that pathologize, discredit and dis-empower us as people; rather than look at the hostile external, misogynistic, abusive, rape culture that hyper-sexualizes, trivializes and uses women and children as sex objects and punishes us for attempting to be our whole authentic selves.

    Conversely, the litany of reduculous excuses we use to obscure violence and protect perpetrators of rape and violence against women and children is the exact opposite (stress, the economy, jobs, women taking their jobs, the presurre of being a man.) Men who abuse are considered by and large to be normal everyday guys; while their victims who live in the toxic world are the sick ones.

    Anyone using Ophra as a measure of women’s wellness or a guide to anything health related is lost to begin with. She is not remotely an example of the average women yet consistently sells herself as such.

    Anyone who is NOT in touch with their own normal healthy painful concerns about the world we live in is emotionally out of touch with their own humanity. We have to start waking up and grasping that “packaged” media and “medical” industry answers (‘medicalization of social problems”) are NOT valid answerS to what ails our hearts, minds and souls. Living in a toxic, violent, sexist world full of people trying to TELL and sell us our own stories and shoving their versions of what we need to TAKE to fix US is what is WRONG about us- IS the problem.

    Only I can tell you what’s wrong with me- if anything. The journey is to figure it out for yourself, determine your own worth, write your own story and live your own life. There is NOTHING wrong with us; but there is plenty wrong with society. Finding a way to avoid people who create more problems and working on solutions to a problem your passionate about, is the surest way to build a life you can live in.

    Lets STOP listening to anyone who thinks they knows better than we do what we need and start figuring that our for ourselves.

    (c) JMG March 24, 2016, MH, AB, CA


    The following facts are part of “legal informed consent” the author neglected to mention the existence of when she invited women to agree to live their lives as “crazy” people.
    1. It is NORMAL for women’s hormones fluctuate. This does NOT make women “sick” or “mentally ill”
    2. Fluctuating hormones can result in women experiencing SYMPTOMS” of anxiety, panic, inability to sleep, emotional liable, “depression” etc. Symptoms are NOT diseases.
    3. Simple logic proves that if low testosterone causes anxiety and replacing testosterone eliminates the anxiety, women suffering from low testosterone induced anxiety; they are not “mentally ill”.
    4. This is the same for B vitamin deficiencies, exposure to toxic substances, lack of exercise, being beaten up, losing your job. They all CAUSE you to FEEL something and that makes you HUMAN- Not “mentally ill”.
    5. This article perpetuates the historical lie that because women are “emotionally unstable” they are not capable of doing the serious work that men do.
    6. On the surface the author appears to benevolently cares but in reality she blames the women’s weak hormones, as having caused the social problem
    7. The author in fact blames women for having CREATED the problem of our own low wage by being women
    8. This belies the social political patriarchal, misogyny reality that keeps women victims of legalized systemic financial abuse.
    9. The author masquerades as the solution to the false manner in which she spun the problem,
    10. which in turn perpetuates the social myth that women are inherently weak, emotional, mentally ill, incapable of serious work thus undeserving of an equal wage
    11. Without risking pathologizing yourself for life, women can get their hormone levels tests by their GP without disclosing symptoms that are easy and profitable to twist into “mental illness’s.”
    12. If your having trouble looking someone in the eye, consider educating yourself with safe, specific, cheap and effective skills at Toast Masters for example.
    13. Women should understand is that whenever they attend upon any “mental health” worker there is an almost 100% guarantee that they will automatically be permanent labelled with a “crazy stain” on their medical chart; which remains there for the rest of their lives and is also used to stigmatize their children and their children as well.
    14. This is in part how the genetic myth of “mental illness” is spread: via “medical” documentation. LOL (but NOT funny)
    15. Every subsequent “medical worker” will consider any real medical problem you present with (ie: heart disease) in terms of the history of “mental illness”. This can kill women.
    Here is a credible doctor that women can trust.

    In 60 years, not a single study has proven that depression or anxiety, for that matter, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. In fact, there has never been a human study proving that low serotonin levels actually cause depression. Simply put, the ‘serotonin theory’ of depression is a myth, according to Dr. Kelly Brogan, Board Certified in Psychiatry and Integrative Holistic Medicine.