Entrepreneur Depression: An Epidemic Nobody is Talking About

Entrepreneur depression is an epidemic that needs to be discussed today because entrepreneurs are 4X more likely to suffer from depression than the general public.

When Elon Musk, one of the most successful business persons of the modern age said “Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.” He wasn’t joking.  

Entrepreneurship is a very emotional and intimate adventure filled with a lot of ups and downs. In fact, there is a passing joke amongst entrepreneur that loosely translates to business life is so unpredictable and unusual that you might dine like a Saudi prince today, tomorrow you might not even know where your next meal is coming from.’

The uncertainty that comes with this emotional rollercoaster has been known to push many entrepreneurs off the edge. It’s interesting to know that depression is more common among entrepreneurs than the normal population.

On average, 7% of the population suffers from depression while a whopping 30% of entrepreneurs do.

The crazy part is that most of these people do not know they are depressed, while the ones that do won’t talk about it. The “Y-combinator” Sam Altman says “there is a huge amount of pressure as a founder to never show weakness and to be the cheerleader in all internal and external situations.

The world can be falling down around you — and most of the time when you’re running a company, it is — and you have to be the strong, confident, and optimistic. Failing is terrifying, and so is looking stupid. This is precisely why it is critical to know about entrepreneur depression both for yourself and your fellow entrepreneurs. Continue to read to learn the warning signs and what to do if you think that you or your colleague could be depressed.

Founders end up with a lot of weight on their shoulders — their employees and their families, their customers, their investors, etc. Founders usually feel a responsibility to make everyone happy, even though interests are often opposed. And it’s lonely in a way that’s difficult to explain, even with a co-founder.

So a lot of founders end up pretty depressed at one point or another, and they generally don’t talk to anyone about it. Often companies don’t survive these dark times.” Lately, though, there have improvements.

The mere mention of depression used to be taboo around these parts; now we can say the depression question has been asked so much that we may see a lot of super rich and super important corporations hiring an in-house therapist to keep everybody sane. Some of these stress is most of the time minute and small, but when they weighed collectively, you’d wonder how your entrepreneur friends are always looking happy in their pictures.

How to spot depression in yourself or your colleague.

Most of the time, depression can be difficult to spot among average people and much more difficult among entrepreneurs.

The bulk of the time, the person is too busy working even to notice any symptoms of depression, and when they do, they somehow play it off as one of the few mood twists that come with running a business. It is very important to be very aware of the symptoms to look out for when suspecting depression among family, friends, coworkers or even dealing with it by yourself.

Some of the signs of depression to look out for are:

• Lack of concentration  
• Frequent feelings of tiredness
• Emotional instability or prolonged sadness, anger or frustration.
• Alcohol dependency, especially if the person, previously was not a heavy drinker.
• Indecisiveness
• Socially excluding self from normal situations and avoiding others.

How to fight depression.  

When upsets happen, and they will. It would help if you always remembered that you are not alone. Take a step back, look at the bigger picture. These challenges may become insignificant in a few months.

Whenever you have an issue, always use the high school analogy, remember the biggest problem you had in high school and you thought you would lose it or worse, it became so insignificant you are probably laughing at yourself wondering how you let something so trivial disturb.

The key is to always keep things in perspective. Noah Kagan, the Sumo founder, said, “Write out everything when you are feeling sad. It’s really funny to laugh at when you are feeling better. Do the opposite when you are in a great mood. Look for patterns about where, when and why you are in this mood. I wrote this out on a post-it note and try to put myself back in those places when not feeling great.

If simple positive mind-shifts are not helping your depression could require additional help to shift. It’s also important to know when to speak up and ask for help. It does not mean you’re weak; as a matter of fact, it takes enormous strength to speak to someone. Many successful entrepreneurs have struggled with depression and beat it with help.  Serious depression is a medical issue and you cannot fight it alone, and you would be doing yourself and your company a world of good if you speak up and seek help.

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