did you know?

72% of entrepreneurs self-report mental health concerns.

96% of entrepreneurs said stress & fatigue reduced their thinking speed and ability to take on new projects.

???% a rapidly growing percentage of entrepreneurs are experiencing burnout, emotional distress, and stress-related illness.

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three common types of issues among entrepreneurs

1. Clinical Mental Health Concerns

 

An astounding 72% of entrepreneurs self-report mental health concerns, with 49% reporting one or more mental health conditions across their lifetime.  

  • Depression: 30% of entrepreneurs report a lifetime history of depression, which is 2x higher than non-entrepreneurs. Characterized by low mood and energy, changes in eating, sleeping, social behavior, and more, depression is the most common mental health issue among entrepreneurs.

  • ADHD: 29% of entrepreneurs report a lifetime history of ADHD, which is almost 6x higher than non-entrepreneurs. ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, difficulty following instructions, and disorganization.

  • Substance Abuse: 12% of entrepreneurs report a lifetime history of substance abuse, which is 3x higher than non-entrepreneurs. In addition to substance abuse, entrepreneurs commonly exhibit addictive tendencies related to spending, sex, and work, including “entrepreneurship addiction.”

  • Bipolar: 11% of entrepreneurs report a lifetime history of bipolar, which is 11x higher than non-entrepreneurs. Characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy, individuals with bipolar experience periods of energy and elation, followed by periods of low energy and depression.

  • Hypomania: Some psychologists believe that almost all entrepreneurs have hypomania. Characterized by optimism, risk tolerance, confidence, and high energy, hypomania is a mild form of mania which is often linked to impulsive, risky, and grandiose behavior.

2. “Softcore” Mental & Emotional Challenges

 

Beyond clinical issues, many entrepreneurs experience challenges that are not necessarily clinical in nature, but nonetheless affect their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Here are a few common examples:

 

  • Imposter Syndrome: A psychological pattern in which an entrepreneur doubts their accomplishments, believes their successes are due to luck, and fears being exposed as a fraud. Surprisingly, this is often seen in the most capable, intelligent, and high achieving entrepreneurs.

 

  • Crisis of Meaning: A breaking moment when an entrepreneur’s sense of meaning, purpose, or sense of self is threatened. This can occur after a failure, acquisition, change in responsibilities, or other challenging moment in the growth of their company.

 

  • Obsessive Passion: A type of passion in which an entrepreneur is compulsively committed to their work, often resulting in burnout. Their attachment to work conflicts with a full, rich life, and they often experience distraction, guilt, and anxiety when they’re not engaged with work.

3. Stress-Related Illness

 

Stress-related illness is the body’s way of drawing attention to persistent, unresolved issues of the mind and spirit. Depending on whether an entrepreneur’s stresses are acute, like a presentation, or chronic, like a persistent fear of failure, stress-related illnesses can take on many different manifestations. Here are a few common examples:

 

  • Adrenal Fatigue: The result of chronic, unresolved stress, adrenal fatigue is characterized by low energy, trouble sleeping, weight gain, mood swings, hormonal issues, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, and other symptoms affecting various systems of the body. 

  • Weakened Immunity: Intense and/or persistent stress can weaken the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to colds, flues, and infections, and slower to heal and recover from injury. When left unmonitored, weakened immunity can eventually result in autoimmune issues.

  • Insomnia: Many entrepreneurs report sleeping problems, like insomnia. A condition characterized by chronic difficulty falling or staying asleep, insomnia is often linked to stress, erratic travel and work schedules, and substances like caffeine and alcohol. 

  • ​GI Troubles: Entrepreneurs frequently self-report gastrointestinal troubles like heartburn, IBS, food sensitivities, and more. Research has increasingly clarified the gut-mind connection, indicating that prolonged stress can trigger the onset of GI disorders.

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why are these issues so common among entrepreneurs?

1. Diathesis-Stress Model

The Diathesis-Stress Model proposes that environmental stressors -- like unstable resources or chronic stress -- can trigger the development of a disease in individuals who have a genetic predisposition. While there are many stressors that are unique to entrepreneurial work that can activate underlying susceptibilities to illness, here are a few common examples:

 

  • Uncertainty & Risk: Entrepreneurs are exposed to high levels of uncertainty and risk. This sense of threat activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, and over time, the fight-or-flight response triggers inflammatory processes that promote mental and physical illness.

  • Effort & Achievement: Entrepreneurship is known for its devotion and effort -- often referred to as “hustling,” While extreme diligence and commitment can lead to success, it can also deplete the body, mind, and spirit of the vital resources it needs to thrive.

  • Loneliness & Responsibility: Particularly in the early days of a venture, entrepreneurship can be a highly isolating endeavor. Many entrepreneurs report feeling very lonely and isolated, and even when they’re surrounded by others, they can often feel quite “lonely at the top.”

2. Self-Selection

 

People with certain mental health issues, thought and behavior patterns, and physical susceptibilities may self-select into entrepreneurship because it provides them with an adaptive advantage as an entrepreneur. In other words, some of the most stigmatized qualities of entrepreneurs are also the reason for their incredible success. 

  • Mental Health Issues: Individuals who self-select into entrepreneurship may be more likely to suffer from mental health issues because these disorders provide advantageous qualities they need for success. For example, depression, ADHD, bipolar, and substance abuse are correlated with innovativeness, creativity, risk propensity, novelty seeking, openness, and goal attainment.

  • Thought & Behavior Patterns: Certain patterns of thinking and behaving are linked with entrepreneurial success, and while these patterns can be maladaptive in some contexts, they can be essential in others. For instance, patterns of thinking and behaving that are addictive, obsessive, critical, and disagreeable can be highly advantageous for entrepreneurs.

  • Physical Susceptibility: Entrepreneurs may have more sensitive nervous systems than non-entrepreneurs, and are shown to be significantly more intuitive than employees (measured by physiological responses to future outcomes). While intuitive entrepreneurs are at a clear advantage, their nervous systems may be more reactive to stressors in their environment.

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jessica@wiredthisway.co

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