In no other time in history has entrepreneurship sounded so glamorous. Whether it's the lure of living the laptop lifestyle or it's the notion that you have the ability to earn as much money as you want, launching your own business can be tempting.
In fact, today's most successful entrepreneurs have become like modern day rock stars. They speak at events that draw thousands of eager listeners. They write books that land them on the top of bestseller lists. And gain notoriety on TV shows like Shark Tank.
And of course, some entrepreneurs have built their empires teaching others how to live the dream. They create podcasts, websites, online courses, and books that teach others how to launch a product, create a program, or sell a service.
And while there are many benefits to being your own boss, there's a hidden dark side to entrepreneurship that's rarely discussed--the lifestyle can wreak havoc on your psychological well-being.
Few entrepreneurs are talking about their mental health issues, however. But studies show the demands of business ownership places people at a higher risk for specific mental health problems. Here are just a few of the dark sides of being an entrepreneur:
1. Increased risk of depression.
Many entrepreneurs work such long hours that they're not able to take care of themselves. The "time is money" mentality means less time to devote to sleep, leisure, exercise, and other activities that ward off depression.
Many entrepreneurs also feel isolated, either physically or emotionally. And isolation can compound the risk of depression.
Yet, many entrepreneurs don't recognize symptoms of depression because it doesn't always present as sadness. Sleep difficulties, irritability, and changes in weight are just a few less obvious signs. Entrepreneurs often assume their symptoms stem from stress.
At other times, they may be tempted to mask their depression by working longer hours. But more work and less self-care make the problem even worse.
2. Increased risk of self-worth issues.
Many entrepreneurs tie their self-worth to their net-worth. Their business isn't what they do, it's who they are.
When things are going well, their self-esteem skyrockets. But when they lose money or fail to meet their goals, they struggle to feel good.
Most entrepreneurs believe if they work hard enough, they can succeed. But, the statistics on entrepreneurship are grim.
Only about one-third of small businesses survive a decade. The statistics on tech startups are even bleaker--almost 90% of them fail.
In a world that touts itself on mantras like, "Failure isn't an option," setbacks can cause a psychological crisis.
3. Increased risk of anxiety.
Entrepreneurs aren't just under stress, there also under enormous amounts of pressure. The pressure of knowing your ability to pay this month's mortgage depends on closing the next deal lends itself to incredible anxiety.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to function normally because they're constantly worried about their business. It can be hard to take a vacation, spend time with friends, or attend family functions without worrying about the business.
When they're not working, many entrepreneurs experience a battle inside their brains. They second guess their decisions and ruminate on worst case scenarios. Their constant anxiety may lead to burnout.
4. Increased risk of addiction.
Entrepreneurs are passionate by nature. Sometimes, they're a little obsessive. They tend to have a compulsive drive to keep going, even when faced with relationship issues or health problems. And sometimes, their quest to keep going crosses the line into addiction.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Business Venturing, found that serial entrepreneurs display symptoms of behavioral addictions. Obsessive thoughts, withdrawal-engagement cycles, and negative emotional outcomes are similar to other behavioral addictions, like gambling.
But it's not just serial entrepreneurs who may have addiction issues. Research shows entrepreneurs are more likely to have addictive personalities, which means they may have other addictions in their lives, ranging from drug problems to alcohol dependence.
Creating a Realistic Attitude About Entrepreneurship
Emotional difficulties and mental health problems aren't a sign of weakness. It's just a fact that the entrepreneurial lifestyle often lends itself to reduced resilience against mental health issues.
Take a proactive approach to preventing emotional problems. Build mental strength and monitor your psychological health on an ongoing basis. If you're noticing the psychological toll of business ownership, seek professional help before it gets worse.