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The price of entrepreneurship: Depression in business owners

The price of entrepreneurship: Depression in business owners

by Weave Asia

Building a company is never easy. Entrepreneurs describe the emotions they face akin to that of a roller coaster ride. You could feel like you’re on cloud nine one day after securing funding and the next, spiral into misery when a high value client pulls out.

But there comes a time when the pits of despair becomes so consuming that it renders one unable to work and even to the brink of suicide.

Such are the effects of depression — an invisible killer that lurks in our midst that few entrepreneurs choose to talk about. Instead, the headlines glorify the glamour of the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Richard Bransons while the psychological price of entrepreneurship gets swept under the rug.

Elon Musk himself tweeted in 2017, “The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.”

In fact, entrepreneurs are twice as likely to face depression as the general populace. Experts point to the perfect storm of chronic stress, pressure, loneliness and the risk of failure as key reasons for such figures.

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What Differentiates Bouts Of Sadness From Clinical Depression?

While sadness is very much part of life, depression is far more insidious. One key difference is that sadness, like all emotions, fades with time. Depression if left untreated can go on for years. Suffice to say that while sadness changes your mood, depression changes your life.


How Do I Tell If It’s Sadness Or Depression?

A medical professional would make the assessment based on guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). These symptoms are typically present over a two week duration for cases of Major Depression:

  1. Low mood most of the day nearly every day
  2. Loss of interest in usual activities
  3. Change in appetite to the point of losing or gaining weight
  4. Sleeping too little, or sleeping too much
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy
  6. Feeling worthless, guilty, and hopeless
  7. Decreased concentration and an inability to focus on daily tasks at work
  8. Movements that become slow or agitated to the point where others notice.
  9. Suicide ideation or suicide attempts


What To Do If You Think You Have Depression

The need to appear strong may be vital in your identity as an entrepreneur but depression is not a sign of weakness.

Here are some some three ideas to help you deal or overcome your depression:

1) Join a community of entrepreneurs like the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) or Business Network International (BNI) to learn from fellow peers, learn from their experiences and potentially avoid certain pitfalls or mistakes made by others.

2) If you’ve been feeling a few of the symptoms above for a prolonged time and know that something in your life just isn’t right, seek external help from a coach and/or self-help podcasts/books. There are also free mental health tests available online such as from Mental Health America and local counseling service Olive Branch. These will not give you a diagnosis but it can guide you on what to do next.

3) Consider therapy if you know for certain you need to speak to a professional therapist or call the following numbers. These services will equip you with the emotional skills needed to guide you out of a dark period.

Better Help
Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service
Counselling and Care Centre

Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline (6389-2222)
Samaritans of Singapore (1800-221-4444)
Silver Ribbon Singapore (6385-3714)

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