Entrepreneurs are 4x more likely to suffer from depression than their neighbors, friends, and family members who represent the general population. The United States ties for second place for the highest rate of depression with Estonia and Australia at 5.9%. Second only to the citizens of Ukraine who are involved in a tragic war. Sadly, depression in entrepreneurs is so common it represents a good chunk of a depressed population at a whopping 30%!

As a business coach, I have an opportunity to help affected business owners with their depression and to consider that their mysteriously dark thoughts and behaviors come from the depression they usually don't even know they have. The reason you may not think of it as depression is that if you see yourself as high functioning and expect yourself to ‘buck up,' as entrepreneurs do, you may be aware that you don't feel great, but you'll chalk it up to stress and other factors that don't include depression. With depression in entrepreneurs at a rate of 30 percent, this is truly a silent epidemic.

Why is depression in entrepreneurs so prevalent?

I can identify many reasons for the epidemic proportions of depression in entrepreneurs, and I'm confident that researchers have identified many more. The thoughts and information in this article come from nearly twenty years of successfully coaching small business owners; I am not a therapist. Here are the depression-triggering facts I witness most often.

Some entrepreneurs are predisposed to mental illness.

Many studies argue that some entrepreneurs are predisposed to mental illness, including depressive tendencies. The same qualities that make you an outstanding entrepreneur: creativity, ability to pivot, empathy, independence, visionary, and crisis-management skills may be rooted in negative life experiences. If you have experienced any level of trauma in your past, it likely resulted in many negative beliefs about yourself and the world around you. Experiences of failure, shame, perfectionism, and emotional or physical abuse, lead to anxiety and self-doubt, which can lead to varying levels of depression.

However, even if you were blessed with an idyllic childhood and a life relatively free of trauma, it does not disqualify you from depressive tendencies. The risks and uncertainty that come with the emotional rollercoaster that is a founder's life can be enough to push us to the brink of a breakdown. There is tremendous pressure to succeed from both internal and external sources. Mostly, entrepreneurs are hardest on themselves.

What are the primary stressors that lead to depression in entrepreneurs?

Aside from the above, the climate of the business world is quite harsh. There's competition, lack of funding, employees and candidates who ghost business owners, managing others, client issues, and rapidly advancing technologies that take money and education to keep up. As a founder, you have a world of weight on your shoulders and little opportunity to go off-grid to escape the crazy.

As though the external challenges aren't enough, they are compounded by negative self-talk and beliefs that can make you feel incapable or undeserving. Skim through my other blogs and Inc.com articles for more on this mindset and what to do about it.

Why it's difficult to spot depression in yourself.

If you've lived with depression for any length of time, it's hard to identify if your moods, thoughts, and behaviors are “just who you are” or symptoms of depression. Also, you're busy; who has time to slow down to evaluate this problem? Lastly, what if you discover you are Business Coaching for entrepreneursdepressed? That's scary, right?

The good news is that therapy, a good life and business coach, a healthier lifestyle, alternative treatments, and possibly (but not always) medication can resolve most issues. Why live a life of anxiety, high stress, and sad thoughts if you don't have to? It used to be taboo to discuss mental health; luckily, those days are gone.

How to spot depression in yourself.

Pay attention to your thoughts and moods. Prolonged sadness, anger, and frustration may be signs that you are depressed.

You're tired. Of course, you are, but depression comes with a whole new level of fatigue. Pay attention to your energy patterns.

Poor concentration. You may believe that what I call entrepreneurial ADHD comes with the territory. That's not always true. Your habits, beliefs, and lack of clarity contribute to poor concentration.

You may have a lack of appetite and trouble sleeping. Watch for any change in mood, habits, or attitudes that don't feel good to you.

Do you drink more alcohol than you'd like to admit?

A drink or two takes the edge off, but note if your drinking (or other self-medicating) habits have increased. This could be a sign that your coping mechanisms are over-taxed.

Indecisiveness and overwhelming feelings that muddy up your clarity.

Sometimes these feelings get so big that we shut down and use productive procrastination to avoid thinking about strategy and gaining clarity. Sometimes, even the most basic decisions feel overwhelming.

You don't feel like spending time with others.

You are excluding yourself from everyday social situations and avoiding others. This could be happening because your stress and depressive tendencies are taking up all of your energy. It's challenging to make small talk when you're facing tough problems.

Resolving depression in entrepreneurs.

The first step for anyone is to recognize that you aren't happy and are not alone, even though you may feel lonely. Many of your peers have gone or are going through bouts of depression. Society expects entrepreneurs to be tough and resilient, but we are all human with feelings, needs, and limits.

Try to put things in perspective.

Every problem becomes amplified when the brain is operating in a depressed state. Our stress bucket becomes full, and any minor issue can create an overflow. We also have negative recordings that yell at us from inside our heads; I'm not good or smart enough, I don't deserve success, I'm going to fail, so many people are counting on me, I can't let them down. I have many articles on my site about “BullShifting™” negative thinking. Check this one out.

Think about all the problems you've resolved in the past.

When we're involved in an anxiety-inducing issue, it feels like the world's weight is crashing upon us. You've felt this way before; what happened then? Most often, our worst fears don't manifest themselves. Even if they do, there are few circumstances from which we don't recover. You've probably faced heavier challenges and made it to the other side.

If simple positive mindset shifts are not helping your depression, please find a professional to work with for a while. If your depression is deep and long-lasting, interview some therapists to find one who resonates with your belief system. A coach with training and experience working with entrepreneurs is a great choice to complement therapy or as a stand-alone approach if you believe treatment is unnecessary. A good, ethical coach will gently nudge you toward therapeutic assistance if your situation is beyond their scope of practice.

Remember your mission and vision; you have a purpose to achieve. Ask for help so you can be happy in life and business and get to your goals efficiently. It's just better that way.

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