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The Stress of being a startup founder.

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs like myself are constantly pressured to put up a strong front and suppress their fear, their stress, their feelings. We share the infamous “I’m fine,” or “everything is good” after our friends ask how we are doing.

Some days have been really, really hard. As I’ve dealt with the insurmountable stress of building a company.

I felt suffocated with no understanding of how to snap out of it except to keep going (which only exacerbated it). I had a short temper with my significant other, my employees, my friends, and my family. My creativity level diminished significantly. I could barely go a day without feeling frustrated at myself and those around me. If anyone asked me what was wrong, I replied, “Nothing, I am fine.” I avoided people, wanted to be alone, and felt guilty whenever I was not working. I felt trapped.

What are the most common conditions that entrepreneurs suffer from? 30% of entrepreneurs report depression as the main issue (comparing to 7% of general US society), 29% suffers from ADHD, substance use is a condition among 12% of them and 11% had bipolar disorder diagnosed.

Startup founders work under huge pressure of running out of time and money necessary to grow the company. Add to this the knowledge about the statistics of startup failures and we have a very dangerous mixture which may lead to severe mental health problems.

Mental health is still a black box when it comes to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. Rarely do we talk about the stresses and anxieties that those who run businesses go through — because of growing competition and the pressure to become a star. We are so busy celebrating the multi-billion-dollar unicorns that the ones who get run over in the race are tabooed still, turned into examples of how not to be as entrepreneurs.

The way our society has projected entrepreneurs has been fairly toxic. Either you make it, or you vanish. Go big or go home.

A startup founder is creating something out of nothing. Building a startup is nothing like the media portrays it. Being a founder is a sort of hell. For most founders, the intensity of building a company and the stress that comes from making payroll is almost unimaginable and can break even the strongest-willed entrepreneurs.

Life is not easy. Life is not perfect. Life is good.

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