Founder Depression (why & 3+ Coping tips)

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Page last updated: 24/10/2022

Founder Depression (why & 3+ Coping tips)

This article will present and discuss the topic, “ Founder Depression”, by discussing depression and its clinical features, a brief introduction of founder depression, further explain the causes and behavioural exhibition of founder depression, strategies of combating the depressive symptoms and then answer some of the questions around this topic.

Founder Depression is caused by:

  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • The financial burden and strain
  • Failing to attain their goal
  • Workload
  • Clash with the coworker 
  • Difficulty in attaining a 5-year mark
  • Early episode and diagnoses of other mental health-related illnesses.

Depression

Depression is believed to be one of the most serious and common mental illnesses that affects how a person feels, the way they think and how they act. It causes a tremendous feeling of sadness, melancholy, loneliness and the loss of interest and pleasure in all kinds of activities.

According to DSM 5 Criteria, Depression is not simply a mood disorder where the person goes through grief and experiences low feeling. The individual goes through the feeling for a sustained period of time. The diagnosis of depression includes depressed mood, loss of interest and anhedonia for the same 2 weeks period. 

The DSM 5 criteria for Depression is depressed mood or loss of interest during the same 2-week period coupled with weight loss, change in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation, feeling of worthlessness, lack of concentration and suicidal ideation.

Sign and symptoms of Depression

Some of the sign and symptoms associated with Depression are:

  • Depressed and Low mood
  • Anhedonia
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Worthlessness and Helplessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Thoughts on ending life
  • Difficulty in sleep
  • Irritability and Agitation
  • Fluctuation in appetite
  • Difficulty in decision making.
  • Diurnal Mood
  • Significant weight loss
  • Lost motivation
  • Loss of energy
  • Recurrent thoughts on death
  • Excessive guilt
Founder Depression (why & 3+ Coping tips)

Founder Depression

In the general population, it is estimated that one in 15 adults undergo or are diagnosed with depression every year, and one in six people experience depression once in their lifetime. 

Founder depression is the feeling of melancholy and depressive mood in entrepreneurs. A research that was conducted in entrepreneurs or founders has revealed that 72% of founders reported serious mental health-related concerns and issues, 49% of them have mental health conditions once in their lifetime. 

And 30% of them are more vulnerable to depression than the general population.

Founder Depression is a real thing despite the glamorous side of a founder or entrepreneur. Many often shared and voiced out their struggle through a podcast and made it public. The sole intention of doing it is to make sure that the public is aware of both sides of the founder before actually diving into it.

What does founder depression look like?

Many founders and entrepreneurs are great in hiding away their pain and masking it. They always show from the outside and from their overt behaviour that things are running well and good. The company’s success is growing, profits and opportunities flowing in their way however, they don’t show the exhaustion and mental drains that they undergo each day.

It can’t be seen from their overt behaviour and outside that they are experiencing the numbness and how drained out they are both mentally and physically. There are so many things that they deal with every other day including the struggles of decision making, difficulty in falling asleep, questioning about their decision etc. 

Moreover, being a founder and when promoted to CEO role and responsibility, it’s more gruelling and challenging where the person feels isolated, craves space to talk with someone else and to seek someone’s ear to listen to their problem and hardships.

There are a whole lot of things a founder goes through and deals with. And it is not always a smooth journey, there are associated difficulties and responsibilities with the task. Moreover, they are weighed down with a huge amount of pressure and workload which is not exhibited by them externally.

Factors that lead to founder depression

There is a wide range of factors that trigger and result in founders and entrepreneurs to feel depressed and make them vulnerable. Some major classifications of the factors are financial aspects, mental aspects and social and legislative aspects.

Financial Aspects

There are different financial factors that a person goes through when starting off as a founder. And when one fails to deal and combat the financial challenges they face, it makes them feel low and depressed. These include factors like

  • The feeling and anxiety of going broke and bankruptcy
  • Burning whole money and spending it on business
  • The realisation that your idea wasn’t as great as expected.

Mental Aspect

Some of the factors that deal with mental health and makes the founder more vulnerable and prone to depression are:

  • Prior diagnosis with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders and Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorders
  • Early episodes of Anxiety and Panic

Social and Legislative domain

There are social stressors as well as challenges related to legislation and law that makes the person more susceptible and vulnerable to depression, especially for the founder. These include factors like:

  • Disagreement and clashes with the co-founder and business partners
  • Ending up in a lawsuit 
  • Excess tie spend in court decision and delayed justice

These are some of the major factors that deal with the founder’s depression. Failing to tackle these challenges and problems results in depression of the founder.

Symptoms of Founder Depression

There are many founders who experience depression once in their lifetime and it is often hard and tough for the founder to combat the symptoms since it’s a challenge to them both physically and mentally.

Some of the symptoms include

  • Overloaded pressure to them, their family and social circle
  • Sleepless night and workload
  • Unimagined deadlines
  • Unmet financial obligation
  • Unimaginable deadlines and submission
  • Periodic high and low
  • Chronic low mood

These are some of the factors shown by founders who experience serious depression. The severity of these symptoms differs in individuals.

Strategies of coping with Founder Depression

There are different strategies founders can follow to cope up with depression. It is preventable and one needs to be aware of the conditions so as to get rid of the symptoms:

Avoid the wish and need for an immediate result

Many founders often have the wish and desire to earn an immediate result and profit and when they fail to earn it as per their expectation and wish, they feel low and depressed. Having such a mentality can be detrimental to them. The more they, the founders beat themselves with such unmeetable expectations, they feel low.

Thus it is best to rationalise their own expectations and learn to deal with the circumstances that are unexpected.

Understanding personality type and Identify the weaknesses

Simply learning to deal with the stressors that are acute and for a short period of time is not healthy and doesn’t equip the founder well to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Thus, learning about their own personality and then developing their own coping mechanism helps them better manage depression.

Understanding the strengths and vulnerabilities associated with personal and familial mental health histories may contribute to improved entrepreneurial outcomes” –Michael A. Freeman

Hire people who are like minded and shares their personality type

It is by nature and predisposed in us to hunt for someone who shares the same personality type and is like minded. Founders can hire and recruit employees who are of their type and personality since it results in better productivity as well as the growth of the company.

Having a coworker and employee like such allows and results in an amiable workspace and takes away all the mental strains and workload.

Setting a restorative Niche 

Work of a founder is not always easy, simple and manageable, there are times when they have to undertake jobs and tasks that aren’t something they prefer doing. In such a case, it might result in the emotional and mental drain. To effectively cope up with it, they can have a set up like Restorative Niche where the founder can recharge and rejuvenate themselves from the workload and pressure.

This space can really help the founder to get rid of the psychological imbalance and to recharge themselves for other tasks. 

Being mindful, getting enough sleep and other lifestyle changes

There are lots of sacrifices to be made when being a founder and on top of that, there is stiff competition and rivalry against each other. 

Thus, to cope up with these difficulties and subsequent depressive symptoms in some cases, it is important to ensure that the founder gets enough sleep, are in constant check with their mental health, they take out time for self-care and are mindful.

Other than these major tips of combating the depressive symptoms in founders, there are more tips that founders can follow and imbibe in their behaviour and daily routine so that they are immune and protected from the vulnerability to mental health-related issues and concerns.

  • Keep going on and moving forward despite the heartbreaks and downfall
  • Finding the right space and the right people to work with
  • Seeking professional help
  • Having a transparent and open workspace
  • Providing social support to each other
  • Balancing work life and personal life
  • Accepting the reality and moving forward

These are some of the strategies of ensuring that founders are mentally, physically and psychologically sound and are performing to their best without compromising their mental health.

What is the #1 cause of depression?

The major cause of depression is life events that include, loss of someone close, bereavement, unemployment, isolation, work stress etc.

Who has the most depression?

Individuals belonging to the age group of 18-25, basically adolescence have the highest rate of depression.

Depression is related to other mental illnesses like anxiety disorder, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder and many others.

What happens to the brain during the depression?

There is an influx of cortisol in the brain when we are depressed and the level of serotonin and dopamine is low.

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.

Conclusion

This article presented and discussed the topic, “ Founder Depression”, discussed depression and its clinical features, a brief introduction of founder depression, further explained the causes and behavioural exhibition of founder depression, strategies of combating the depressive symptoms and then answered some of the questions around this topic.

Links for more details

https://blog.samaltman.com/founder-depression

https://zenfounder.com/managing-stress/are-you-dealing-with-founder-depression-some-signs-to-look-for/

Bibliography

full scale. (2019). Founder’s Depression, The Cost of Being an Entrepreneur. fullscale. https://fullscale.io/blog/founders-depression-the-cost-of-being-an-entrepreneur/

Okwatch, L. (2017). How to Prevent Founder Depression. medium. https://medium.com/the-innovation/how-to-prevent-founder-depression-784eaf36eb59

Parker, L. (2019). Founder depression and how I got through it. grow with thrive. https://www.growwiththrive.co.uk/post/founder-depression-and-how-i-got-through-it

Valencia, J. (2017). How Founders Can Recognize and Combat Depression. harvard business review. https://hbr.org/2017/02/how-founders-can-recognize-and-combat-depression