What Is Founder Depression? by Author and MFT Dr. Stephen Dansiger

See the video here on Youtube


What Is Founder Depression? by Author and MFT Dr. Stephen Dansiger


Dr. Stephen Dansiger: For some people with startups, it’s a very small team or like a team of one. And so there is this Me or Us-Against-The-World aspect…

The way I understand founder depression is that it doesn’t matter whether we are dealing with success or failure. It’s almost like postpartum depression. A founder of this startup has this birthing experience and this experience of…most startup people…founders of businesses go through (sometimes it’s not even a phase) but all of them will go through a phase of like 12, 14, 16 hour days where it’s just non-stop. So it’s just a burnout aspect to it where it’s like…it’s just not sustainable. The human body, psyche and spirit just weren’t made or built to go that way.

And there is something that we spoke about earlier about the loneliness, the inherent loneliness. For some people with startups it’s often a very small team or a team of one. And so there is this Me or Us-Against-The-World aspect that can feed sort of this feeling of otherness and feeling of isolation which are big opportunities to develop depression.

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Clinical Dharma – A Path for Healers and Helpers – Dr. Stephen Dansiger [FULL INTERVIEW]


And then going through (if it’s successful) maybe having this extra bit of loneliness at the top syndrome, combined with now everyone around me is suspect as wanting something from me. So depression has a lot of different systems and sometimes those symptoms include anxiety, anger (you know, quick to anger).

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Freud got a lot of things wrong. He got some things right. One of the things where he talked about depression being anger turned inward. It’s not always the case, but it’s one of the things you can see. So a founder can be in that place where in order to be a success they had to be really aggressive. Like maybe it started with assertiveness and it went to aggression. Or they’re angry at competitors because they thought they were going to make 30 million and they only made 10 million. You know, whatever it is. So that’s on the success side and then it’s a little easier to spot when it doesn’t work out. Things don’t go well and so it can be a situational depression like “I had it all and now I have none of it.” And I’m still isolated and alone! And even if I had a team, the team has scattered and now I’ve got to go find a job.

It’s a very real thing and I think it’s also the nature of the economy or the nature of the way people work now. There is a lot more isolation. There’s a lot more at stake. There is a lot more fast money that actually is available for an individual or for a couple of individuals for people to stake out, often at a young age where you may not have developed enough of the emotional coping skills to deal with anything and everything that comes with things taking off or things tanking. So that’s my understanding of it.



Question: Have you experienced founder depression? Any advice you can share?




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