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How Founders Can Recognize and Combat Depression

I published this article for Harvard Business Review on Feb 17, 2017.

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Eric is, by all means, a very successful entrepreneur. His technology company has grown considerably in the past five years. He’s raised two rounds of funding, has a customer base in the thousands, and is managing a team of eight employees.

Although admired by fellow entrepreneurs, Eric harbors a dark secret: He goes home every night feeling extremely exhausted and unhappy. Naturally a quiet person, Eric has become distressed by the endless networking, fundraising, and people management that he is required to do. He feels physically and emotionally drained, no longer able to sleep well or concentrate during the day. He finds that work is no longer as enjoyable as it used to be, so his motivation and performance have taken a hit.

Eric has a classic example of founder depression. Usually marked by sadness or a loss of interest in activities, founder depression looks a lot like typical depression and can damage a company from multiple points. It can hurt company performance, since depressed founders lose their ability to function effectively on a daily basis. It can cause employees and investors to lose trust in the founder’s ability to lead, which can fuel doubts about the company’s future. And it can risk the health and well-being of the founder — something I have seen in my work with entrepreneurs and as a student of clinical psychology...

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