The True Cost of Depression for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
There are few who would argue that depression can have debilitating effects on those who suffer from it. However, when it comes to the realm of small business and entrepreneurship, it seems like many still subscribe to the notion that owners should ‘buck up’ and ‘make it work’ when facing personal problems or other business-related challenges. While this ‘knock em dead’ mentality has its merits, it fails to acknowledge the very real and very damaging effects of depression and anxiety in the workplace. Additionally, these attitudes are often the result of a lack of awareness concerning the economic implications of emotional conditions like depression. In fact, the economic impacts of such conditions can be just as detrimental, if not worse, than the emotional repercussions they are most often associated with.
While it is difficult to quantify the degree to which depression can negatively affect your personal life or business, it is often easier to comprehend how one exacerbates the other. There are countless studies that illustrate the connection between one’s finances and one’s stress levels. In the context of business, however, and specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurs, depression can actually lead to an increase in expenses and a reduction in your overall revenue streams.
You might think that depression-related expenses would involve medication and counseling services, but they are actually more directly related to the cost of business. One article in Inc. Magazine noted how business owners suffering from depression often fall behind in their duties. This can include everything from hiring outside contractors to perform work that you, as a business owner, would normally handle yourself, to incurring late-payment penalties from credit card bills you forgot to make payments on. These expenses might not seem like much at first, but for business owners just starting out they can literally be the difference between profit and loss. Over time, paying someone else to take care of the website design or sales copy that you would have otherwise taken care of but for your depression, can lead to a significant increase in operating costs.
Even more importantly, financial struggles brought on by depression and other forms of anxiety can compound emotional difficulties to disastrous ends. In June of 2014, Forbes reported on a study from The University of Oxford, which found that more than 10,000 suicides could ultimately be linked to the worldwide financial crisis that nearly crippled U.S., Canadian and European economies in 2009. If you aren’t quite sure how this relates to depression for business owners, you need only look to the economic hardships that such conditions can foster.
As already pointed out, depression can indirectly lead to a surge in business-related expenditures. Slowly accumulating more debt, either because your depression has robbed you of the desire to pour time and energy into your new venture, or because your loss of focus necessitates constantly re-doing tasks that would normally require little effort, can create significant stress for any business owner. If left unchecked, the repercussions of depression can lead to business failure or even home foreclosure, not to mention the loss of other financed assets like automobiles.
In all, the onset of depression, whether from personal or professional struggles, can exacerbate already stressful problems, leading to a vicious cycle that often ends in tragedy. Even in the absence of personal tragedy, the hundreds or thousands of entrepreneurs suffering from depression have a cumulative effect on the national economy.
Overall, while the economic implications of depression can be severe, it is certainly a treatable and manageable condition, and one that many successful people battle on a daily basis. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that The Huffington Post reported on cultural and athletic greats, like Buzz Aldrin and Terry Bradshaw, having long battled depression and are winning the fight.
Still, to avoid the financial and emotional turmoil of depression, it is always beneficial to enlist the assistance of a professional. There have been incredible advances in recent years in the quest for how best to combat the effects of such devastating emotional conditions, and often times, the root of the problem can be identified and treated.
Janel Ball, MA, RCC