Entrepreneurs who start one business after another might not just be interested in building up their portfolios — they may be addicted to the process, new research finds.
Serial entrepreneurs, people who launch multiple startups throughout their careers, exhibit symptoms similar to those of other behavioral addictions, such as gambling, Internet usage and workaholism, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Business Venturing.
These symptoms include obsessive thoughts, feelings of withdrawal, and neglect of previously important things and activities. An addiction can also involve destructive emotional consequences, such as guilt and high levels of strain, and harm to a person's physical health.
The research, which was based on interviews with habitual entrepreneurs, offers a psychological explanation for a potential "dark side" of entrepreneurship, said Alexander McKelvie, one of the study's authors and chair and associate professor in the Syracuse University department of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises.
"Being an entrepreneur takes a psychological and emotional toll on people. It's not always what people think are positive outcomes, such as gaining fame, fortune or self-fulfillment," McKelvie said in a statement. "The costs of these behavioral addictions are borne by families, communities and economies in the form of social services, health care and public benefits programs."
Additionally, previous clinical psychology research suggests that people who exhibit behavioral addiction in one area are likely to suffer from other behavioral or substance addictions, according to the study's authors. [10 Warning Signs You're Not Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur]
The authors caution that while they have some preliminary evidence of behavioral addiction, more research is needed to further understand how this phenomenon may apply to all entrepreneurs.
The study was co-authored by J. Michael Haynie, the Barnes Professor of Entrepreneurship at Syracuse, and April Spivack, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.