- Entrepreneurship becomes an addiction when it has a negative impact on your life.
- Managing your addiction begins with acknowledging you have a problem.
- Support is crucial for recovery.
From smoking cigarettes to playing video games, just about any substance or activity can turn into an addictive behavior. But what about starting a business? Can entrepreneurship become an addiction too?
Entrepreneurship may be a great career option for some people, but serial entrepreneurs (those who start multiple businesses) could be more than just business savvy and adventurous. Habitual entrepreneurship can actually be a behavioral addiction, according to a study in the Journal of Business Venturing.
Think you or someone you know might be addicted to entrepreneurship? Business News Daily asked psychologists and career coaches what they think are the top warning signs and symptoms of entrepreneurship addiction. Here are 10 signs to look out for.
1. You neglect your family.
"Your family and friends are put in second place. The biggest sign of work addiction is neglecting your family and outside life. When you prioritize the rush of starting one new endeavor after another, your interpersonal relationships suffer. Whether it's a struggling marriage, kids who are resentful and acting out, or not having had a day off in a year, these are all signs that your work is an addiction." – Shannon Kolakowski, licensed clinical psychologist and author
2. You stop taking care of yourself.
"You neglect your own health – working ridiculous hours, eating horribly, skipping exercise, not caring for illnesses – all in sacrifice to make your business more successful." – Kelly Tonelli, licensed clinical psychologist
3. You start new projects without finishing others.
"[You feel] the need to begin a new business (or definitely if it's businesses) before the previously established business is out of the hole and into the red." – Peter J. Economou, licensed professional counselor and founder of The Counseling and Wellness Center
4. Doing non-work-related things is frustrating to you.
"You feel anxious or irritable when you can't engage in activities related to your entrepreneurial pursuits." – Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist, professor and author
5. You feel like you can't stop.
"They feel like the drive within themselves to create something new is unstoppable, like a freight train." – Jennifer Martin, founder of Zest Business Consulting
6. You engage in desperate behaviors.
"They do things outside of their normal behavior (e.g., manipulating others) to get the funding they need." – Colleen Mullen, licensed marriage and family therapist at Coaching Through Chaos
7. You won't listen to others.
"They tend to have poor listening skills. They will talk endlessly about their work and projects but are quick to tune out when the conversation veers away from their interests or benefit." – Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach and author
8. Your mood is affected by your work.
"[You] experienc[e] frequent mood swings related to successes and failures of your startup." – Gilbert Chalepas, licensed clinical psychologist
9. You like starting businesses, but not running them.
"You easily generate ideas for launching a business – never actually existing from one, just starting one – [but] nothing about running the day-to-day operations excites you. You love to plan, create and innovate. That's it." – Daphne Mallory, speaker and family business expert
10. You keep going despite financial struggles.
"You don't necessarily have financial (or another form of) success at your ventures, but you keep going, rather than getting a job." – Susan Bartell, psychologist and author
Advice for managing your addiction to entrepreneurship
If you recognize these signs in yourself, the good news is there are things you can do to manage your addiction to entrepreneurship.
1. Admit you have a problem.
Alcoholics Anonymous created the 12-step program that is now used by most addiction treatment programs. The first step to recovering from any type of addiction is admitting you have a problem. This seems like a simple step, but it can be the most difficult for many people. It becomes even harder when the addiction is to something that is good in reasonable amounts, like entrepreneurship or even exercise. It's easy to justify the addiction by saying it's something that is good for you.
2. Recognize the negative impact.
Before you can change the behavior, you must evaluate how it is negatively affecting your life. This is what motivates you to change. Are your relationships suffering? Is it taking a toll on your health? Is your mental or emotional state not as healthy as it should be?
3. Set boundaries.
Once you've recognized the negative impact, it's time to start setting boundaries to lessen that impact. The best way to do this is to start slow and work your way from there. If your relationships are suffering, you can plan for a small amount of time to connect with family and friends without working or speaking about work. If it's your health, perhaps you plan one healthy meal each day. You may also need to set working hours and stick to them. Set boundaries you can live with, and increase them as you get stronger.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Addictions.com states that mindfulness has become an important part of many addiction treatment programs. You are often on autopilot when addicted to something. Mindfulness allows you to experience the moment with self-awareness, making you able to act instead of react.
5. Seek support.
Support is very personal. Some find all the support they need from family and friends once they are open about their issues. Others find counseling helpful. For severe entrepreneurship addiction, you may need inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment.
According to Healthline, many people with work or entrepreneurship addictions benefit from support groups. Workaholics Anonymous is available for anyone who needs help to stop working compulsively, making it a good choice for those with an entrepreneurship addiction.
Healthline also recommends getting a mental health assessment, because entrepreneurship addiction can be a result of underlying mental health problems like obsessive compulsive disorder.