New Study Shows Entrepreneurship is Actually Addicting and Has a ‘Dark Side’

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A recent study published in the Journal of Business Venturing posits that entrepreneurship can be addicting.

Three professors specializing in entrepreneurship put forth the theory in their study after interviewing habitual entrepreneurs in different industries. To qualify as a habitual entrepreneur, one has to have launched multiple startups throughout one’s career with at least two running at the same time.

One of the authors of the study, Alexander McKelvie of Syracuse University, said in a statement:

“Our research offers a potential psychological explanation for a potential ‘dark side’ of entrepreneurship. 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. 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.”

The team of professors found that even when faced with possibly harsh negative outcomes in starting up a new venture, habitual entrepreneurs took the leap anyway. These entrepreneurs were found to display symptoms of behavioral addiction that included obsessive thoughts, withdrawal-engagement cycles, suffering through negative emotional outcomes, high levels of strain, negative physical health and negotiating tolerance of resources and self worth.

Of course, habitual entrepreneurs who find success through at least one of their businesses often find their entrepreneurial obsession lauded by others, even though that obsession may be harmful in the bigger picture.

According to Forbes, McKelvie said:

“Once you’re not engaged you actually feel worse. Since you’re always engaged and you have these obsessive thoughts, you do have more negative relationships. It hurts family, it hurts friends — it’s one of those things where you’re talking about it all the time so people get tired of you.”

“They really can’t get their mind off of this. Almost to an idea of obsession where they can’t think of anything else.”

Furthermore, the excitement of starting a new enterprise has “clear physiological outcomes like increased heart rate [and] sweating” according to McKelvie.

Meanwhile, the process of creating and finding solutions for habitual entrepreneurs produces a high. “You feel very positive about what’s going on. Turning frustration and anxiety into feelings of joy,” McKelvie said.

The authors of the study admit that their study serves as only preliminary evidence that habitual entrepreneurship could be a behavioral addiction and advise that more research is needed.

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