Secret Mental Illness: Mood Disorders, Anxiety – a Modern “Executive” Plague

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Secret Mental Illness: Mood Disorders, Anxiety – a Modern “Executive” Plague

Secret Mental Illness: Mood Disorders, Anxiety – a Modern “Executive” Plague



In today’s competitive business climate, senior executives frequently tackle unrealistic demands with the odds stacked against them. The reality is that you’re only as good as your last decision, or your last result. Often exposed and scrutinized, c-suite leaders may experience a tremendous amount of pressure to perform. The expectation to meet demanding goals at a relentless pace, while operating in a culture of uncertainly can trigger alarming psychological stress.

The taboo surrounding mental health and the suppression of leader’s vulnerabilities only promotes feelings of isolation and desperation. While few executives publicly share their woes— deep, frenzied personal fears can trigger erratic and damaging behaviors. When a mood disorder or anxiety becomes a way of life in business, it can be crippling for the individual. The ability to think clearly or act strategically lessens with anxiety or mood disorders —  making “business as usual” an unexpected nightmare.

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, published in 2015, reported: “Anxiety interferes with people’s ability to process immediate events, resulting in lower performance.”

At Oasis Counseling Today, (Oasis Counseling Home) we’ve treated executives who operate in “pressure-cooker” conditions, where continued stress has compromised their mental health. Anxious feelings increase when there’s a significant fear of under-performing, insecurity, and a fear of losing status. It can take a long time for someone to realize they’re in trouble, sometimes years, at which point their coping resources are in shreds. Overwhelmed with anguish by the time they seek treatment, these executives were once optimistic, well-adjusted leaders.

Having suffered in silence for too long, they feel angry, detached, fearful, empty—and may also depend on drugs or alcohol as a form of escapism. But substance abuse only fuels their problems as they find it increasingly difficult to maintain their mental and physical performance levels. As fear intensifies, their personal and professional lives are filled with turmoil which can result in bad judgments and regrettable decisions that have devastating consequences.


There comes a time when distressed leaders need to “switch off” from their organizations, to dedicate time to their personal needs at a deeper level.  Professional support and encouragement as well as the dedication and reassurance of family and friends can inspire sustainable change. Taking time out to focus on self-growth provides an opportunity to build resilience. And with a renewed sense of self, the executive can effectively return to the workplace with greater self-esteem and innovation.

The veil of secrecy is lifting slowly

A few well-known CEO’s have spoken out about their battles with mental health. It’s great that leaders are helping to expose this modern “executive” plague. The veil of secrecy and the taboo surrounding mental health lessens each time a prominent figure shares their stories in a kind of “Me too” way. It’s an encouraging development in a modern age that seems to idolize the tough, unwavering ego. It will encourage others who struggle in silence to come forward and get the help and support they desperately need.

CEO’s with Anxiety

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla

In a series of tweets in summer 2017, Elon Musk opened up about stress and his mental health. When asked about his “picture perfect” social presence online, he responded, “The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two”. His tweets gave an important insight into a life that was otherwise seen as ideal.

Jason Saltzman, CEO of Alley

He told Entrepreneur Magazine that he suffers from general anxiety disorder. He said “You need good people around you to grow. I feel this is true in business and in life, surrounding myself with good people has been a game-changer for me. Cut out the negative people right now!”

At Oasis Counseling Today, our clients receive incredible support with the freedom to think differently. We provide the tools to help them mentally adapt to everyday pressures and life situations, in a safe, confidential environment.

If you would like to learn more about our therapists, and how we can help you to live a more fulfilling life, contact us on 702.294.0433 (locations throughout Southern Nevada).

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