Entrepreneurship & Mental Health


Since 2006, Techstars has helped hundreds of startups succeed, both as businesses and as people. This original 4-part documentary series focuses on the most common mental health issues facing entrepreneurs, told through the stories of some remarkable people — and the mental health professionals who work with people in need.

Global Mental Health Resources

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, depression or suicidal thoughts, or feel that you are in crisis, please seek help immediately.

The following list is provided solely as a resource. Techstars does not endorse any specific professional mental health service.


Suicide Stop International Help Center
World Federation for Mental Health
World Health Organization - Mental Health

United States

American Psychological Association Psychologist locator
American Medical Association doctor finder
National Institute of Mental Health

Signs and Symptoms

This resource does not provide medical advice. This resource is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This information is readily available online about the common signs and symptoms of mental health issues facing entrepreneurs. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding mental health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this resource. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. Techstars does not endorse any specific mental health services.


Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Psychological symptoms

  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Anxiety
  • Detachment
  • Feeling listless
  • Low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Negative attitudes towards one’s coworkers or job
  • Low commitment to the role
  • Loss of purpose
  • Absenteeism
  • Quickness to anger
  • Job turnover
  • Cynicism
  • Emotional numbness
  • Frustration

Physical symptoms

  • Exhaustion
  • Generalized aches
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Hypertension
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or a disrupted sleep cycle
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and flu
  • Muscle tension


Anxiety, most often diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about events or activities. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning; One can be overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

At least four symptoms out of the following list of items must be present, of which at least one from items 1 to 4:

Autonomic arousal symptoms

  1. Palpitations or pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  2. Sweating
  3. Trembling or shaking
  4. Dry mouth (not owing to medication or dehydration)

Symptoms concerning chest and abdomen

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Feeling of choking
  3. Chest pain or discomfort
  4. Nausea or abdominal distress (e.g. churning in the stomach)

Symptoms concerning brain and mind

  1. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint or light-headed
  2. Feelings that objects are unreal (derealization), or that one’s self is distant or “not really here” (depersonalization)
  3. Fear of losing control, going crazy or passing out
  4. Fear of dying

General symptoms

  1. Hot flashes or cold chills
  2. Numbness or tingling sensations

Symptoms of tension

  1. Muscle tension, or aches and pains
  2. Restlessness and inability to relax
  3. Feeling keyed up, or on edge, or of mental tension
  4. A sensation of a lump in the throat, or difficulty with swallowing

Other nonspecific symptoms

  1. Exaggerated response to minor surprises or being startled
  2. Difficulty in concentrating, or mind going blank, because of worrying or anxiety
  3. Persistent irritability
  4. Difficulty getting to sleep because of worrying


Depression, most commonly diagnosed as Major Depression, is a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, motivation, feelings, and sense of well-being. It may feature sadness, difficulty in thinking and concentration and a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping. People experiencing depression may have feelings of dejection, hopelessness and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts. It can either be short-term or long-term.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

At least four symptoms out of the following list of items must be present for at least 2 weeks daily:

Psychological symptoms

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms

  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • Changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy
  • Low sex drive (loss of libido)
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep—for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning

Social symptoms

  • Not doing well at work
  • Avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
  • Neglecting your hobbies and interests
  • Having difficulties in your home and family life

Obsessive Compulsion Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, such as cleaning, checking, counting, or hoarding. OCD is one of the anxiety disorders and a potentially disabling condition that can persist throughout a person's life. The individual who suffers from OCD becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but extremely difficult to overcome. OCD occurs in a spectrum from mild to severe. If OCD is left untreated, it can destroy a person's capacity to function at work, at school, or even in the home.

Common OCD Behaviors

  • Washers - repeatedly wash hands or engage in compulsive cleaning.
  • Checkers - repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.
  • Doubters - have fearful thoughts that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen.
  • Counters and arrangers - are obsessed with order and symmetry. There might be superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.
  • Hoarders - fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away, therefore, compulsively hoard things that isn’t needed or used.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

  • Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
  • Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
  • Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
  • Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
  • Fear of losing or not having things you might need
  • Order and symmetry: The idea that everything must line up “just right”
  • Superstitions: Excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky

Common compulsive behaviors in OCD include:

  • Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches
  • Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
  • Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
  • Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning
  • Ordering or arranging things “just so”
  • Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
  • Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers

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