Executives and other high-ranking working professionals face unique challenges due to their lifestyles. These circumstances are especially hard for those facing a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. Mental health disorders going untreated can lead to substance use as a bandaid to continue to function in daily life.
Working professionals often face many barriers that prevent them from getting their needed help. However, it is important for their loved ones, employees, and co-workers that they seek treatment. This is because executives and high-ranking working professionals have a profound impact on many people in their professional and personal lives.
The Life of an Executive
Executives are individuals who are in leadership roles at a company or corporation. The lifestyle and average day of every executive will look different based on how responsibility is allocated and the specifics of each company. However, executives commonly face similar stressors due to the schedule and level of responsibility they hold.
Being in a leadership role means wearing a lot of different hats, including managing people. Helping co-workers or employees thrive at their job is not an easy task. It involves communication, patience, and structure. This can be incredibly stressful as executives are generally responsible for their own work, as well as the work of those they manage.
In addition to a large amount of pressure, many executives work long hours. This makes it very difficult to find a healthy work-life balance that helps them to feel good physically and mentally. These long hours and the lack of balance in their lives can cause additional stress, adding to the pressure and stress they feel due to the nature of their role.
Does a Stressful Lifestyle Lead to a Mental Health Disorder?
Small amounts of stress are healthy and normal. However, many executives face long-term levels of high stress. This is commonly called chronic stress. When a person experiences stress, their body reacts as though it is being threatened. They have an increase in inflammation throughout the body, which in the short term is helpful. However, researchers have found that the long-term increase in inflammation increases a person’s risk of experiencing depression symptoms and other mental health challenges.
Consistent stress has become a common part of many people’s lives, including executives. While it does not always lead to a mental health disorder, stress generally makes individuals feel less focused, engaged, and satisfied.
Addiction With a Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder
Mental health disorders and addiction commonly occur together. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that a mental health disorder often leads to addiction. However, addiction or substance use can also lead to mental health disorders. While they are often found together, these co-occurring disorders create many issues.
Drugs and alcohol are very common, and many executives struggling with mental health disorders reach towards substances. This is because, in the short term, substances can help executives to stay focused, alert, or calm depending on the mental health symptoms they are experiencing. However, with long-term use, drug and alcohol use increases symptoms of many mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
Common Barriers to Treatment for Executives With a Mental Health Disorder
Mental health disorders and addiction do not discriminate based on class, status, or annual income. Therefore, executives and high-ranking working professionals also struggle with them. However, the lifestyle of an executive is unique. As a result, executives face specific barriers that prevent them from getting treatment. This includes treatment for both mental health disorders and addiction.
Every executive will face specific barriers to treatment. However, the lifestyle, stressors, cultural norms, and expectations executives face often play a role in inhibiting them from treatment. These barriers are important to understand and learn how to manage to get executives the treatment they need to thrive in their personal and professional lives.
Executives commonly face stress due to their level of responsibility and lifestyles. As noted above, long-term stress can put people at risk of developing a mental health disorder. However, stress can also make it difficult to heal and manage mental health disorders and addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that stress management is an important aspect of self-care that helps individuals live with mental health disorders. This includes controlling external stress and learning to destress or manage stress internally.
Every executive will have different needs when it comes to stress management to improve mental health. However, the high level of stress that comes with the role of being an executive is often a barrier to healing. Getting treatment for mental health disorders is not simple. Commonly, treatment involves pharmaceutical interventions, therapy, and lifestyle changes including stress management. The barrier to stress management is therefore a barrier to improving overall mental health.
Cultural Norms and Expectations
The cultural norms of every company or organization are unique and depend on the goals, location, and people. However, in a large organization, executives or high-ranking professionals are commonly seen as almost invisible. This is because executives are the people who solve big problems, work long hours, and are available to support the organization as a whole. Therefore, the expectations and standards are generally set extremely high. Many executives do not want to disappoint others, and commonly they have been able to live up to these expectations in most situations.
Having high standards and expectations for executives is not always an issue and is positive to ensure that an organization is well run. However, they can be a barrier to getting treatment for mental health disorders and addiction. This is because getting treatment means first admitting that there is an issue. Due to mental health disorders and addiction commonly being stigmatized, it requires bravery for an executive to accept their need for treatment.
Being in the Public Eye
As high-ranking professionals, executives are often the face of a company or organization. Therefore, they are expected to perform and act their best at all times. Executives set a standard for work ethic, skills, and other characteristics for their employees and co-workers. The standards they uphold and the nature of the role commonly mean they cannot stop working entirely to get treatment. Many treatment facilities that help people to heal from mental health disorders and addiction require full participation in the program. However, executives can attend treatment that is created with them in mind and allow them to have supervised contact with work as needed.
Due to being the face of an organization, executives also commonly lack privacy. While many working professionals can get treatment with very few people knowing about it, this is generally not the case for executives. The stereotype and opinions regarding mental health and addiction are slowly changing. However, they are commonly stigmatized and, by getting treatment, executives are putting themselves in the fire of public criticism. This can hurt a person’s pride but, most importantly, puts an executive in danger of losing their livelihood and work. As a result, many executives suffer without treatment.
Executives are generally very intelligent and driven. Most executives have spent their lives achieving great heights, regardless of the challenges they have suffered. As a result, it can be hard to see when their level of functioning is diminished by a mental health disorder or addiction. Mental health disorders and addiction cause a decrease in a person’s ability to think, focus, and function at their highest level. However, an executive’s reduced capacity is often still very high. Therefore, executives and those around them may not notice their need for treatment.
Additionally, many people believe that they are the exception to the reality of addiction. This belief leads them to think they can be high functioning without needing treatment for mental health disorders and addiction. Executives who believe that they are above the reality of addiction are commonly in the phase of addiction before rock bottom. Therefore, they can still go to work and generally get through the day. However, this belief and misconception about addiction and mental health disorders stop many executives from getting treatment and meeting their full potential.
Managing a Mental Health Disorder as an Executive
Executives with mental health disorders and addiction face many unique barriers to getting treatment. However, they also have certain challenges in managing their mental health and addiction recovery after treatment. This is due to their position, expectations placed on them, and stress. Learning stress management and getting support are two key ways in which executives can improve their overall mental health.
Chronic stress can both increase an executive’s risk of a mental health disorder and make the symptoms of mental health disorders that are previously existing worse. Treatment for mental health disorders can include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. A common lifestyle change is learning how to manage stress.
Stress management will look different for each person and needs to be individualized to suit an executive’s life. Managing stress includes making adjustments to the amount of stress experienced. For each executive, this will vary depending on how they can reallocate responsibility, reorganize, and adjust. However, due to the role of being an executive, they are likely to experience a fairly high level of stress regardless.
The other piece of stress management is improving internal stress response. This is a way to recover from the stress experienced. When the level of stress increases, a person needs more recovery from that stress. Many activities can help an executive destress. Destressing options include meditation, exercise, or leaning on a loved one for support. The idea is to have a break from the stress, allowing the body and brain to relax. This helps executives from accumulating stress and inflammation over time, avoiding chronic stress.
Since executives are high-level managers, they often play the role of supporting others. However, executives with mental health disorders can improve their lifestyles by finding support that helps them. Executives have many options for support. Leaning on friends, family, and loved ones is a good place to start. While loved ones may not fully understand the stress an executive feels, they can offer a place to unwind.
The other form of support that is vital for executives with mental health disorders comes from mental health professionals. Finding a mental health and addiction treatment facility that understands an executive’s needs can be challenging. However, it can provide support outside of the workplace. This support also comes from professionals who understand the nature of addiction and mental health disorders, and how to heal from them.
Support after treatment, commonly called alumni groups or alumni support, looks different at each treatment facility. However, it might include peer support groups led by a therapist or alumni events. When alumni maintain a connection with mental health professionals after treatment, they can lean on these relationships when they hit a rough patch or problem.
The most important part of support is to find a system of support that fits the individual. This will look different for each executive. However, when they discover and build these networks, they are more likely to thrive in their role as an executive without risking their mental health.
Value of Treatment for Executives With a Mental Health Disorder
Executives work as high-ranking professionals and leaders. As such, they have a huge amount of influence. Their work ethic and choices will trickle down to impact many co-workers and employees in their company or organization. When executives do not get treatment for a mental health disorder or addiction, they might be able to function normally for some time. However, by getting help, executives can thrive. This will help them to grow and achieve more. Additionally, it will help everyone they work with and their organization to also grow and develop.
Executives face an enormous amount of pressure in their work. They also regularly have a very busy schedule and high stress. These factors all play a role in mental health, and for those who struggle with a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, managing the daily life of an executive can be very hard. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand that executives live unique lives and have built programs and a facility oriented around their specific needs. We offer flexibility and individual accommodations and ensure privacy for high-ranking executives. To learn more about our programs and how they help working professionals heal from addiction and mental health disorders, call (949) 426-7962 today.