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Stress and the Quest for Success: When Executives Need Help with Substance Abuse

Corporate Work Stress and Substance Abuse

Business executives don’t necessarily fit the prototypical model of someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but many of the triggers that impact someone who doesn’t work in the corporate sector are clearly present among business professionals.

Stress, family pressures, and the overarching worry about falling short of expectations can all combine to push an executive into substance abuse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 11 percent of individuals working in the management sector had a diagnosis of a substance use disorder — the sixth-highest among all occupation categories surveyed by SAMHSA. Knowing when it’s time to seek help isn’t only important to an executive’s career, but it’s also vital to health and survival.

Risk Factors

A close family relationship to someone diagnosed with a mental health or substance use disorder can significantly increase the likelihood that an individual will develop an addiction of some kind. Genetics, environmental factors, and family history are all involved in this dynamic. Research studies have suggested that business executives may suffer from higher rates of obsessive-compulsive traits, stress, and depressive symptoms than others in the general population. Work stress (resulting from conflicts with co-workers, abusive boss, poor working conditions, etc.) is a substantial trigger for substance abuse, particularly among executives who fall into the habit of having a few drinks after work with colleagues to “unwind” from the pressures of the day.

Gender is also a trigger in such circumstances; males are more apt to suffer from addiction than females, though the progression from use to abuse occurs faster in females than in male executives. Peer pressure is an especially potent factor among business executives. Executives often spend considerable time entertaining clients and potential clients (a common situation among execs who own their own business), which often means drinking, attending parties, and receptions and other situations where alcohol and possibly drug use will be prevalent. And in many cases, high-level managers simply assume that drug and/or alcohol use is necessary to “fit in” with the corporate culture.

Attitude can also be a major factor in the development of a substance addiction. If managers decide that it’s okay to use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and relax, they’re more apt to be vulnerable to the symptoms of substance abuse. This is a common phenomenon among managers who use stimulants to sharpen their concentration, work longer hours, get by on less sleep, and keep pace with workflow.

When It’s Time to Seek Help

Treatment for substance abuse is indicated if a manager has come to regard alcohol or drug use as acceptable and on par with daily activities such as eating, sleeping, or working. Persistent feelings of guilt over one’s use of drugs or alcohol would indicate the presence of a problem requiring some form of treatment, as would using one’s preferred drug under circumstances where doing so is dangerous (i.e. drunk driving). A noticeable loss of interest in activities that the individual normally enjoys, including spending time with family, and lying about drug or alcohol use, are also crucial warning signs that help is needed.

Substance abuse and addiction often result from the kinds of external pressures that many small business owners face every day. Cash flow problems, high expectations, and high employee turnover on top of other factors are enough to cause many executives to seek solace in alcohol or drug use. It can be difficult to admit you need help, but treatment can help you manage the problem without negatively affecting your career.




About 6 years ago, Eva Benoit left her job as an office manager to pursue being a life, career, and overall wellness coach. She specializes in helping professionals with stress and anxiety, but welcomes working with people from all walks of life. She works with her clients to discover and explore avenues that will bring them balance, peace, and improved overall well-being that can last a lifetime. Her website is evabenoit.com and she is author of the upcoming book, The 30-Day Plan for Ending Bad Habits and Improving Overall Health.

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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