High functioning individuals, including CEOs and other stressed executives, despite considerable career success, may experience depression, anxiety, loneliness, and a sense of meaninglessness. The high-pressured life often makes it difficult to maintain a satisfactory work/life balance, and attempts at self care may at times lead to alcohol abuse and other behaviors that jeopardize close relationships.
Loneliness at the top may isolate the CEO at times of greatest stress, when it would be especially helpful to have someone to talk to who could listen and provide perspective. For the high functioning, more generally, the drive to succeed can conflict with the ability to invest in fulfilling relationships, adding further to loneliness.
Success itself may also come with a price. Concerns about the ability to stay on top or to maintain the same level of achievement may tap into underlying fears of failure. This can add to a sense of pressure even when already highly successful.
There may also be uncomfortable feelings about how one is perceived by friends and family members who are less successful. And, when accumulation of considerable wealth is involved, it may be hard to get past one’s own uneasy feelings about money or having ‘too much’. Working with a therapist who understands these issues can provide a forum for processing these feelings and finding ways to actively tackle self defeating behaviors that pose threats to continued success, physical health, and relationships.
Key Therapy Issues for CEOs and Other Stressed Executives
Isolation and Loneliness
For many high level executives, the stress of being at the top may involve holding important information that cannot be shared with other staff or with family. This can contribute to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
Interpersonal Work Strains
Often decision making involves subtle strategies to circumvent power plays within the top management team (CEO, CMO, CFO), and responsibility for making the final call can cause stressful second-guessing while awaiting the outcome.
Poor Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is often hard to achieve when dealing with the superhuman pressures faced by most CEOs. Given tight deadlines and responsibility, not only to employees, but often to a highly demanding board, work tends to come first, and it can be hard to find time for the pleasures of life.
Impact on Family and Social Life
The exigencies of the work demands may drain the CEO of time and energy to engage in plans with friends and family. For high-level executives who are not partnered, this can create even greater dissatisfaction and loneliness.
Impact on Health
For many top executives, work stress can create health issues (such as high blood pressure, weight gain, alcohol problems) and work obligations may make it difficult to take time needed for self-care.