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At Risk

Are entrepreneurial traits a recipe for addiction?

This story appears in the January 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurial fervor, that perfectionism, that drive tosucceed can lead to addictive habits. "Entrepreneurs adhere tothe myth of invincibility," says clinical program directorScott Stacy of the Professional Renewal Center in Lawrence, Kansas."High achievers will do just about anything to not fail and tokeep going, including using substances to deal with professionalburnout." Entrepreneurs can also be addicted to gambling,food, shopping, sex, even making money. Early warning signs ofaddiction are cynicism, anxiety, sleep disturbance, irritability,emotional and physical exhaustion, and an inability to internallyregulate mood. Says Stacy, "The tendency is to excessivelyrely on external relationships or objects to regulate mood; forexample, if you feel down and go buy a new car."

Epi Torres, 48, founder of ChangeYourHabitsLLC, a personal improvement consulting firm in Pittsburgh,developed a problem with food addiction after he quit smoking. Itwas at its worst when he was running his first business,Contemporary Technologies Inc., an IT management and consultingfirm in Pittsburgh. "I would eat until I felt sick," heremembers. "I was tired; I wasn't sleeping well. I wasstressed all the time." He realized his problem and gotpsychological and physical help. Today, he's healthy and runs athird business, Fox Chapel Yacht Club and Conference Center inPittsburgh. Projected 2004 revenues for the three businessescombined is about $20 million.

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