Why Do Super-Successful People Get Depressed?

By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

In today's society we often look to the people at the top of their game and think they have it all. However, when you look closer at successful people in the fields of sport, business and entertainment, it's very apparent that they have their own personal challenges. For example, studies have discovered that CEOs are twice as likely to suffer from depression as those in less senior roles! So why is it that people who seem to have it all are those who also struggle with depression?

Here are some legends who have succeeded at the highest level and can teach us a lot about what causes depression through their experiences...

Lack of Support Network 

"I can’t recall ever sharing my pain with another male friend or confiding in anyone that I was struggling to hold life together. At first the alcohol soothed the depression, making it at least somewhat bearable. But the situation progressed into depressive-alcoholic binges in which I would withdraw like a hermit into my apartment."

- Buzz Aldrin, Second man to step on the moon

Competition And Comparison With Others

"I thought if I could find a way to be famous, people would love me. And then you get all that stuff —and I worked really hard to earn all that— and it sounds crazy, but I got the biggest, [most] wonderful blessing I could get, which was I lost my show, and I lost my entire career, and I lost everything for three years ... But I got to learn how to sit back and watch other people and learn what judgment was and have compassion. And learn that not only was I strong enough to make it in the first place, but I was strong enough to come back and make it again. How lucky am I to have learned that? That took a lot. I wanted to crawl up in a ball and climb in a hole and hide forever; I was embarrassed. That’s why I look at it as a blessing."

- Ellen DeGeneres, Presenter

Lack of Self-Awareness

"I had no self-esteem. I had suppressed every emotion in booze. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know how to handle life, sex, everything. I had to learn absolutely everything, I was a child again so when I sobered up I got to know myself."

- Tony Adams, Former Arsenal and England Footballer


Letting Success Get To Your Head

"You discover that the real fun was getting there. Once you're there you're a VIP, a talking head, but you're not impacting anything. Not only is achieving the goal a letdown. You don't feel good about yourself as a Master of the Universe. You treat people differently. You believe in your own bulls**t. You think you're hot stuff... Depression is a narcissistic disorder; it makes you turn inward. The only way out of it is by paying attention to others."

- Philip Burguieres, Former CEO of Cameron Iron Works and one of the youngest CEOs of a Fortune 500 company aged 35

How Can We Prevent Depression?

Ultimately if we have a strong support network we can turn to, stop comparing ourselves with others, increase our self-awareness and remain humble, then we will go very far to prevent the likelihood of depression. Not only this but we will also become more positive, happy and balanced people, whilst making a positive difference to the lives of others!! You can learn more about how legends have dealt with depression in this inspiring article here.

Click here for the Forbes post that inspired this article.


    What do you think people most struggle with when it comes to preventing depression when they are succeeding?

    Building a support networkAvoiding comparison with othersBecoming more self-awareStaying humbleOther

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