You might be surprised to learn that a significant number of my patients are upper-level executives, CEOs, medical professionals, physicians, and attorneys. From a clinical and professional standpoint, this in no way has ever surprised me as my education, training, and experience has deepened my understanding that mental health troubles can (and does) affect anyone. Having a college, graduate, or professional degree, or simply moving to the upper ranks of a large and/or successful business, does not preclude a person from experiencing negative thinking, negative or upsetting emotions, challenging relationships, or maladaptive behaviors. This is especially true when the person had a toxic or maladaptive upbringing.
Many of these individuals come to see me for the problem areas I specialize in; these include mood difficulties such as depression and anxiety, increased stressors or life changes, difficulty coping, marital or relationship problems, and past trauma (including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse).
The Challenge for Professionals
Professionals have an extra challenge that in some ways can also be viewed as a positive. Professionals may be able to mask their difficulties more readily, whether by ignoring their problems, suppressing emotions, denying (to themselves or others) their difficulties, or staying busy so as not to deal with what they are experiencing. These individuals are likely busy with work and engaged enough in their career (and perhaps their family life) that they are able to push forward and not appear to be as aversely affected by their personal difficulty. This, however, is more likely to lead to self-neglect and not getting needed help.
High-functioning individuals can appear on the surface to be doing okay, if not really well; however, underneath the surface they may be struggling deeply (read my previous article for more information about high-functioning depression). Again, the reason this is a challenge is because they are more likely to delay addressing their problems, which often means lengthier and more difficult therapeutic work. The sooner a person gets help, the quicker and “easier” treatment is likely to be.
The Most Common Reason Help is Avoided or Delayed
The most common reason these individuals don’t directly deal with their problems is due to stigma and false beliefs such as “successful people don’t need mental health treatment or help.” Sometimes there is also fear about losing control of their business, losing the respect of employees or colleagues, or even a false belief that acknowledging their problems makes the problem more real.
Dealing with your problems head-on in no way makes them more real; whether you like it or not, the problem is there. And what many are surprised to learn is that avoidance and repression of difficulties actually prolongs and intensifies the problem. You are much better off seeking help (as soon as you can) than denying, avoiding, or delaying help.
Avoiding Problems Can Lead to More Severe and Challenging Difficulties
Sometimes avoidance or repression of problems can lead to unhealthy behavioral changes, such as lashing out at others, withdrawing, self-medicating through the onset or increase of substance use, engaging in impulsive or planned risky sexual engagements such as hiring an escort or prostitute, or spending excessive amounts of money. These behaviors develop as a means of trying to cope with the cognitive and mood difficulties, but unfortunately they are unhealthy, maladaptive, and typically lead to greater problems in multiple areas of life. Professionals and executives are at greater risk for engaging in these types of maladaptive coping behaviors due to access to money. Unfortunately, these behaviors can be some of the most damaging to the individual’s personal life.
We’re Here to Help
As a living, breathing human, it is completely normal to experience cognitive, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. If you are a medical professional, physician, executive, CEO, attorney, etc. and you have been considering reaching out to a mental health professional for help, Dr. Barbash would love to work with you. She has significant experience working with individuals from all backgrounds. Rest assured that Tampa Therapy is a confidential and judgment-free environment where you will be able to obtain the help you need to regain your quality of life. Give us a call today.