Pressures of startup company causing mental deterioration?

My boyfriend is a game programmer and he works maybe 70 hours per week at a startup. I never see him, we always fight, and even though he is one of the smartest people I know he insists that he is stupid and can’t complete with the other coders. I feel his mind is slowly deteriorating. He used to be happy. Now he is never able to get out of his depressed state. He had become paranoid, believing his boss hired someone to follow him and is constantly checking around him. With now evidence he believes the whole office is plotting against him. I’m scared. What has this industry done to the man I loved? I need help but I don’t know where to begin.

  • Overworking programmers to the point where their mental health starts to suffer is unfortunately still commonplace. He should have no trouble finding a better job, but he may not want to leave out of misguided loyalty to his coworkers. Perhaps he believes his equity share in the startup will make it all worth it in the end. Perhaps he understands the current situation is unsustainable but believes quitting would be an admission of defeat of some sort.

    I suggest reaching out (online) to partners who have been in your position so you can get their perspectives and some emotional support.

  • This story is similar to what happened to my husband. He was the CTO/co-founder of a company with no other technical people. Once they hired on someone to help, it became obvious very quickly that the person was not very good technically and he ended up compromising his desire for quality and excellence to appease the CEO who just wanted to get things done. Fast forward a few months, and our marriage was about to implode. My husband’s part of the project was complete, no one else had executed what they were supposed to have by that point (marketing, further investment). His breaking point (and mine) were when the CEO asked him to build a third beta–rather than actually attempting to truly market what they already had, the response to “no users” was that the website needed to be re-done (again). That’s when I laid it all out for him: the people involved were not doers and he was always going to be frustrated and alone there. As the guy who truly got things done, others were going to continue to abuse that work ethic. So he left. After a couple of months, he landed a job that he’s truly come to love. He’s much more stable and our family is stronger now. He’s building a team and a culture of excellence in a company where it’s appreciated and encouraged. He comes home with positive stories about his co-workers and he’s truly excited about what projects he’s working on. BTW, many weeks, he still works 50-60 hours, but he’s actually happily doing it.

    • I forgot to mention above: my husband was on the verge of a mental collapse. Psychiatrist visit (never happened before this incident), medication, exaggerated incidents, etc. All of that is gone now that he’s out of that environment. For what it’s worth, the character flaws he noticed of the others involved were, in my opinion (I knew and worked within this group for a short time, as well), accurate. He’d just been beaten down enough to lose his grip on his own worth.

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