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The Open Road Can Get Lonely: Ways to Help Truckers Combat Depression

February 18, 2022

Truck driving is a high-demand job and the open road can get lonely, because of this, along with a few other factors, truckers are more prone to experience depression. Mental health, including depression, can be a tough subject to talk about and seek help for. However, it’s incredibly important to recognize the symptoms of depression and understand healthy ways to cope.

What is depression?

Let’s start by defining what depression is. Depression is a common condition, and a serious medical illness, that negatively affects how you feel, the things you say and how you act. It affects over 18 million adults in the U.S. every year.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

These symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They must last at least two weeks and must represent a change in your previous level of functioning for a diagnosis of depression. Depression can be attributed to several factors including:

  • Biochemistry: Differences or imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
  • Genetics/DNA: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
  • Personality traits: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
  • Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.

What leads to depression in truckers?

With all this in mind, let’s look at what can specifically lead to depression in truck drivers. The trucking industry is facing a dire shortage. This can lead to current truckers spending more time on the road and less time at home. Here are a few common factors that can contribute to depression in truck drivers:

  • Long periods of time away from family and friends
  • Long work hours
  • Irregular work/rest schedule
  • Isolation while on the road
  • Anxiety about the general dangers of driving, which is increased by vehicle size
  • Experiencing high amounts of pressure to get to your location on time due to the supply chain crisis

All these factors working in tandem with other external factors the general public is facing (economic crisis, inflation, political chaos, a general sense of uncertainty about the future due to the pandemic, etc.) can increase a trucker’s likelihood of becoming depressed.

How can truckers combat depression?

  • Recognize what’s going on:
    The first thing truckers can do is to practice self-awareness. Read through the symptoms of depression and consider whether you identify with those symptoms. Try listening to a mental health podcast or reading a book about mental health if you want to learn more about depression.
  • Respond by making proactive plan:
    Consider what next steps you should take if you think you’re experiencing depression. Consider finding a telehealth therapist you can talk to every week while you’re on the road. Eat well-balanced healthy meals, drink plenty of water, and try to get out of your truck, go on a walk and get some fresh air each day. Having a reliable routine and a plan in place to help combat your depression is key.
  • Steer clear of self-medicating or ignoring your problems all-together:

Since there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health, it can be difficult to talk to someone about your depression or accept that you’re experiencing mental health problems. Some people still think if they just keep pushing through their day and ignore their problems, they’ll eventually go away. This is not the case. Oftentimes when people do this, it leads to self-medicating through drugs or alcohol, or they end up taking out their frustrations on loved ones. Ignoring your problems will only make it more difficult to deal with them later as they continue to progress.

  • Talk to someone:

Whether it’s a close friend, a family member or just your therapist it’s good to have a person to talk about your problems and feelings with. In fact, it’s not just good for your mental health, it can improve your physical health, too. It’s been proven to strengthen your immune system and improve your cardiovascular health.

The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly disappearing. Don’t let that stigma hinder you from seeking help. If you are struggling with depression, please seek help. If you can’t get in touch with your doctor, a great place to seek help is through is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.