For new truck drivers, life on the road catches them off guard. Many times, this is the first time for them to be away from home for extended periods of time. In addition, they find themselves responsible for expensive cargo that has strict deadlines for delivery. All these factors can slowly build up and cause drivers to become depressed. In the article below we will cover some of the reasons that truckers become depressed while out on the road. We will also touch on ways you can help manage it should you find yourself impacted by it.
Depression affects millions of people in the United States each year. In fact, according to Healthline.com, more than 16 million Americans will suffer from depression each year. This represents approximately 6.2% of the population. However, the number of truck drivers that suffer from depression each year is estimated to be upwards of 20%, if not more. The world we live in has become a stressful place. Being a trucker on the road every day, battling traffic, meeting deadlines and being away from your family will take its toll. Here are the most common reasons a trucker could begin feeling depressed:
Being away from your family is difficult. Especially when you are gone for 2-3 weeks at time. Not being able to see your spouse and children every night is something that will probably never be easy. If it were easy, there would like be other problems that you needed to explore and take care of!
Fortunately, with the progression of technology, it has gotten much easier to keep in touch with the family back home. Apps like Facetime and Skype have made it super easy to video chat with your spouse and kids to ensure you are able to see them every night and witness those special moments that will occur while you are away.
In addition to staying in touch with your family, another strain from back home can occur between your spouse or significant other. Being married or being in a relationship as a trucker is difficult. It takes a lot of trust between both people. As a trucker, it’s easy for your mind to go in all sorts of directions and assume the worst of situations while you are driving down the road with your thoughts. It’s important to maintain open communication with one another.
One tip that has worked for my wife and I – if problem or frustration arises and it can wait till you are home to discuss it – then wait. There’s nothing worse for me than to end a long hard day and then call home only to get into an argument with my wife. It’s much harder to work problems out on the phone when you are on the road. On top of that (I touch on this below), you have hours to sit and think about the argument when you head out on the road the following day. If the issue can wait till you get home, do your best to wait and bring it up then.
An issue that I had when I first got out on the road was not realizing life didn’t stop at home when I was gone. It sounds crazy, but I only saw my day to day. So when I would call home at night to talk to the family, I would get frustrated if everything in the house didn’t come to a stop for everyone to talk to me. In time, I realized, my wife was running a house with kids on her own. She couldn’t stop everything for my calls. She still had dinner to make for the kids and homework to help with. Once I realized this, it helped me significantly. Before I came to this realization, I would hang up the phone and be aggravated and being to wonder if they even cared that I wasn’t home.
Before driving a truck, I never had much time to think. Once you get behind the wheel, you can have hours of being alone with your thoughts. If you are driving a lonely boring stretch of highway, your thoughts are the only thing that you may have to keep you entertained. This is something many new drivers have to get use to. If you allow your thoughts to be negative you are going to drive yourself into depression. Your thoughts – whether positive or negative – are going to drive your behavior.
If you find yourself having a bunch of negative talks, try breaking that habit as soon as possible. There are several good books that are available that teach you how to do this. I usually have to listen to one of these books from time to time just to retrain how I think.
If you find yourself struggling with being alone to your thoughts, try listening to some motivational talks. Certainly not saying you have to listen to these speeches nonstop every day, but keep a few on your phone or computer to listen to when you start your day. These are great ways to start your day as you head out on the road to get focused and energized.
Signs You Are Suffering From Depression
The symptoms of depression that I’m going to list below are certainly not all encompassing. Nor does it mean that if you show one or two of these signs recently that you are depressed. Everyone is different. Below are the most common symptoms people show when suffering.
Driving a rig in traffic, you are going to get angry. Drivers today are more careless and self-entitled than ever before. Getting angry at these bad drivers when the do something that could out your life or those around you is completely normal and expected. However, depression will usually cause people to completely overreact with their anger. Getting angry over something completely minor to the point that you can’t calm down and it ruins the rest of your day is a strong indicator of depression. This shows a lack of ability to control your anger, and when you are depressed, it typically only builds and builds inside until you reach a boiling point.
A very common sign of depression is tiredness. This is probably the most common symptom that I faced. It’s a different type of tiredness that’s not like how you feel after a long day on the road. This tiredness hits and you want to do nothing but lay in bed because you feel completely overwhelmed by everything going on in your life. When I was severely depressed, I could wake up in the morning for a few minutes, go back to bed and nap for the entire day. Only waking up long enough to use the bathroom and grab a drink. Normally, I can’t sleep more than 8 hours and any time, no matter how tired I am. When I struggled with depression though, it was all I could do to get out of bed and just do normal day to day tasks.
Loss of Appetite
The third major sign of depression is loss of appetite. This was another symptom that I faced. Since I stayed in bed all day, I never ate. I go an entire day without eating anything. Typically it would be later in the evening before it clicked that I had only consumed liquids throughout the day. If you are able to go an entire day without thinking about food because your mind is consumed with negative and/or overwhelming thoughts, you are highly likely to be suffering from depression.
How to manage
Getting a chance to exercise while out on the road is tough, but it can help with depression. Even if it’s just a short walk, just to get out of the cab of your truck for a bit, it can help. Sometimes, exercise might only be parking as far from the truck stop or rest area as possible so you can get a few extra steps in. For the best results of using exercise to relieve some of the effects of depression, it’s important to get your heart rate elevated for a few minutes, by doing things such as jogging when possible.
I think having a hobby or some form of entertainment while out on the road is vital. This gives you something to look forward to at the end of the day. Sure, you probably aren’t going to have the time or energy to do your hobby each day. But having the option is great because it gives you an outlet to take your mind off the stressful days on the road. I wrote an article detailing some of the ways you can stay entertained while on the road. If nothing else, a hobby gives you another way to keep your thoughts while driving from going to a negative state. A hobby can be anything from reading, to playing video games to playing a instrument in the cab of your truck. The goal, is to find something that you enjoy doing that will help relieve stress.
Many drivers refuse to entertain the idea that they may need medication prescribed by a doctor to help with their depression. CDL holders fear that the medications prescribed by their doctor may cause them to lose their license. This is NOT true. I have an article that talks about how drivers can deal with anxiety from being on the road. In it, I discuss how important it is to talk to your doctor. Explain to them what you are dealing with. Be sure to tell them that you drive a truck for a living and you can’t afford to lose your CDL. There are plenty of medications available to treat anxiety and depression without you losing your CDL. The important thing is to be upfront and open to your doctor about everything.
Depression among truck drivers is very common. It can become a debilitating if not treated properly. If you are struggling with depression while on the road, I highly encourage you to seek medical help from a professional. Trucking is a great career choice. Don’t suffer through these pain of depression for fear that it could affect your CDL. There are many options available for you to help overcome this temporary issue.