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In the United States, depression affects more than 18 million adults (one in ten) in any given year. It is the primary reason someone dies of suicide every 12 minutes.

Think about that for a minute. Ten percent of the people around you could be experiencing depression right now and thinking about suicide.

In business terms, depression causes 490 million disability days from work each year. It accounts for $23 billion in lost work days each year. The economic toll? More the $100 billion each year.

Depression is a very real disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression this way: “Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.”

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Depression among truck drivers is gaining attention. The causes or triggers for depression in this group are understandable. Trucking is a stressful job. Drivers encounter difficult situations daily. From unpredictable weather and traffic conditions to the pressure of their schedule to changing regulations, there are many aspects of the job that can wear on a driver physically, mentally and emotionally.

Trucking is often a solo occupation. Truckers spend a great deal of time alone. They spend a lot of time thinking – and possibly overthinking – the situations around them.

Long haul drivers have additional stressors. The very nature of the job limits the ability to maintain any sort of regular schedule. They must to be away from home for long periods and away from family life. Sleeping in the truck can be difficult and may result in drivers not receiving adequate amounts of sleep. Their diet is at the mercy of what is offered on the road. Quick options are not always the healthiest options.

In addition to the unique characteristics of a trucking lifestyle, other factors can trigger depression.

Health issues: Chronic pain, thyroid disorders, low vitamin B12, heart conditions and type 2 diabetes can make you feel lethargic and depressed. It’s hard to feel mentally healthy when you don’t feel physically healthy.

Medications: Addressing our physical health may require medications. Talk with your physician about all side effects to make sure those prescribed won’t trigger other issues such as depression.

Family: Are you part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children, aging parents, your relationship and your job? Or have you entered the empty nest after your children have left home? Both situations can cause feelings of guilt, loneliness and depression.

Addressing Depression

hankfully, there are ways for drivers – and all of us – to address and combat depression.

Physical fitness: Maintaining physical fitness isn’t just about looking good. It’s also about feeling good. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. More and more truck stops are offering healthy options or drivers can keep a cooler on hand for healthy snacks. Exercise helps to improve strength and endurance, and the hormones released during a workout act as an instant mood boost to fend off stress and depression.

Use your ears: Listening to music, humor or inspirational programs can help keep your spirits high. If you’re alone in your vehicle, no one knows if you can’t keep a tune – sing along with your favorite songs! Laughter really is great medicine. It decreases stress hormones and increases your body’s ability to fight disease. Inspirational programming can help you focus your energy on the positive to get through tough times. There is a podcast available on just about every subject out there. Explore your options and find some interesting listening!

Communicate: Keep in touch with your family, friends and coworkers while on the road. Today’s technology offers many options for sharing stories and photos. If you see and hear about what is happening at home, it will help you reconnect when you’re back with your family. Of course, driver safety is paramount so make sure the use of technology is limited to when you’re pulled over or parked for the night. When you stop for a break, interact with other drivers. Be sociable and build connections.

Most importantly, contact your physician and/or a mental health professional to receive care. Depression is serious, but treatable. Take care of yourself and those around you exhibiting the signs of depression.


Hard Work Beats Depression

Folk remedies and half-truths about depression abound. One such idea: throw yourself into work and you'll feel better. For a mild case of the blues, this may indeed help, but depression is different. Overworking can be a sign of clinical depression, especially in men.

It's Not a Real Illness

Depression is a serious medical condition. Biological evidence of the illness comes from studies of genetics, hormones, nerve cell receptors, and brain functioning. Nerve circuits in brain areas that regulate mood appear to function abnormally in depression.

Depression Is Just Self-Pity

People who have clinical depression are not lazy or simply feeling sorry for themselves. Nor can they "will" depression to go away. Depression is a health problem related to changes in the brain. It usually improves with appropriate treatment.

Help Means Drugs for Life

Medication is only one of the tools used to lift depression. Studies suggest that "talk" therapy works as well as drugs for mild to moderate depression. Even if you do use antidepressants, it probably won’t be for life. Your doctor will help you determine the right time to stop your medication.

Depressed People Cry a Lot

Not always. Some people don't cry or even act terribly sad when they're depressed. Instead they are emotionally "blank" and may feel worthless or useless.

Depression Is Part of Aging

Most people navigate the challenges of aging without becoming depressed. But when it does occur, it may be overlooked. Older people may hide their sadness or have different, vague symptoms: food lacks taste, aches and pains worsen, or sleep patterns change. Medical problems can trigger depression in seniors, and depression can slow recovery from a heart attack or surgery.


Anyone Can Get Depressed

Anyone from any ethnic background can develop depression. It's often first noticed in the late teens or 20s, but an episode can develop at any age. Tough personal experiences can sometimes trigger depression in people who are at risk for the illness. Or it may develop out of the blue.

It Can Sneak Up Slowly

Depression can creep up gradually, which makes it harder to identify than a sudden illness. A bad day turns into a rut and you start skipping work or social occasions. One type, called dysthymia, can last for years as a chronic, low-level illness – a malaise that silently undermines your career and relationships. Or depression can become a severe, disabling condition. With treatment, many feel substantial relief in 4 – 6 weeks.

Family History Is Not Destiny

If depression appears in your family tree, you're more likely to get it too. But chances are you won't. People with a family history can watch for early symptoms of depression and take positive action promptly, whether that means reducing stress, getting more exercise, counseling, or other professional treatment.

Positive Thinking May Help

The old advice to "accentuate the positive" has advanced into a practice that can ease depression. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). People learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Distorted negative self-talk and behavior is identified and replaced with more accurate and balanced ways of thinking about yourself and the world. Used alone or with medication, CBT works for many people.

Exercise Is Good Medicine

Very good studies now show that regular, moderately intense exercise can improve symptoms of depression and work as well as some medicines for people with mild to moderate depression. Exercising with a group or a good friend adds social support, another mood booster.

Sources: National Institute of Mental Health, WebMD,

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