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Tackling anxiety among LGV/HGV and PCV/PSV drivers

News | 14th Jun 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week

In May 2023, Mental Health Awareness Week took place. This year it was focused on anxiety. This is an important topic for businesses with LGV/HGV and PCV/PSV drivers. The nature of the work of an LGV/HGV/PCV/PSV driver can contribute to mental ill-health, including anxiety.

So, what do you need to know about anxiety? How can drivers get help if they need it? And what are your responsibilities to employees affected by this?

Most people experience feelings of anxiety from time to time. It is a normal human response. However, for some people, it can become more than an occasional feeling. And its severity and frequency can impact their daily life.

When anxiety becomes a problem, it is called ‘General Anxiety Disorder’. As well as being overwhelming for an extended period, many people who suffer with the disorder feel anxious about a wide range of issues. There may also be no real reason for the feeling of anxiety.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Below are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety, which you may experience yourself or observe in others. However, everyone can experience anxiety differently.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Light-headedness/dizziness
  • Feelings of sickness
  • Unusual sweating (even when it is not warm)
  • Trembling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Difficulty sleeping/insomnia
  • Digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Psychological symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Overwhelming feelings of worry and dread
  • Thinking over the same situation repeatedly
  • Feeling as though the world around you is slowing down or speeding up
  • Low self-esteem

Many people with anxiety will also experience panic attacks. These often come on suddenly, and are an exaggerated and more intense manifestation of the feeling of anxiety. Those who may be suffering may report that during a panic attack they feel as though they are no longer in control, and fear that they are going to die or pass out. Sometimes these can occur without a known trigger.

What causes anxiety?

There is no definite cause of anxiety in any one person. However, factors such as past or traumatic experiences can play a part. Other health conditions or pain can also result in anxiety.

For drivers, there are some key contributors to anxiety to be aware of.

  • Everyday life and habits – The job of a driver can be very stressful at times and often include long working hours. These can both contribute to anxiety. Financial pressure can also be a heavy load on an individual’s mental health.
  • Diet – Our diets can affect our mood. Some foods can mimic and trigger symptoms of anxiety. These include caffeine and sugar, which some drivers may rely on to get a quick fix on the road. Diets that are generally poor can also impact mental health.
  • Drugs – Whether it’s illegal drugs or prescribed medication, various drugs can affect mental health. This includes alcohol. Even psychiatric medication can contribute to mental health problems. This is why people being treated for mental health conditions must keep in contact with healthcare professionals.

Support and treatment for anxiety

Some businesses may have systems in place that allow drivers to seek help at work. However, those experiencing anxiety should usually seek help from the NHS first. Either by talking to a GP or through self-referrals to NHS mental health services (available in some areas).

Charities and local support groups can provide advice and treatments too. These include Mind, Mental Health UK, Mates in Mind, and many others. Further links and information can be found at the end of this article.

Private therapists are also an option but may be costly.

The most common treatments for anxiety disorders are self-help, talking treatments/therapies, and medication.

Self-help is usually the first course of action for anxiety. This can include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, giving up smoking, and breathing exercises/meditation. It can also include getting support from others, whether by talking to someone you trust, or joining a support group. These are beneficial habits for drivers to adopt whether they are suffering from anxiety, or not.

You can learn more about other treatments for mental ill-health on the NHS website.

Employers have responsibility for all employees’ health, including mental health

Many people think that employers have no responsibilities for the mental health of their staff. This is untrue. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a duty of care to all their employees. And this covers mental health.

For many, speaking up about anxiety to their employer is a terrifying thing. There is long-standing stigma surrounding mental health problems. And the conversation itself can seem like a daunting experience – enough to heighten anxiety. But it’s important to remember that employers have a legal duty to protect their drivers. And that they are human too.

Improving LGV/HGV/PCV/PSV drivers’ mental health awareness

Training can be an effective way to help increase driver awareness of anxiety, and other mental health conditions. That’s why members of the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium have access to two modules dedicated to this important subject.

  • Improving Drivers Understanding of Mental Health’ includes an introduction to mental health, and introductions to anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
  • ‘Understanding Mental Health in the Workplace’ includes an introduction to mental health, an introduction to depression, bullying in the workplace, and stress in the workplace.

If you are not a member of the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium, you can get a free demo of the Driver CPC Periodic Training materials here.

However, if you are concerned about a colleague’s mental health, don’t delay. Reach out to a health professional or support organisation right away.

Supportive groups that can provide advice and resources to help include:


The Mental Health Foundation

Anxiety UK

Men’s Mental Health Awareness month also takes place in November or ‘Movember’ each year. This is a further opportunity to raise awareness of mental ill-health with your team. The campaign not only provides fundraising opportunities, but lots of advice and resources too. Learn more here.