4 Ways Your Mental Health Affects Your Quitting Smoking Efforts

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Smoking affects both your physical and mental wellbeing. Smokers experiencing mental health problems smoke because they find it helpful in alleviating the symptoms, but the effects are temporary. And smoking only worsens their physical health.

When you smoke, in about 10 seconds, nicotine reaches your brain. Initially, it enhances your mood and concentration, lessens stress, reduces your appetite and relaxes your muscles.  First-time smokers may experience a little dizziness and nausea. These effects, however, lessen with continuous use and the only effect that never ceases is the nicotine addiction. It bigstock-Teenage-Girl-Visits-Doctor-s-O-41853355is even argued that the addiction you get from smoking is greater than heroin or cocaine addiction.

Your brain changes as steady dosage of nicotine is delivered and once it is withdrawn it causes several withdrawal symptoms. Smoking momentarily reduces the withdrawal symptoms. However, it may trigger and reinforce the old habit. This is the reason why smokers become dependent to nicotine. And this affects not only your physical health but as well as your mental wellbeing and people experiencing mental health issues may find it more difficult to quit compared to other smokers.

Stress and Smoking

Most smokers believe that smoking help ease the symptoms of stress. But on the contrary, it is but a placebo, a mental state that holds no water. Stress is common. It affects everyone when you feel powerless to cope with undesirable pressure. It may cause several physical symptoms like headaches, as well as the feeling of irritability, anxiety and low esteem. What smoking does to your body is that it suppresses your body. It acts something like a depressant, but smoking doesn’t change anything. Stress makes it more difficult for smoker to quit the habit, especially if they cannot cope with the external factors. Trying to address these factors before your quit date might be a good strategy.


Anxiety and Smoking


According to research, instead of helping smokers relax, smoking actually aggravates anxiety and tension. Nicotine produces an abrupt sense of relaxation so smokers feel that it lessens stress and anxiety. However, this effect is temporary and soon leads to increased cravings and different withdrawal symptoms.

What is actually happening is that smoking addresses your nicotine craving, which is like that of the symptoms of anxiety. But it does not in any way reduce anxiety or deal with the factors causing anxiety.

Depression and Smoking

Cases of smoking among adults experiencing depression are twice as much as adults without depression. Smokers suffering from depression have certain difficulty when they quit smoking and experience more severe symptoms.

Smoking stimulates the secretion of dopamine. It is responsible for creating the positive feelings. People suffering from depression have very low dopamine level, and smoking momentarily increases this hormone. But the problem is, nicotine also triggers the brain in a way that it stops the production of dopamine when the nicotine level drops, prompting the smoker to smoke more

DID YOU KNOW?
Studies suggest that persons with mental illness are about twice as likely to smoke as other persons and may encounter greater difficulty with tobacco cessation.

cigarettes. So the more you smoke the more your body relaxes.

Schizophrenia and Smoking

Smokers with schizophrenia tend to smoke more compared to other smokers, the reason for this lies on the placebo effect of smoking to your body. Smoking somehow manages to trick your body into believing that it lessens the symptoms of the disorder and the side effects of the medications to treat schizophrenia.

Cigarette smoking is a mental addiction which is very difficult to break. But this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to do something about it. The effects of tobacco are normally decreased significantly after 20 to 30 days after you quit smoking. Millions of smokers try to quit every day. It is simply about your willpower to let go of the addiction and overcome the withdrawal symptoms.


Lasser K, Boyd J, Woolhandler S, Himmelstein DU, McCormick D, Bor DH. Smoking and Mental Illness: A Population-Based Prevalence Study. JAMA. 2000;284(20):2606-2610. doi:10.1001/jama.284.20.2606.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 manic depression August 22, 2014 at 6:20 am

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