Top 4 Reasons Why People with Severe Mental Illness are More Likely to Smoke

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Several studies have shown an association between mental health and smoking. Although it is true that smoking causes and aggravate mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, stress and memory problems, experts believe that having such conditions often trigger people to smoke. There are several reasons why people with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke. Here are some of them:

 1. Anxiety and Stress

Most patients experience high anxiety symptoms. Depressed individuals, as well as those who have phobia and behavioral disorders often find relief through smoking. This is because of the nicotine’s ability to stimulate the production of the feel-good hormones in the brain. However, what they do not know is that the four thousand chemicals in tobacco actually worsen their anxiety and stress.

 2. Environmental factors

People who have mental health problems are more likely to smoke if they are in a hospital than at home, a research reveals. Having support from people they love is very important to mental health sufferers. When they are in a place that looks strange to them, they tend to rely on unhealthy habits such as smoking to cope with the sadness or longing to be with people they love.

 3. The pleasure derived from smoking stimulates craving


Mental health sufferers usually have imbalances in their mood. Sometimes they feel good but most of the time they feel so bad. Nicotine attaches itself in the brain receptors that are responsible for stimulating dopamine production. This hormone is responsible for the sense of pleasure. But dopamine doesn’t stay there for too long. It goes away the moment the triggering chemical (in this case, nicotine) disappears. As a result, the patient will light up, again and again until he become totally dependent on tobacco.

 4. They easily get carried away


Those with mental health conditions may have difficulty understanding their needs. It is easy for a depressed individual to drink alcohol, smoke or engage in drug use especially if they are not given proper medical attention. They seek comfort from these unhealthy habits even though they know it might kill them.

What can be done?

Majority of mental health sufferers try to quit but only a small percentage succeeds. Quitting smoking can be hard for healthy individuals, how much more for those who have health problems? Fortunately, there are various smoking cessation methods that can be used to help these individuals quit their habit. Aside from medications, they are advised to undergo treatments and therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and counseling. The GP is the best person to provide recommendations as to what type of smoking cessation strategy is best suitable for a smoker with mental health disorder.

Proper care and caution should be observed when deciding to take medications. There are drugs that may aggravate symptoms of mental illness such as depression, stress and anxiety. Seeking medical advice is therefore necessary. It’s never too late to quit. Never.


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