Smoking and Mental Health

It’s common to think that smoking helps you relax or cope with feelings of anxiety, stress or depression. The truth is, smoking is a highly addictive behaviour that can have a negative impact on your mental health. People who smoke are twice as likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to non-smokers.

Although it can be tough at first, once you quit you will feel a boost in confidence and a great sense of achievement. Quitting smoking is also associated with a number of mental health benefits, including:

  • Significant reduction in depression, anxiety and stress;
  • Improvement in mood and psychological quality of life; and
  • Enhanced capacity to cope with life stressors.

If you are taking any medications, talk to your doctor. Less tobacco smoke and nicotine in your body may mean you can reduce your regular dosage.

Do you smoke to unwind or escape from a stressful situation?

It’s common to remove yourself from stressful situations in order to have a cigarette. This makes it seem like the act of smoking is helping to reduce your stress levels, but simply separating yourself from a situation is a stress relief technique itself.

The inhaling action of smoking a cigarette is also similar to deep breathing, which is a common stress-relief practice. Next time you reach for a cigarette, why not try some deep breathing exercises instead. For more tips and tricks to help you quit, check out this blog.

Are cigarettes causing your stress?

Soon after you’ve finished a cigarette, your nicotine levels begin to fall. This can make your heart beat faster, increase your blood pressure, and you may begin to feel tense, irritable and anxious as you begin to crave that next cigarette.

Your nicotine levels will be topped up following your next smoke. This will result in a feeling of relief and withdrawal symptoms, including stress, may subside.

However, this satisfaction is only temporary as the stress cycle of smoking restarts when nicotine levels begin to drop. Withdrawal symptoms such as stress or anxiety might become more noticeable when you quit smoking. It’s important to remember these feelings are only temporary and will disappear over time as your body adjusts to life without nicotine.

The stress cycle of smoking. 1. when you light up a smoke, it tops up your nicotine levels. 2. Your nicotine withdrawal symptoms (like irritability, anxiety and restlessness) are immediately relieved, making you feel relaxed - but only temporarily. 3. soon after you've finished having a smoke, your nicotine levels begin to fall - leaving you crawing another smoke and starting to feel anxious. 4. Once your nicotine levels have dropped even more, you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms including irritability, anxiety, headaches and difficulty concentrating.
Learn more about your withdrawal symptoms and triggers to smoke or listen to clinical psychiatrist, Dr Peter Wynn Owen, talk about how to get through nicotine withdrawal.

The cost of smoking can also lead to significant financial stress. Money spent on cigarettes could be used for household essentials, as well as those little treats in life. Find out how much you can save with our quit calculator.

If you would like more information about staying mentally healthy, visit these websites:

If you or anyone you know needs crisis assistance, call:

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