Life has a way of throwing stressful situations directly in our path. Stress, depression and anxiety are the main reasons many smokers choose to keep the habit. Some smokers are afraid that attempting to quit will magnify these negative feelings. They are afraid that quitting will leave them feeling worse.
You may believe that smoking is helping you to deal with stress. You are not alone; many smokers feel that way. This may be because the urge to smoke feels like stress or anxiety and those feelings are relieved by smoking a cigarette.
But actually, the nicotine itself may be creating those feelings. Nicotine raises the blood pressure and the heart rate. This will lead to feelings that can be mistaken for anxiety or stress.
Nicotine Can Cause Depression and Increase Stress and Anxiety
For years, it has been noted that many people who are depressed also smoke. It has been assumed that they started smoking because they were already depressed. New studies show that the reverse may be true. That smoking can actually be the cause of depression and increased stress and anxiety.
Studies Show New Evidence
Those studies suggest that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in your brain modify the function of the pathways. This causes changes in anxiety levels and your mood. Nicotine both activates and desensitises your nicotine receptors.
When you are a smoker, you are nearly three times more likely to develop depression than your friends and family who do not smoke due to the constant changes in your nervous system.
How Nicotine Causes Depression
Within ten seconds of nicotine hitting your lungs, it starts to react with the chemicals in your brain. Nicotine causes an increase in your levels of dopamine and epinephrine. You may temporarily feel more alert and energised.
The first few times you smoke a cigarette, you may have felt a "buzz", or feeling of lightheartedness and an elevated mood. Your brain thinks you will get these feelings again when you smoke, but you won't. The pleasure centers of your brain have now been altered.
When the effects of the nicotine wear off, your dopamine levels fall far below a normal range. When this continues for weeks, months and years at a time, the dopamine pathways stop functioning normally. This is how nicotine causes mood disorders.
You may feel as if smoking alleviates your negative feelings. It doesn't. You are simply fueling the addiction. The nicotine is reducing your ability to cope with these feelings. Coping with depression, stress and anxiety is a mental skill that you can lose when you attempt self-medication with nicotine.
Quitting Improves Your Mood
It is important to acknowledge that you may initially feel a bit sad or irritable for the first few days or weeks when you give up the cigarettes. This is normal. With a bit of time, you should notice a drastic improvement in your mood as your body adjusts to being free from the negative effects of nicotine.
Many smokers who perceived the craving for cigarettes as anxiety, or who smoked when they felt anxious, found that those negative feelings occurred much less often after they quit.
If reduce depression and anxiety is part of your daily goals, a good start is quitting what is sometimes the cause, figuring what are triggers for you can change the way you are acting towards those feelings.
Quitting Improves Self-Esteem
There is also the feeling of accomplishment that a person who quits smoking will feel. That feeling of becoming the master of your circumstances, of overcoming your addiction will spill over to other areas of your life. This is a powerful boost to anyone's self-esteem and another valid reason to break the chains.
Studies suggest that conquering your nicotine addiction could be your first step towards reducing depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, giving up the nicotine can be just as effective for anxiety and depression as a prescription antidepressant.
You could live the rest of your life with decreased rates of stress, anxiety and depression when you quit smoking. At Quit Stop Now, we have helped tens of thousands of Australians quit smoking and break their addiction to nicotine. Our goal is to help smokers from all over the world quit smoking.
Download our eBook to see if you are ready to quit and what is triggering you . The Quit Stop Now eBook can help you to think of some of the reasons you insist in smoke and it could be your first step to reducing depression and boosting your mood.