Smoking and How It Affect Your Mental Health
blog by Paola
Several of my friends and a couple acquaintances of mine smoke cigarettes... and I can't help but wonder what type of consequences this will bring to them. After doing some research this is what I found on the mentalhealth.org website.
When a person smokes, nicotine reaches the brain within about ten seconds. At first, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite. Regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain, which then lead to nicotine withdrawal symptoms when the supply of nicotine decreases. Smoking temporarily reduces these withdrawal symptoms and can therefore reinforce the habit. This cycle is how most smokers become nicotine dependent.
Smoking and stress
Some people smoke as ‘self-medication’ to ease feelings of stress. However, research has shown that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, so people smoke in the belief it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Smoking reduces withdrawal symptoms but doesn’t reduce anxiety or deal with the reasons someone may feel that way.
Smoking and depression
Adults with depression are twice as likely to smoke as adults without depression. Most people start to smoke before showing signs of depression, so it’s unclear whether smoking leads to depression or depression encourages people to start smoking. It’s most likely that there is a complex relationship between the two.
Nicotine stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain which is involved in triggering positive feelings. It is often found to be low in people with depression, who may then use cigarettes to temporarily increase their dopamine supply. However, smoking encourages the brain to switch off its mechanism for making dopamine, so in the long term, the supply decreases, which in turn prompts people to smoke more.
People with depression can have particular difficulty when they try to stop smoking and have more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Remember, there’s lots of support available if you decide to quit. However – you don’t have to go through it alone.
Reference: Smoking and mental health. Mental Health Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/smoking-and-mental-health