Depression is a common occurrence in smokers that quit. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects over 300 million people worldwide. Depression is also one of the most common mental illnesses in North America. In fact, it has been estimated that depression may be even more prevalent than heart disease. Studies even show that depression after quitting smoking can occur due to changes in brain chemistry caused by nicotine withdrawal.
Why Quitting Smoking Can Lead to Depression
Nicotine is a stimulant that can potentially lead to depression. Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, which is an addictive substance found in cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco. When a smoker becomes addicted to this drug, the brain starts producing dopamine. It does this in response to the presence of nicotine from cigarettes or any other source.
Dopamine is associated with pleasurable feelings, learning, motor functions, and memory. Once nicotine activates dopamine, the pattern of addiction begins. Your brain then associates smoking with positive feelings and craves the action.
The Link Between Smoking and Mental Health Disorders
Doctors are starting to take note of the high co-occurrence between smoking and mental illness. In fact, a recent study found that smokers with psychiatric diseases have an average shorter lifespan than those without any psychiatric diagnosis or those who smoke less often. Doctors recommend quitting tobacco products before considering other treatments for physical health problems though.
Often when people try to quit smoking, they experience depression due to changes in brain chemistry caused by nicotine withdrawal. Other factors such as social stressors can also cause people that happen to have smoking issues to develop depression. This makes it much more difficult to quit smoking because the brain is conditioned to expect nicotine during stressful situations.
Ultimately, nicotine is a stimulant that can potentially lead to depression. This is because once a person stops smoking, the receptors in his or her brain are no longer receiving nicotine. Thus, that person is no longer feeling the positive feelings that nicotine gave him or her.
Research has shown that depression is also a significant predictor of relapse in smoking. One study found that among smokers who had depression before quitting, 55% relapsed after six months. This is compared to just 40% of those without depression.
Does Smoking Make Mental Health Worse?
People smoke as a form of self-medication to ease their feelings of stress. This is a bad idea though as research shows that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. This is because smoking only increases people’s development of withdrawal symptoms and cravings with no relief from these underlying causes.
Thus, smoking is not really providing any stress-relieving benefits. All you are doing when smoking is trading in your stress for addiction. You aren’t solving the root cause of your stress.
Some people think smoking may provide them some much-needed relief when they’re feeling highly stressed; however, recent studies show that this isn’t the case after all. Smokers may experience short-term moments of relief which ultimately develop into more intense bouts of anxiety and depression. This is why depression after quitting smoking can spiral.
How to Cope with the Side Effects of Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking can cause mood changes, and here are a few ways to cope with those mood swings.
You can’t underestimate the power of a good walk. Exercising in the fresh air will invigorate you. Plus, exercise releases endorphins in your brain which makes it easier to maintain a positive mood.
Meet with other people who have the same problem as you. People from all over America are in recovery from smoking. Talking about your feelings is a great way to get your emotions off your chest. Also, getting someone else’s perspective can help you gain more insight into your own.
If there isn’t a recovery program nearby or if the one that does exist doesn’t work for you for some reason, then do research into finding another group. Think about joining American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program, which has groups all over the country.
Many people have experienced depression after quitting smoking. Therefore, such people can let you know what has worked for them when treating this condition.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Reach out to the people in your life that make you feel good about yourself and your decision to quit. It will help remind you of the many reasons quitting smoking has become so important. Being with loved ones will also help fight feelings of sadness and any other negative emotions.
Create a Todo List
This may sound crazy, but it’s worth the try: instead of smoking when you’re feeling down, do a crossword puzzle. It’ll give your brain something to focus on and distract you from your urge for nicotine. If that doesn’t work or if you need help getting away from negative thoughts in general, call your supportive friends.
Set New Goals
Set goals, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. Divide tasks related to your goals into small chunks that make sense for the time and energy you have available each day.
Develop a Plan to Attack Negative Thoughts
When you’re feeling sad or craving smoking, remind yourself that the development of such emotions and cravings is part of the addiction cycle. Once you stop having cravings for nicotine and are no longer addicted to them, you won’t miss them anymore!
It is not uncommon to experience depression after quitting smoking due to the changes in brain chemistry and hormone levels that quitting smoking causes. The good news, though, is that depression-related only to smoking cessation usually goes away on its own within six months of quitting.
It can be much more difficult for a person that suffers from depression that’s unrelated to his or her smoking cessation to quit though. Thus, if you suffer from depression that’s unrelated to smoking and you are trying to quit smoking, it’s vital that you actively practice the coping mechanisms that we just mentioned.
What are Common Side Effects From Quitting Smoking?
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty staying focused
- Appetite changes
- Loss of interest in normal activities
When you quit smoking, there may be many mood changes that come with it. Some of these mood changes last or worsen as time goes on and start to interfere with your functioning. If this occurs, it could mean something much worse: clinical depression. If this is the case for you, look for professional depression treatment today.
Ways That You Can Live a Healthier Lifestyle Without Cigarettes
The biggest change to a healthier lifestyle comes with changing your overall perspective. This is the greatest challenge new ex-smokers face. It’s that shift from seeing quitting smoking as a deprivation to realizing it’s actually one of the best gifts you’ll ever give yourself. Many people begin feeling their depression symptoms lift after they change their perspective about quitting smoking.
For example, some people may find it easier to quit smoking once they realize how much better life feels without toxic chemicals floating around them. They might even start noticing just how great everything tastes again or find themselves able to breathe more easily than before. Such discoveries really make quitting feel worth it!
Many of the techniques used to cope with depression and other discomforts while quitting smoking can also be incorporated into the lives of anyone who’s trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Things like exercising, spending time with friends and family, and structuring your day with to-do lists and positive sentiments will help keep anyone on the right track in life.
Tips to Help Manage Your Withdrawal From Nicotine
Having a plan for when you decide on quitting smoking is the most important first step. First, think about the ways you will tackle cravings as they pop up, as those will be the first challenges. After a few days, the nicotine will have left your system, but those mental cravings will still be present.
When you stop smoking, your body is thrown into a state of physical withdrawal that mimics natural human grieving. You’ll feel intense cravings for a cigarette, anger, and irritability in place of stress relief from cigarettes. You’ll also experience headaches caused by a lack of sleep. Such headaches are often due to being too preoccupied with the thought of the next time you can smoke again. Experiencing depression after quitting smoking is also common.
Remember to take one step at a time. Quitting an addiction like smoking cigarettes is difficult and it will take time. Listen to advice from others that have gone through it. Stay focused on major health reasons like why you’re quitting smoking and how good it will feel to be free of such withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Does Nicotine Withdrawal Last?
Feelings like anxiety, sadness, and trouble concentrating may also surface in the first 3 hours after quitting smoking. The feelings of nicotine withdrawal peak after about three days but are known to take two weeks or more of not smoking before they subside completely.
What is the Fastest Way to Detox From Nicotine?
- Drink lots of water
- Eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods
- Get active
Drinking more water and eating antioxidant-rich foods can help you break down toxins in your body. When we are dehydrated our metabolism is slowed which prevents us from burning nicotine as fast. When our bodies sweat through exercise, they eliminate nicotine and other toxins. Such elimination helps boost people’s metabolic rate.
Exercise increases circulation by opening up blood vessels near the skin’s surface where sweating occurs. The increased flow of oxygen improves toxin removal because these substances react quickly to heat energy. Drinking plenty of fluids will allow this process to happen at a quicker pace. This is due to improved hydration levels throughout one’s body.
Improve Your Mental Health Today and Quit Smoking!
Studies have shown that positive thinking and cooperation can be an effective way to stop smoking. Patients who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy may benefit from its therapeutic techniques as this form of therapy is known for its effectiveness in helping individuals, with or without mental health problems, quit smoking.
If you think your depression after quitting smoking may be a sign of a bigger problem, reach out to our team at Florida Center for Recovery. It’s common to be emotional after you quit smoking, but sometimes depressing emotions can feel out of control. Therapy at a mental health treatment center can help you learn how to deal with your depressed feelings and find happiness again.