Smoking & mental health

a picture of someone smoking
So we all know smoking is physically damaging. All of us smokers and ex-smokers know that and the kids taking up smoking know that and the non-smokers know that….and I really don't know anybody who doesn't know that.

Smoking isn't just about the physical though. And putting aside the establishment of a physical addiction and the consequential emerging belief that all the possible scary outcomes simply 'Wont happen to me!' A strong emotional dependency is formed.

Smokers tend to believe that cigarettes are emotionally beneficial, helping to ease stress and anxiety. They report smoking increases concentration and relaxation, stabilising their moods and even help to alleviate the symptoms of depression.

It is reported that even health professionals can be reluctant to advise people with mental health problems to stop smoking, in case quitting makes their mental health worse.
The authors of a new UK study published in the BMJ today report

"This pattern of behavior occurs in smokers with and without diagnosed mental disorders. Unsurprisingly, views about smoking predict whether or not people attempt to quit and whether or not they are successful."

a cigarette shaped liked a battery

Smokers say that when they haven't had a cigarette for a while they can experience irritability, anxiety and low mood. However they are most often confusing the physical aspect of nicotine withdrawal with the incorrect perceptions that smoking delivers calming and comforting emotional benefits. This is usually why they quit the quitting and take up the habit again.

So this study looked at loads of other studies and conducted its own experiment into the mental benefits of sticking with the ciggies as opposed to packing them in.
They tested smokers (average age 44 smoking about 20 a day) from the general population as well as patients suffering physical or psychiatric conditions and found that…..wait for it….

Quitting smoking improves all facets of mental health

And concluded that 
Measuring mental health status by anxiety, depression, positivity, stress and psychological quality of life, the researchers found that quitting smoking was associated with improvements in all of these factors.

This applied to the participants both in the general population and clinical patients - including people with mental health disorders.

Three broad explanations have been suggested, the researchers note, for associations between smoking and poor mental health:

• Smoking and poor mental health might have common causes
• People with poor mental health smoke as a coping mechanism for low mood and anxiety
• Smoking causes mental health problems or makes these problems worse.

Whatever the cause, the researchers believe that the relationship between smoking and mental health requires further attention. If smokers believe that their psychological wellbeing will be adversely affected by giving up, then they will be less likely to do so, which has implications for their physical wellbeing.

a man stuck in a prison of cigarettes