‘I smoke because I am anxious, I am anxious because I smoke’- that simply put is vicious circle of smoking and anxiety!'
Smokers may tell themselves that their daily puffs help them deal with life better, but all that they end up doing is making their lives more complicated and stressful.
The connection between smoking cigarettes and anxiety
According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), smoking cigarettes during adolescence increases the chances of developing anxiety disorders later in life.
There is some debate about the reason why this happens. While one group believes that nicotine, which is a stimulant generates more anxiety in the long run, others feel that the breathing and stamina problems caused by smoking fuel anxiety.
It is also a fact that nicotine is addictive and therefore causes smokers to experience strong cravings after short periods of withdrawal, i.e. unless smokers get their nicotine fix to satiate their cravings they start feeling stressed and anxious.
Prolonged smoking can cause various health problems including blocked arteries, dental problems, premature ageing, low stamina, etc. These problems too come packed with heavy doses of stress and anxiety.
The connection, however, is not just one way. People suffering from anxiety and depression tend to smoke cigarettes more than others. A lot of people take up smoking because the toxic chemicals in it stimulate the reward centers in the brain thus creating the illusion of stress relief. This relief, however, is only temporary, but to smokers it’s quite attractive! What’s not attractive, however, and what most smokers prefer to ignore is that fact that in the long run smoking cigarettes only adds to their stress and anxiety.
It has also been found the schizophrenics tend to gravitate towards smoking cigarettes as a way of self-medication. The problem is that instead of easing their anxiety, smoking only ends up adding to their problems.
So, if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder and have taken to smoking; be careful as quitting will be even harder when you decide you’ve had enough! In fact according to a research study published in the Journal of American Medicine Association, people with a history of anxiety disorder found it harder to quit smoking. It was also found the even smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches were not as effective in such cases.
The reason is that smokers who suffer from anxiety disorders feel the withdrawal symptoms more acutely than others. Their anxiety and stress only make their craving for cigarettes stronger thus increasing the risk of a relapse. The sad part is that a considerable percentage of smokers end up suffering from one anxiety disorder or the other.
So, what should you do?
If you can identify with the situation and are willing to make the effort to live a healthy and smoke free life, then you must seek help right away. It can be difficult for people suffering from anxiety disorders to quit smoking on their own; often they need additional support as well as psychological counselling to treat their anxiety disorder that fuels their cigarette addiction.
True smoking and anxiety form a vicious circle, but if you have the desire and the will to quit smoking, you won’t find it too hard to free yourself from the shackles of stress and smoke.