Can Quitting Smoking Cause Depression Or Does Smoking Itself Cause It?

Depression - How Smoking Affects Your Mental Health - DoctorOnCall

Smoking And Mental Health

Smoking may help smokers forget the problems that they are facing. We often see smokers trying to reason about why they smoke. It might be due to a stressful workload or relationship problems. Cigarettes are something that gives them peace of mind from all those daily stressors. Is it really working?  Doesn’t this mean that they have to rely on cigarettes to feel at ease?

Many questions arise, do cigarettes really relieve stress or is it the cause? Continue your reading to find out the truth.

Smoking is known to cause harm to the physical health of the body, but many aren’t aware of how cigarettes affect mental health. The nicotine in a cigarette is the main ingredient that causes mental health problems in smokers. Nicotine works to stimulate receptors within the brain for dopamine production. Dopamine is a hormone that can make smokers feel happy and calm in the short term. This makes them more likely to smoke cigarettes, so that they may get a quick feeling of happiness and peace.

Nicotine withdrawal syndrome or the nicotine effect causes smokers to feel depressed without cigarettes. In fact, they have been deceived.

So, What Really Happens?

Unbeknownst to you, you have actually been manipulated by a cigarette! Imagine how you as a great creature would have to rely on a cigarette to feel calm. Let's see what happens to you behind this so-called peace.

1. Stress

The cycle begins when a person smokes, as nicotine triggers a dopamine release. This happiness only lasts for a brief time. After the effect of nicotine disappears, the body craves the dopamine effect, which causes you to be restless, stressed, depressed, and irritable. This will cause smokers to return to smoking. This vicious cycle will continue on until you feel that smoking is the solution to your stress. You have been fooled into thinking that you are doing good, peaceful, and calm when the reality is the opposite. 

2. Depression

A study by Prof. Hagai Levine points out that smoking increases the risk of depression. The study also showed that smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to get depression than non-smokers. Another study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that an increase in depressive symptoms is consistent with the increment of the number of cigarettes or nicotine levels taken.

How smoking causes depression is not fully understood, however, most smokers smoke for peace of mind. The more you smoke, the higher the nicotine or the number of cigarettes needed for you to feel calm and happy. That’s why many fall into depressionafter quitting smoking.

In addition to the nicotine loss, there is another theory that can explain why it happens. During nicotine withdrawal symptoms, a protein that controls an individual's emotions - monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) - will increase by 25 percent within 8 hours of quitting smoking. This protein will engulf all the happy hormones (dopamine and serotonin) which make a person more likely to grieve. However, do not worry. This effect is temporary. After you recover, you will feel truly happy without having to rely on nicotine again!

Tips to Overcome Depression After Quit Smoking

1. Eat Nutritious Foods

New ex-smokers will tend to snack a lot more than usual. This habit could be a mechanism to replace cigarettes. Usually greasy foods, sweets, and high-calorie snacks are their choice. Remember that quitting smoking is the first step towards a healthier life, so do not spoil it with high-calorie foods that cause weight gain.

So, how do you get rid of an addiction? Don't worry - you can eat and chew on snacks. But make sure your food choices are nutritious and low in calories. Munch on fruits, nuts, and low-calorie snacks such as plain popcorn. Dark chocolate is also a good choice. Healthy food choices are not only important for the bowel, but also for your mind.

2. Be Active

Physical activity can also produce dopamine to stimulate good emotions. So once you quit smoking, spend your time with various outdoor or indoor activities. It is not only beneficial to help you ditch cigarettes, but it also stimulates the production of hormones that are good for your mind.

Sports activities make you sweat and help to remove waste from your body. As a result, the body will be healthier and the brain will function better. Also, sports activities allow you to sleep more soundly. This is especially important when you are in the nicotine withdrawal phase, as you may experience insomnia.

You are free to do any activity like jogging, cycling, farming, washing cars, and tidying the house. Doing activities together with your family can also help you forget problems you are facing as well as strengthen family ties. Any exercise is good for your mind.

3. Support From Family and Friends

Smoking cessation efforts should not be done alone. If you would like to quit smoking, let your family and friends know. In fact, they should feel proud of your determination. Their support is extremely important in your quest to live free without smoking. Those who are often with you will also get the benefit as now they are no longer passive smokers.

However, there may be people around you, like a close friend, who is still smoking. It is important that you strengthen your determination so you aren’t influenced by them to start smoking again. Avoid hanging out with friends who smoke until you are sure that you can resist the temptation of smoking when hanging out with them.

4. Avoid Remembering Cigarettes

When you experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms for 1-3 months, your craving for cigarettes becomes so strong that it can destroy all of your efforts. Withdrawal symptoms will reach its peak on the second or third day after your last cigarette.

Therefore, it is vital that you simply avoid things that remind you of cigarettes. Dispose of all cigarette ash, cigarette butts, and clean the house from the smell of cigarettes by washing pillows, curtains, and wiping the furniture. Spray on a refreshing scent like the smell of citrus, fruits, or flowers like lavender. This not only helps you to forget about smoking but also gives you peace of mind. The smell of lavender does not only soothe, but also helps you to sleep better. Always think positive about the benefits of quitting smoking and rest assured that the effects of nicotine withdrawal are only temporary.

5. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

In order to deal with depression, you also can try Nicotine Replacement Therapy. It is a treatment with the concept of supplying the brain with nicotine in low doses without the toxic substances found in cigarette smoke. NRT can reduce the feeling of addiction and also reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms after quitting smoking. Find out if you're nicotine-dependent with this quiz!

Among the NRT products are nicotine chewing gum, nicotine inhaler, nicotine lozenge, and nicotine patches. You can consult a doctor to seek out which NRT treatment is right for you. With this treatment, you will find it easier to quit smoking. 

6. Counseling

Did you know, the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) has appointed at least 45 clinics across the country as ‘quit smoking’ centres? These clinics are called Smoking Cessation Clinics, and  aim to provide assistance either through pharmacotherapy or behavioral treatment. Those of you who are trying to quit smoking are highly recommended to get a consultation from experienced doctors and their support staff. Professional assistance, especially those involving qualified specialists, shouldn’t be ignored. 


We hope the ideas shared in this article will assist you in your journey to quit smoking forever. Emotional stress after quitting smoking is something serious and should be managed properly so that you can deal with this problem perfectly. Don’t hide if you have mental health issues because this will harm yourself both externally and internally and may endanger those around you. May you be cheerful and feel great again after quitting smoking the right way.

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