It’s difficult to imagine that smoking could actually be a direct cause of stress when so many people’s automatic response to a tense situation is to light up a cigarette. Can smoking cause anxiety? In this article we’ll attempt to answer that question.
Many people smoke to relieve stress and continue to do so for fear that if they give up, they will no longer be able to rely on that instant nicotine hit to calm them down.
Ironically however, smoking is a significant cause of stress in itself, with nicotine cravings causing a constant cycle of anxiety through the day that can only be relieved by smoking a cigarette.
It’s true that when you smoke a cigarette, you do feel a short-term sense of well-being as that welcome rush of nicotine floods into your system, reaching your brain within just ten seconds of you taking a drag on your cigarette.
However, this feeling soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can make you feel anxiety, jittery and tense.
The more you feed your addiction with nicotine the more intense these cravings will become. Over time smoking leads to changes in your brain which intensify your need for nicotine.
These powerful physical urges for nicotine and the anxiety that kicks in when you can’t get hold it are stressful enough.
But consider also how expensive it is to fund this habit. If you’re a 20-a-day smoker, you’ll be spending on average £72 a week and £312 a month on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to have to find each month and could lead to you racking up debt or struggling to pay for other basic necessities such as food or energy bills – a significant source of stress.
Smoking also leads to health anxiety, with many smokers well aware of the harm they are causing their bodies, yet feeling like they are unable to stop. Cigarettes contains over 5,000 deadly chemicals, many of which cause cancer and it is the leading cause of premature death in Wales. Around the world, smoking kills 50% of those that take it up and many long term smokers live with chronic lung conditions that significantly affect their quality of life. Smokers live with that knowledge and the constant fear of what the future holds in terms of their health. It is also a risk factor for Covid-19 with smokers more likely to suffer severe symptoms if they catch the virus.
The good news for smokers, is that according to the NHS, quitting smoking will boost your mental health and well-being and relieve stress, anxiety and even depression.
If you rely on smoking to relieve stress, then the thought of quitting is very daunting but, try to focus on the huge long term benefits you will enjoy if you do give up – no longer having to feed constant cravings for nicotine, spend a fortune on cigarettes or worry about your health.
It really is never too late to give up with the health benefits of quitting, kicking in within minutes of you stubbing out that last cigarettes.
Research has shown that you’re about three times more likely to quit for good if you do so using a combination of behavioural support and stop smoking medication so it’s really important to seek help.
NHS Wales Help Me Quit service provides free support and advice on how to find the quit smoking method that suits you best. You can also access help from your GP and local pharmacy.
There are many sources of stress in life that are beyond your control. You do however, have the ability to quit smoking and to significantly reduce your anxiety levels in the process.