The physical impacts of smoking are commonly known, but less well known is that smoking negatively affects our mental health too. When we smoke, nicotine reaches the brain roughly within ten seconds. To begin, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite.
However, regular doses of nicotine eventually lead to changes in the brain. As the nicotine supply decreases, over time nicotine withdrawal symptoms are developed, so we smoke again to temporarily reduce these withdrawal symptoms, therefore reinforcing the habit and establishing a dependency on nicotine.
Stress is a common trigger, and many people smoke to ease feelings of stress. However, research has shown that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, so it's easy to see why people smoke in the belief it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling however, is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and more cravings. Smoking reduces the withdrawal symptoms, but doesn’t reduce anxiety or deal with the reasons someone may feel that way.
It's been found that adults with depression are nearly twice as likely to smoke as adults without depression. Most people start to smoke before showing signs of depression, so it’s unclear whether smoking leads to depression or depression encourages people to start smoking - certainly a complex relationship between the two.
Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, the chemical involved in triggering positive feelings. It is often found to be low in people with depression, who may then use cigarettes as a way of temporarily increasing their dopamine supply. However, smoking encourages the brain to switch off its own mechanism for making dopamine so in the long term the supply decreases, which in turn prompts people to smoke more. People with depression can have particular difficulty when quitting, and have more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Although the quit journey is yours to take, there’s support available however, so you don’t have to go through it alone.
Source Article: MHFA - Smoking & Mental Health