Quitting smoking: psychological benefits

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Robert Maurer


We all know that quitting smoking improves physical health, but not everyone knows about the psychological benefits as well. Quitting smoking has been shown to increase mental health and well-being; It can improve mood and help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

Smoking, anxiety and mood

Most smokers say they want to quit, but some continue because smoking seems to relieve stress and anxiety.

It is a common belief that smoking helps you relax. But smoking actually only increases anxiety and nervousness.

Smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to develop depression over time.

Because smoking seems to help you relax

Cigarette smoking interferes with certain chemicals in the brain.

When a smoker skips a cigarette for a while, the craving for another makes them feel irritable and anxious.

These feelings may be temporarily relieved when you light up another cigarette. Thus, smokers associate improved mood with smoking.

In fact, it's the effects of smoking itself that probably caused the anxiety in the first place.

Quitting smoking improves mood and reduces anxiety.

The psychological benefits of quitting smoking

When people quit smoking, studies show that:

  • anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower (source)
  • quality of life and mood improve (source)
  • the dose of some medications used to treat mental health problems may be reduced (source)

Smokers with mental health problems

People with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia:

  • are much more likely to smoke than the general population
  • tend to smoke more
  • they die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than those without mental health problems; smoking plays an important role in this difference in life expectancy
  • you need higher doses of some antipsychotic and antidepressant medications because smoking interferes with the way these medications work

Quitting smoking can be as effective as antidepressants

People with mental health problems are likely to feel much calmer and more positive, and have a better quality of life, after quitting.

Evidence suggests that the beneficial effect of quitting smoking on symptoms of anxiety and depression may be equal to that of taking antidepressants.

If you want to quit smoking, contact your local organization, you will have a better chance of quitting completely and for good.

For other articles on wellness and psychology, go to the dedicated section: Health and Psychology

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