If you're a smoker or ex-smoker, you'll know all too well that the act of smoking relieves stress and makes you feel better - right? Actually, that couldn't be further from the truth! Many people regard smoking as a comfort, but in this post, we're going to explain how sparking up that cigarette can make your depression worse.
The Link Between Smoking and Depression
We all know that people with mental health issues are more likely to seek comfort in illicit substances. If someone suffers from clinical depression or a condition such as Bipolar disorder, they're more likely to drink and smoke more.
A study conducted by the Royal College of Physicians found that a third of smokers in the UK have a mental health condition. Surprisingly, women with depression are more likely to smoke than men, and many doctors believe lighting up that cigarette is a person's way of self-medicating.
The Nicotine Effect
What makes someone wake up and instantly want to spark up a cigarette? It's all about nicotine. Every time you inhale nicotine, it immediately affects your brain, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
Nicotine is known to increase dopamine levels, which is a hormone we associate with happiness and pleasure. Even though the feeling lasts for a short time, it reinforces a need to replicate that dopamine boost.
When someone has a hard day at work or feels stressed, they'll immediately remember that nicotine makes them feel better for a short amount of time, and a cycle of dependence begins.
The Negative Impacts of Smoking On Your Mind
Doctors have been telling us for years that smoking causes many adverse effects on the body, including lung cancer, respiratory conditions, halitosis and premature ageing. But with all of those side effects, people often forget about the impact smoking has on your mind.
Smoking doesn't improve your quality of life, and it can impact your mind in many ways. Let's take a look at them.
Your Brain Produces Less Dopamine
The body is much more intuitive than we give it credit for, and it will often respond to how we treat it. For example, if someone gets no sleep, their body will produce more ghrelin, which is a hormone that tells your mind that it needs to refuel.
It's precisely the same with dopamine. When you constantly provide your brain with dopamine hits from nicotine, it will automatically readjust itself and regulate the natural dopamine levels it produces.
To put it simply, you'll lose any natural dopamine, and your cigarettes will be solely responsible for boosting your pleasure response. When people quit smoking, the sudden loss of dopamine is why they initially feel so unhappy.
Your Financial Stability Will Suffer
If you've ever had money problems, you'll know how it makes you more anxious and depressed. Smoking costs a lot of money; that's no secret. In fact, when we look at how the price of cigarettes has increased over the years, it's shocking that so many people still choose to light up.
According to Statista, the average price for a pack of 20 cigarettes was £4.82 in 2005. In 2017, that price had risen to £9.91 in 2017. In 2020, the most expensive pack of cigarettes in the UK rose to £12.73, showing a dramatic increase in prices.
The average adult smokes ten cigarettes a day, which means they could spend between £118 - £152 a month, so if you get stressed when you're short on money, smoking could be the fastest way to turn anxiety into full-blown depression.
A Less Happy Social Life
We're naturally social, and time with friends and family is essential to our well-being as human beings. When you smoke, it's common to find that some non-smokers don't want to spend time with you.
Cigarettes smell; there's no getting away from that fact. The smoke sticks to your clothes, hair and breath, so smokers might find that they have fewer social opportunities.
It's also important to remember that social activities cost money, and if you're spending a fortune on cigarettes each month, you'll find it hard to accommodate leisure time.
What's The Alternative to Smoking?
If you're fed up with the continuous cycle of sparking up, then feeling miserable, you can find alternative ways to wean yourself off tobacco slowly. The NHS has a stop smoking service that offers people extensive support to quit smoking for good.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy is the gold standard for quit smoking initiatives. People give up cigarettes and replace the nicotine in the form of patches, lozenges and inhalers. While some people find this helpful, many miss the hand to mouth action of smoking.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you change your thinking, which alters your habits, and it's an incredibly beneficial therapy for a range of conditions. CBT's biggest problem is that mental health services often have long waiting times, and private treatment is expensive.
Since the introduction of e-cigarettes, more people have quit smoking and switched to vaping as a much healthier alternative. Vape devices are helpful if you want to ditch the cigarettes for good but need the hand to mouth action smoking provides.
While scientists have yet to complete definitive studies that show vaping is completely harmless, there's no link to cancer, and your e-cigarette doesn't contain thousands of toxins and chemicals.
Many smokers can switch to vaping and use e-liquid with a high nicotine rating, then gradually reduce the strength.
Even the best quality vaping supplies cost significantly less than smoking, and your vape won't smell.
The TakeawayWhile smoking might seem beneficial in the short term, the long-term effects far outweigh the advantages of lighting up a cigarette. If you suffer from depression, the best way to have a healthier mind is to respect your body.
What goes into your body impacts how you feel in general, so eating healthily and taking steps to improve your lifestyle will benefit your mental health in the long run.