Can stop smoking cause anxiety in Smokers’ is the first question to strikes the minds of a smoker who quits cigarettes. It is anyways very tough to quit smoking.
To top it all, the withdrawal symptoms that accompany quitting smoking have disastrous consequences. One such side effect linked with quitting cigarettes is ‘anxiety’.
While not every smoker suffers from anxiety, a vast majority of them do experience this unfortunate phenomenon. The feeling of intense stress has been experienced by several smokers that have recently quit smoking.
With that being said, it is vital to first understand what anxiety stands for. In this article, I shall also try and analyze why smokers suffer from anxiety. An attempt shall also be made to educate how smokers can minimize their anxiety levels.
Can Stop Smoking Cause Anxiety in Smokers Article Contents:
- What is Anxiety in Smokers?
- What are the Top 5 Symptoms of Anxiety in Smokers?
- What are the Top 5 Anxiety Categories that a Smoker may Suffer From after Quitting Cigarettes?
- Which Category of Smokers are at a Higher Risk of Contracting Anxiety Disorders?
- Changes in Brain Structure and Cigarette Smoke – The Co-Relation
- How to Quit Smoking when You have Anxiety Disorder?
- How do I Quickly Control Increasing Anxiety Levels after I Quit Smoking?
What is Anxiety in Smokers?
When a smoker is in a constant state of duress and tension for a prolonged time period, it is termed as a ‘smoker’s stress’. This fear and worry is usually linked to performing tasks that are considered normal & ordinary. These tasks are usually performed on a day-to-day basis.
Smokers that have quit cigarettes recently have been known to suffer from restlessness, ‘fear of the unknown’ and ‘tension’. While there is no logical reasoning to this fear, it is the lack of nicotine within the system that causes stress.
A smoker feels anxious as his body is used to nicotine delivered by cigarette smoke. When that is not pushed into the system, it leads to stress, anxiety and restlessness.
Sometimes, smokers’ anxiety can be so severe that you need medical assistance to cope with it. If this anxiety is left untreated, the concerned individual may begin to smoke again (nullifying whatever good work he has done by quitting smoking).
What are the Top 5 Symptoms of Anxiety in Smokers?
Whenever you quit smoking cigarettes, your body starts to feel the need for nicotine. While you may replenish nicotine via ‘nightshade plants’ or ‘FDA approved quit smoking aids’, the nicotine derived from cigarettes is undoubtedly ‘a class apart’.
You simply cannot replenish it (nicotine) via any other duplicate means. So, it is vital to understand how a smoker starts to feel its absence in the very first place.
Here are the top 5 signs that a smoker is indeed suffering from anxiety:
>>> You tend to become severely tense and nervous. You tend to tremble and quite possibly rather ‘irate’. This mixed emotional feeling tends to leave you rather fatigued.
>>> When your breathing is not in your control and your heart-rate is super-fast, it is a sign that you are anxious.
>>> The third sign is ‘lack of focus’ on any work at hand (even the easiest possible task).
>>> Smokers who have trouble maintaining optimal digestion can attribute it to their high stress levels. You are unable to keep a tab on your stress.
>>> Lastly, when you are unable to sleep at night, your anxiety level is rather high.
What are the Top 5 Anxiety Categories that a Smoker may Suffer From after Quitting Cigarettes?
There is not a single type of fear or anxiety that a smoker suffers from. Psychiatrists have categorized stress in various sub-categories. While it may not be wise to list each and every such sub-category in this article, throwing light on the major ones is vital.
Here are a couple of these in brief:
Anxiety Caused by Addiction:
This is by far the most common reason why smokers suffer from undue stress when they quit smoking. This is indicative that your stress is because your body is not getting enough nicotine.
You have apparently stopped smoking cigarettes therefore depriving your body of the extra nicotine content. Hence, you begin to experience stress and depression almost instantly.
Generic Anxiety Disorder:
The second most common reason why smokers suffer from anxiety is because of generic reasons. When your day to day activities become hard to accomplish, you start to worry.
Lack of cigarettes in smokers tends to cause this abrupt disruption in their mental health. You tend to somehow lack co-ordination to accomplish even the most basic task.
Anxiety Arising from Separation:
While separation anxiety arises when you are taken away from your loved one, in smokers, this anxiety arises when you quit smoking. It is similar to how a child gets worried when he is taken away from his mother.
When you quit smoking, your most cherish item (your cigarette) is taken away from you. This in turn leads to anxiety. This may be comparable to separation stress.
Anxiety Related to Panic Attacks:
When you fear something that causes shortness of breath, excessive sweating or severe heartbeats then, it is a panic attack. Smokers that have recently quit smoking tend to suffer from such panic attacks.
When your body craves for nicotine, your mind goes out of control. This is when you begin to tremble, sweat and your heart beats down like a sledgehammer. Basically, you are suffering a panic attack owing to lack of cigarettes.
Anxiety owing to Agoraphobia:
You may be habitual of smoking cigarettes and when that suddenly stops, you get anxious. Maybe you smoked cigarettes in a specific location (such as a particular room).
As you have decided to quit smoking and wish to remain that way, your visit to that room tends to trigger a myriad of emotions within you. This is what leads to a panic attack.
Which Category of Smokers are at Risk of Contracting Anxiety Disorders?
It would be very unfair to categorize certain set of individual as more susceptible to stress and other less susceptible to stress. Ironically, it is very true. When faced with the same scenario, some individuals tend to get super-stressed while others do not ‘blink an eye’.
When you quit smoking, anxiety is common owing to your addiction towards nicotine. While some smokers tide over this initial phase without suffering enough, others take the brunt of the fall.
So, why does this happen?
Well, here are the main reasons why some smokers face anxiety to an extreme level (while quitting smoking):
The Mind to Substance Connection:
You have been smoking cigarettes for a considerably long time period. When you decide to quit, your body starts to long for nicotine (and other similar substances that are linked with cigarettes).
The level of addiction tends to trigger anxiety. It also determines your current level of anxiety that a smoker shall suffer. Simply put, if you smoke a pack or more of cigarettes daily then, after quitting smoking, your craving shall be really high.
On the other hand, if you are habitual of smoking less than a pack of cigarettes a day then, you really do not need to worry. Your overall cravings shall be minimal and usually tolerable.
Your Persona Plays a Major Role:
If you are an introvert who seeks confidence via an external substance (such as smoking a cigarette) then, your stress levels are bound to rise. This is especially true when your chosen substance disappears from your grasp.
When you quit smoking cigarettes then, the nicotine laden tobacco that fed your mind and body is completely amiss. This is when you begin to crave for it, thereby elevating your stress levels.
If (on the other hand), your personality is extrovert then, you are not dependent on cigarettes. You can in fact, do without them and still be less stressed.
Nagging Health Issues:
If you have health related issues (such as thyroid) then, getting unusually stressed is normal. The anxiety levels shall further increase when you quit smoking.
Your family history has a major role to play here. Certain diseases are passed down from father to son. These tend to get ignited when you are into substance abuse (such as smoking cigarettes).
The moment you quit cigarettes, the nagging ailment unleashes its full-potential of agony. This in turn leads to stress of an unusually high level.
Mental Illness Runs in the Family
No matter how mentally strong you may be, if your forefathers have been known to suffer from mental ailments then, your stress levels are bound to be sky-high.
So, if your stress levels are shooting the sky post quitting cigarettes then, do check your family history for mental illness. If you do find traces of such ailments then, your quitting smoking may have a rather dramatic impact on your mental attitude.
Changes in Brain Structure and Cigarette Smoke – The Co-Relation
When you are smoking cigarettes, your brain is being enveloped in a cloud of toxic fumes.
As time passes and your total number of cigarettes increases, this cloud tends to alter your natural brain chemistry. A side effect of this phenomenon is increased anxiety in smokers.
Here are the most basic changes in the brain of a smoker that leads to anxiety disorders:
Changes in White Matter Microstructure:
The white matter microstructure has been known to witness a dramatic change when you start to smoke cigarettes. Fractional anisotropy alternations are the side effects of nicotine addiction caused by cigarette smoking.
When your white matter pathways make changes (owing to nicotine addiction) to their existing structure, your ability to handle fear alters. This in turn implies that you tend to get scared of acts that were earlier thought of as normal.
Neurotransmitter Systems and their Reaction to Cigarette Smoke:
The dopaminergic, serotonergic, cholinergic and other neurotransmitter systems in the human brain tend to witness a dramatic change when exposed to cigarette smoke.
When their pathways are altered, your anxiety is automatically heightened. This is because nicotine lays anxiolytic as well as anxiogenic pressure on the neurotransmitter systems.
Panic, stress and fear is therefore common in smokers who quit smoking. While this may be short term (or till the brain adapts to the lack of nicotine), it can take a toll on the concerned smoker.
Systemic Inflammation in the Brain:
The hippocampus is inflamed when you smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. Smoke emitting from cigarettes tends to reduce cytokines that reduce inflammation.
So, an inflamed human brain tends to be a panic stricken brain as well. It is quite possible that you shall face anxiety an hour after your last cigarette. I (LeanAndFit reviewer) feel as hours go by and turn into days, the anxiety only worsens.
Increase in Oxidative Stress:
Another alteration to the natural human brain structure via cigarette smoke is oxidative stress. This is in the form of free radical formation, which in turn hampers your brains natural ability to ward off stress.
Nitrosative stress is also increased owing to the thousands of chemicals present in regular cigarettes. Till the time nicotine is being fed into the system via cigarettes, all is well. The moment it stops, you begin to face fear at an all new level.
How to Quit Smoking when You have Anxiety Disorder?
When you plan to quit smoking, your mind is certainly going to be thankful for your decision. Smoking shall undoubtedly reduce your existing stress levels.
Nonetheless, your stress levels can be really high for the first week or more after you quit smoking. In order to reduce this (unusually high) stress levels, you need to try the following methods:
Counter Medication or Nicotine Replacement Methods:
Lack of nicotine from cigarettes tends to affect your dopamine production. Once your reward center stops getting its ‘feed’, it starts to release stress.
Gums, patches and lozenges are suggested to ease nicotine addiction in smokers. Bupropion is an ideal example of a tablet that is used for treating nicotine addiction.
When your nicotine addiction is dealt with, you have the natural ability to reduce your stress level. So, your anxiety disorders (arising from quitting cigarettes) can be greatly toned-down.
Being Happy Makes all the Difference:
A smile of your face can make a vast difference in your anxiety levels. So, if you are surrounded by happy people, you shall be less stressed. After quitting smoking, stop picking tasks that are high in stress levels.
Doing so shall ensure that you remain free from self-initiated mental harassment. This in turn shall ensure that you would be free from undue stress.
Rest and Maintain Good Health:
There is no better way to beat stress (arising from quitting cigarettes) than by sleeping at night. If the need arises then, sleep for more than the required 8 hours. Doing so shall release growth hormones in your body.
To speed up your rest period, you should consume a healthy diet. At the same time, exercise thrice a week. This helps maintain optimal blood flow and strengthens the cardiovascular system.
Change Your Current Environment:
If you are habitual of staying at places wherein you are reminded of your cigarettes then, avoid those places. If you remain at the same location then, you shall be prompted to start smoking again.
So, avoid ashtrays, room wherein you used to smoke earlier etc. Avoid locations wherein your cigarette packs, matches, lighters etc. were stacked.
Make a ‘Quit-Smoking’ Action Plan:
Dump all your left-over pack of cigarettes and lighters. Get rid of all the products that remind you of cigarettes. Make sure that you have a ‘day to day action plan’ to combat the withdrawal symptoms arising from quitting cigarettes.
Seek Professional Intervention:
If you have tried the above mentioned steps but are still anxious then, seek professional help. There are therapies and therapists who shall help you overcome anxiety arising from quitting cigarettes.
Such therapists are trained to assist you in keeping you happy from within when you decide to quit cigarettes. Do not hesitate in spending money on such therapists.
Patience & Reward Mechanism:
Last but not the least you need to stop being ‘harsh’ on yourself. Give yourself time and allow your body to recover from the withdrawal symptoms.
Every small achievement in the field of quitting smoking should yield goodies from your end. This is a great way to make your brain’s reward system super-happy. Your stress levels shall automatically be under control.
How do I Quickly Control Increasing Anxiety Levels after I Quit Smoking?
While there is no ‘quick-fix’ method to release stress from your system when you quit smoking, you can definitely tone it down. Here are a few ways to quickly tone down rising anxiety levels:
>>> To start with, you need to make yourself understand that anxiety is a part and parcel of quitting smoking.
>>> You need to then convince yourself that stress arising from quitting cigarettes shall pass in a few days.
>>> Increase your sleep duration and avoid foods that keep you awake. For example, avoid heavy, starchy or sugar laden foods.
>>> Avoid stressful locations or interaction with people who make you stressed. Instead indulge in hobbies that make you happy from within.
>>> Indulge in light cardio workouts to stimulate growth hormones. Consume freshly cooked meals at home.
>>> Spend some time taking to your loved ones. Take a walk in the park with them. Doing so shall help release dopamine and reduce stress.
Quitting smoking is a tough ordeal. While it has immense health benefits, the withdrawal symptoms are tough for almost any smoker to handle. One such side-effect of quitting cigarettes is unusually high levels of stress.
Nonetheless, this stress is temporary in nature. Usually, anxiety caused by quitting cigarettes disappears in a few days. During those ‘trying’ days, you can ease the suffering by following the above mentioned remedies.
Even if you have just recovered from Covid 19, you can definitely quit smoking. Doing so shall definitely help you regain a healthy mind and a healthier body. The withdrawal symptoms may be slightly harsher in nature (owing to the damage the virus has already done to your body).
A confident mindset and a firm approach (towards quitting cigarettes) is all that it takes to get your life back on track. So, get out there and make it happen (for your own good).