Smoking and mental health

Stopping smoking is good for your mental health as well as your physical health. Studies show that being smoke free helps relieve stress, anxiety and depression and gives you a more positive outlook on life.

Smoking is bad for your health; there are no safe limits. If you are a smoker with a mental health problem, stopping smoking can help your mental health symptoms and lead to reduced doses of some medications. It is very important however, to talk to your Doctor, Psychiatrist or nurse when you are thinking about stopping smoking so that they can monitor your medication more closely. People with mental health problems are twice as likely to smoke as the general population.

Why do people with mental health problems smoke so much?

  • Self-medication
  • Boredom
  • Socialising
  • Culture
  • Dependency
  • Ritual
  • Social deprivation

Unfortunately, smokers living with a mental health problem have a shorter life expectancy than the general population. They are often heavy smokers and are at a greater risk of many physical illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and respiratory problems and many types of cancers.

Does smoking help with stress?

In the short term nicotine from smoking can lift your mood but this is only temporary until the body starts craving a cigarette which makes the smoker feel anxious. The relief felt when this craving is finally satisfied is the feeling that smokers commonly mistake as ‘relaxing’. Remember smoking is an addiction and that is why smokers will have a much greater chance of succeeding stopping smoking if they use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or other medication as well as specialist support.

It has been shown that some people with depressive and anxiety symptoms have greater difficulty stopping and may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. This may be true for some, but quitting smoking in the long term can reduce these symptoms and improve their mental outlook, so it is worth persevering and getting all the support you need. Many people with mental health problems quit every day and have succeeded. You can too!

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your mental and physical health.

Page last updated:15 February 2016