As we discuss in our book, A Smoker’s Guide to Health and Fitness, there is a prevalent myth that smoking helps reduce stress and anxiety. Indeed, some smokers use this erroneous belief to rationalize cigarette use, without realizing that, for one thing, the anxiety that’s supposedly being relieved by smoking stems from withdrawal symptoms; in between cigarettes withdrawal can cause much anxiety, stress and irritability in the smoker, who needs a cigarette to ease those symptoms.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry followed the anxiety levels in smokers who had quit smoking. At 6 months from when they quit, those who had stayed off of cigarettes showed a marked decline from their baseline anxiety levels while those who had relapsed and were once again smoking actually had an INCREASE in their anxiety levels.
Even more interesting was that the largest increase in anxiety levels occurred in those who classified themselves as having a psychiatric disorder and in those who stated that the main reason that they were smoking is to relieve stress. Conversely, the largest decrease in anxiety levels occurred in the same groups.
So if you currently smoke and do not want to quit because you feel that it’s helping you cope with life’s stresses, know that the exact opposite is true. Quitting smoking, in addition to improving your physical well-being, will improve your mental health as well.