Smoking or Vaping and How It Affects Mental Health

Smoking or Vaping and How It Affects Mental Health2

It’s not a mystery that smoking harms our physical health. But many smokers and vapers are unaware of the habit’s impact on their mental well-being. Can it be the cause of a mental disorder? Can it worsen already existing psychological condition? Let’s shade light on these questions.

What Statistics Says

In general, people who have any type of mental health problems smoke or use vapes. 90 percent of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia are smokers. The percentage of smokers among those with depression, anxiety, bipolar and panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder is also very high. Estimates range between 30 and 50 percent of cigarettes sold annually in the US to be purchased by people with mental issues.   

One study found out that people who suffer from mental disorders are also the primary consumers of the nicotine delivery devices. They are twice more likely to try an e-cigarette and three times more likely to vape regularly than those without mental problems. The reasons for using different types of vapes (Vapingdaily gives more information) are the same smokers have – to minimize potential harm to their health and to break the tobacco habit.

Nicotine Dependence or Why People Smoke/Vape

I bet you’ve used this as an excuse for keeping smoking or vaping: “It helps me relax and cope with stress.” It’s partly true.

Nicotine promotes the production of serotonin and dopamine that boost the feelings of calmness and joy. Studies have shown that it can suppress the symptoms of such conditions as depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit disorder.

This may be old news, but we can’t overlook that. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. In the beginning, its consumption can really relax your muscles, decrease anger and stress, and improve mood.

But regular doses cause changes in your brain. Once your brain doesn’t get the chemical it’s used to, you start to experience withdrawal symptoms. These include enhanced irritability, anxiety, and depression. That’s why it’s so hard for people with a history of mental disturbances to break this vicious cycle.

Smoking, Vaping, and Mental Health

Nicotine and stress

Stress is quite a common problem. It affects us when we feel unable to deal with unwanted pressure. Its major symptoms include headaches, fatigue, and irritability.

You already know that if your brain gets something it’s addicted from, it calms down for a short time. In the state of stress, smoking or vaping can act as a soothing therapy. But its effect fades too fast. That’s why some people start to smoke more cigarettes in such situations. It only deepens their nicotine addiction.

Nicotine and anxiety

Long-term stress can lead to anxiety. The effect of smoking or vaping on your psychological condition is the same as during stress. Nicotine helps you to reduce tension. But it deals effectively neither with the symptoms of anxiety nor with the underlying causes.

Nicotine and depression

The attempts to stop smoking are tougher for smokers with depression as they experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. The level of dopamine that is responsible for positive feelings is low in depressed people. As you already know, nicotine stimulates the release of this chemical.

There’s one biggest disadvantage of smoking or vaping in this case. With time, the brain starts to make less and less dopamine which is especially rough for those suffering from depression. That’s a sure way for heavier tobacco consumption.

Nicotine and schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia smoke or vape in order to ease some of the symptoms associated with their mental states and reduce some of the side effects of their medication. There’re no proven facts that these habits can be solely responsible for developing schizophrenia or other mental illness.

However, it can have a short-time negative effect. But it is not caused by nicotine. The following situation may be familiar to you.

You’re at work and decide to have a break. You take your best vape, go outside, and start to blow the clouds of vapor enjoying the moment of relaxation. Suddenly, someone loudly complains that they don’t want you to vape around them. The arguments start from the harm you make to people and may sometimes end with personal verbal attacks. Some are too rude to mention here. Even explaining to the offender that vaping is not as harmful as they think doesn’t always help.

Such intolerant attitude can shock even a person without a mental disorder. And if your emotional condition is unstable, you can be very vulnerable. As a result, your mood is spoiled and you can’t concentrate. Another bad day, you might conclude.

Let’s just summarize. Many people with psychological conditions claim that smoking and vaping reduce their symptoms, but they usually pick up the habits before these problems appear. And while nicotine can relieve the symptoms temporarily, it doesn’t bring any positive outcome in the long run. In fact, it can lead to serious physical conditions, such as lung cancer that is common among smokers with mental health problems.

Tips on quitting

  • Go cold turkey. Quitting abruptly through willpower alone is considered the least effective way. But what if it will work for you?
  • Find new ways to overcome stress. You’ll be amazed at how many of them there are – meditation, breathing exercises, regular exercise, anti-stress massages, sticking to a proper diet, etc.
  • Seek support from family and friends. Ask those of them who smoke to do it discreetly from you. Your non-smoking close people can encourage you and share the ways they deal with stress.  
  • Avoid triggers. Remove all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays from your home. Avoid places where you usually light up, like bars or clubs.
  • Consider vaping. The best vapes on the marketwon’t expose you to the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. You can gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in your e-liquid until it reaches zero. A study conducted at the University of Catania, Italy, showed that e-cigarettes could reduce schizophrenic patients’ regular cigarette consumption without a negative effect on their schizophrenic state.
  • Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to deal with nicotine cravings.
  • Take advantage of talking therapies. Group, individual, or telephone counseling can enhance your progress

Are you a slave to cigarettes? Remember, it’s never too late to quit. Make the right choice for your physical and mental health!

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⚠️ Liza is in training with WMHA and may not always provide the most accurate information.