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Being smoke-free helps relieve stress, anxiety and depression and gives you a more positive outlook on life. These benefits apply to all smokers, not just those with pre-existing mental health problems.
We all know that stopping smoking improves your physical health. Here are 10 health benefits of stopping smoking. But did you know that stopping smoking is also proven to boost your mental health?
Although most smokers report that they want to stop, many continue because they're convinced that smoking helps relieve stress and anxiety .
But it's a complete myth that smoking helps you to relax. The reality is that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Smokers are more likely to develop depression or anxiety disorder over time than non-smokers. And cutting out cigarettes triggers a big improvement in mood.
Why do smokers with and without mental health problems falsely believe smoking improves their mood?
Scientists think it's because they confuse the ability of cigarettes to abolish nicotine withdrawal as a beneficial effect on their mental health.
Smokers tend to feel irritable, anxious and down when they haven't smoked for a while and these unpleasant feelings are temporarily reversed when they light up a cigarette. That creates the impression that it's the smoking that has improved their mood, when in fact it's smoking that caused the psychological disturbances in the first place.
Studies show that people's anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower after they stop smoking when compared with those who carry on smoking and that their quality of life and mood improves. Also, the improved levels of oxygen in the body means that ex-smokers can concentrate better.
The psychological benefits of stopping smoking are just as striking in people who already have a mental health disorder as those without. Stopping smoking helps their mental health symptoms and can lead to reduced doses of anti-psychotic medicine.
This is welcome news because people with diagnosed mental health problems, including anxiety , depression or schizophrenia , are two to three times more likely to take up smoking and also tend to smoke more heavily than the general population.
It's estimated that 30% of all smokers have a mental health problem. Smokers living with a mental health problem also have a life expectancy eight years less than the general population, very likely as a result of the physical ravages of smoking, such as lung cancer .
One theory as to why people with mental health problems are far more likely to smoke than the general population is that they perceive nicotine gives them immediate relief from the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.
But the opposite is true. People with psychiatric problems are likely to feel much calmer and positive and have a better quality of life after giving up smoking. In fact, the beneficial effect of stopping smoking in people with psychiatric problems is greater than that of antidepressant therapy for mood and anxiety disorders.
Many people living with mental health problems have successfully quit smoking and report a wide range of benefits as a result.
Here are eight ways to boost your chances of stopping smoking. This advice applies to people with or without a mental health problem:
Now, read more articles about stopping smoking.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.