Smoking is a habit that afflicts around 34 million adults in the US. Many smokers start out from peer pressure, but others start because they need something to help manage stress and anxiety. There’s a common misconception that smoking alleviates anxiety and helps you calm down—when it actually does the opposite.
If everyone knew that, maybe smoking wouldn’t be so prevalent, but information has been suppressed by big tobacco for decades. Since the 70s, activist groups, scientists, and everyday people have been trying to spread the truth about tobacco, and with the age of endless information, it’s largely been successful. But that still leaves the troubling statistic listed above. Plenty of people still smoke.
Let’s look closer at why smoking is not helping your anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Before we jump into cigarettes and nicotine addiction, let’s talk about anxiety. What is it? What does it do to your mind and body? Anxiety is your body’s response to fear and stressors. Anxiety is usually the cause of fear of the unknown, trauma from past experiences, or the looming threat of some future event. In our modern society, we move so fast and there are stressors all around us. The web has brought us all together, but it’s also caused an increase in anxiety problems among young people.
Anxiety is really just a blanket term for several mental health conditions. Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems among adolescents and adults, and with 1 in 5 adults suffering from a mental health concern, there’s a lot more anxiety going around than you might think.
Anxiety can cause racing thoughts, increased heart rate, nervous shaking, appetite and mood changes, and even contribute to depression. Depression itself is an anxiety disorder.
Now that we understand anxiety a little better, let’s look at how smoking adds to your anxiety rather than alleviating it.
Smoking Causes Nicotine Addiction
As you probably know, tobacco products are home to a powerful chemical called nicotine. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man, and just one cigarette can cause you to want more. After a few cigarettes, you can be fully hooked on nicotine. It’s that quick.
Big tobacco began genetically engineering its tobacco to contain more nicotine sometime in the 1970s and 80s. After a court order to release scientific studies in 1998, it was determined that tobacco contained nearly twice as much nicotine, and cigarette design was changed to make the nicotine delivery system almost 14% more efficient. This meant that getting hooked on cigarettes was far easier, leading to greater sales for big tobacco and greater health concerns for consumers.
When you smoke, you’re satisfying that intense nicotine addiction. When you don’t have a cigarette or a dip for a few hours, you start to experience withdrawal. Your body reacts negatively to a lack of nicotine, causing some unpleasant symptoms.
The symptoms of withdrawal are what increase your anxiety levels and making quitting smoking that much more difficult. It’s hard to focus on quitting when your mind is racing, you’re irritable, and you just want one more cigarette. The problem is that one turns into two, which turns into four, and the next thing you know, you’re hooked again.
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person but can include
- Mood swings
- Digestive issues
- Trouble focus
- Racing heart
- Racing thoughts
How To Manage Symptoms
Managing symptoms comes down to finding a quitting routine that works for you. There are also things you can use (like the nicotine patch) that help with withdrawal symptoms. You could try using tobaccoless chew from https://blackbuffalo.com/ as well. The product contains no tobacco, but still delivers a dose of nicotine to ease your symptoms. Many smokers are choosing tobaccoless dip as an alternative to the smoking habit.
It’s a good idea to find something to fill your time as well. Keeping yourself focused and busy can help prevent a relapse. Find yourself some projects to work on, pick up a new hobby, or get involved in your community with volunteer work.
It’s Time To Quit For Good
Quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Within just a few days of quitting, your body begins the healing process. You’ll find you have more energy, you can breathe better, your taste and smell return, and you’re potentially reducing your risk for heart and lung disease by about half after 3-5 years.
The bottom line here is that smoking isn’t helping your anxiety, but rather, making it far worse. The more you smoke, the more you need that nicotine, and the harder your brain will work to get you to keep supplying it. It’s time to quit. Free yourself from the bonds of addiction and live a healthier, happier life.