Cigarettes and Anxiety

Cigarettes and Anxiety

Cigarettes and anxiety have long been linked. After all, who doesn’t know a smoker who has tried to quit and has given up because of anxiety levels rising? The question, though, is how cigarettes and anxiety are related. Scientists and psychologists are now starting to focus on answering questions about the relationship between cigarettes and anxiety. Here’s some of what they’re finding:

The old assumptions

People have long noticed a link between mental disorders, particularly anxiety disorders, and cigarette smoking. The assumption has been that cigarettes and anxiety go together because smoking is a way for anxiety sufferers to self-medicate. For many people, smoking cigarettes is calming, particularly once they already have a nicotine addiction.

The problem with this assumption, though, is that many people start smoking before they actually develop an anxiety disorder. The latest research seems to show a totally opposite relationship between cigarettes and anxiety: one that says cigarette smoking actually causes anxiety, rather than the other way around!

The new research

One recent study from the New York State Psychiatric Institute shows that heavy smokers who start during adolescence are more likely than the average population to develop agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder later in life. This well-designed study shows that cigarette smoking, particularly in adolescents and young adults, actually leads to mental problems and anxiety disorders – not the other way around!

While there most likely are some anxiety sufferers who turn to cigarettes in an effort to self-medicate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that cigarette smoking may actually be the cause of anxiety in many people. Plus, cigarette smoking seems to also increase the risk of panic attacks for many people, and many who stop using cigarettes experience less frequent or less severe panic attacks shortly thereafter!

Add this to the fact that cigarette smokers who start early in life are more likely to experiment with other stimulant drugs, and you get a big mess of a problem.

What you can do

The problem for many cigarette smokers is that they may be aware that smoking causes anxiety, but cigarettes and anxiety have another link for them, as well. When they’re trying to quit, they find that they get even more anxious and irritable than they were before, so it may not seem worth their while to quit smoking.

However, cigarettes and anxiety can just continue to worsen over time, as many heavy smokers start to need more and more nicotine throughout the day just to stay calm and ward off serious anxiety problems. The best possible thing you can do for yourself is to start quitting now so that you no longer need the nicotine in order to control your anxiety.

Different types of therapy may help you cope with your anxiety while you’re quitting cigarettes. Some people who are dealing with cigarettes and anxiety may find that nicotine patches work perfectly well to ward off anxiety while they wean themselves off. For others, quitting might trigger serious anxiety problems, such as panic attacks.

For this second set of people, it may be a good idea to seek out cognitive-behavioral therapy while you’re trying to quit smoking. This type of therapy will work on helping you deal with the underlying mental and behavioral patterns that make you more likely to have an anxiety problem or panic attack, no matter whether you’re smoking or not. With the help of a therapist, you may be more likely to be able to quit smoking and to deal with your anxiety in a constructive, positive manner that helps you get rid of cigarettes and anxiety in your life for good.