Smoking and Anxiety

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The reality is that quitting smoking is hard, but it can be beneficial to your mental health.

Sometimes when you haven't had a cigarette for a while or when trying to quit, you may feel anxious and irritable. This can be caused by the absence of nicotine, known as nicotine withdrawal effects. These withdrawal symptoms are only temporarily relieved when you smoke, but can make some smokers feel that smoking helps with anxiety.

So in fact, smoking can actually increase feelings of anxiety caused by these nicotine withdrawal effects and doesn’t address its underlying causes. When you quit, there may be some withdrawal symptoms that make you feel worse at first, but these are only temporary and will get better in time. Taking the decision and quitting smoking can help to reduce your anxiety associated with smoking withdrawal, as well as being a great step for your overall health.

So making the commitment to quit and giving up smoking can help to improve both physical as well as mental health. Research has found that quitting smoking is linked with reduced anxiety and stress, as well as better mood, compared to continued smoking.

Quitting smoking if you have anxiety

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Smoking rates among people with common mental health conditions are around 50% higher than the general population. People living with mental health conditions like anxiety are also likely to smoke more heavily. While it can be challenging to quit, there are plenty of support networks and simple steps available to help improve your chances of successfully quitting smoking. Here are some things you can do on your journey to a smoke-free life:

Speak to your GP

You can arrange an appointment with your GP to understand what resources are available to you and which methods might be best for your quitting journey.

Your doctor may also be able to refer you for further support or recommend stop smoking aids, which can increase your chances of quitting compared to using willpower alone.

Get support

Professional support can help increase your chances of success when stopping smoking compared to trying to quit alone. Combined with smoking aids, trained support can make you more likely to quit than through sheer willpower alone. The NHS offers access to free stop smoking experts, which can help you find methods that work for you. You can also contact your local stop smoking service.

It’s important to speak to professionals but don’t forget that there are also additional ways of getting support when you’re stopping smoking. You can speak to your friends and family, or team up with a quit buddy who is also likely to understand exactly what you’re going through.

If you have any concerns about your mental health, you should speak to a healthcare provider for professional support.

If you are taking medication for a mental health condition, speak to your doctor before quitting smoking.

Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

If you need a helping hand to quit smoking, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products can make it more likely for you to succeed in quitting than going cold turkey. Nicorette products can help to relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms that you may experience while quitting, including anxiety as a result of nicotine withdrwal. They’re also available over the counter, which means you don’t need a prescription to buy them.

You can use our handy tool to help find the right NRT product for you.

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