Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are hesitant to quit smoking; a psychosocial habit, smoking provides stress relief and emotional gratification for many people with mental health problems. The problem, however, is that mental illness and smoking work hand in hand to exacerbate all the negative aspects for both disorders. Let’s take a closer look at the ways that smoking impacts the minds and bodies of the anxious and depressed.
Physical smoking risks increase for the mentally ill
According to Kristin Moeller-Saxone of the University of Melbourne School of Population Health, “smoking compounds many of the health problems already experienced by people with mental illness.” People suffering from anxiety and depression very often have higher rates of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. In fact, as Moeller-Saxone points out, “the biggest cause of death among people with mental illness is not suicide, its cardiovascular disease.” And we know that the cardiovascular system is one of the main areas of the body that smoking attacks. Thus, smoking takes the already fragile bodies of the mentally ill and makes them even more delicate and prone to disease and death.
Cigarettes as an Emotional Escape
Aside from the physical harms smoking inflicts on the body, it emotionally damages the mind. People suffering from anxiety and depression are much more prone to using cigarettes as a form of emotional escapism; that is, they transfer experiences like stress relief or happiness onto the cigarette and then use tobacco as a crutch to repeat these emotional experiences. Almost all smokers do this kind of emotional transference to an extent, but smokers with mental health issues do it more frequently and have a harder time quitting.
Smoking is indeed hazardous for the anxious and depressed, but it can be overcome. People suffering from anxiety and depression should engage in assisted smoking cessation methods much like they engage in therapy for their disorders. One method that is particularly helpful for anxious and depressed smokers is quit smoking hypnosis. Quit smoking hypnosis involves re-programming smokers’ attitudes and beliefs towards cigarettes so that they are no longer dependent on them for emotional gratification, stress relief or any other form of psychological soothing. They can learn to transfer these emotional responses onto healthy activities instead.
Smoking is a psychosocial habit that does great damage to both the body and to mental health. If you, or someone you know, are struggling with a smoking habit in addition to anxiety and depression, please contact us. For more details, check us out on Facebook or share your own ideas and experiences with us on Twitter.