Smoking: Quitting Linked to Improved Mental Health
It is widely known that quitting smoking is good for your physical health, now it is suggested smoking cessation may also improve mental health. These new findings were released on Feb. 11 in the Psychological Medicine journal.
Researchers analyzed data from 4,800 daily smokers in the U.S. who participated in two surveys, conducted three years apart. It was found that those who had mental health issues or addiction in the first survey were less likely to have the same issues in the second survey if they quit smoking.
In the first survey, 40 percent of participants either currently or previously had a history of anxiety or mood disorders. 50 percent of respondents had problems with alcohol and 24 percent had drug problems. The numbers lowered for those who quit smoking. Only 29 percent had anxiety disorders, 18 percent had alcohol problems, and 5 percent had drug problems. These numbers are compared to those who continued to smoke, where 42 percent still had a mood disorder, 28 percent still drank and 16 percent still used drugs.
The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis notes in a release that smoking is often overlooked by doctors, with more of a focus put on a patient’s psychiatric issues in relation to mental health disorders.
In the same news release, an assistant professor of psychiatry, Patricia Cavazo-Rehg, describes smoking as a self-medication that doctors allow if patients deem it necessary to make themselves feel better. She also notes how it is assumed by doctors that it is more challenging to treat psychiatric problems and that quitting smoking only makes that treatment harder. She emphasizes how this study on quitting smoking, should encourage doctors to change how they approach the mental health issues of their patients.
For those contemplating quitting, one of Mental Health UK’s more important bits of advice is to think about and focus less on how smoking is harmful and more on how quitting can benefit an individual. It means having fresher breath, improved concentration, more money to spend and better overall physical health. They also recommend writing this down as a constant reminder.
The group also advises people to think about other coping methods for stress. The recommendations they make includes regular exercise, meditation, acupuncture, clinical hypnosis, adopting a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly. Another helpful way to kick the habit is to seek counseling and talk with a supportive friend or family member. Moreover, they encourage people to make a collective effort if around other smokers. Quit at the same time and help each other by offering support.
Mental Health UK also emphasizes how sometimes a better way of figuring out how to cope with stress is to look at the root problem and try to come up with a resolution. In addition, think about what triggers there are that create the desire to smoke and work to avoid them.
There are also withdrawal symptoms that could make the quitting process tough. These include nausea, headaches, anxiety, feeling miserable, difficulty in concentrating and increased appetite. To ease the symptoms, Mental Health UK recommends drinking fresh fruit juice or water, eating high fiber foods, and reducing caffeine and sugar intake.
Many people smoke to temporarily relieve stress not knowing that in the long-term, as the study suggests, they are actually exacerbating their problems. However, Web MD notes that although the study suggests quitting smoking has a strong link to better mental health, there is no proven “cause-and-effect relationship.” The study does, nevertheless, lay the foundation for a new discussion regarding both smoking and doctor-patient talk regarding mental health.
By Kollin Lore