In a new paper entitled, Failure to Quit Smoking Creates More Anxiety, Not Less, Dr. Máirtín S. McDermott, a research health psychologist at King’s College London in England, the author of the study, looks at individuals who were able to stop smoking to relieve anxiety. He stated that the people in the study were able to achieve a lower level of anxiety as a result of quitting smoking. On the other hand, those who failed to quit stand a good chance of relapsing, beginning to smoke once more, actually increasing their levels of anxiety.
The study was conducted on 500 smokers, all located in England. The study measured their daily cigarette smoking levels and their levels of stress. Afterwards, the smokers were told to quit and their levels of stress were measured accordingly. In the end, it was determined that those who returned to their previous habit after approximately six months had a higher anxiety score than their counterparts, who remained steadfast in their determination to quit.
The author also stated that the smokers diagnosed with a comorbid psychiatric disorder, and began smoking again, had not only high levels of stress, but the highest levels of increased anxiety. The others in the comorbid group, however, who stayed smoke-free, had levels of anxiety that were much less.
He stated the surprising factor in the study was that those dealing with conducting the research said their conclusions were near opposite of what many believe is that smoking relieves stress. They also said that the possibility exists that failing to quit smoking after trying to do so creates a certain level of anxiety, and that those offering treatment solutions should counsel their patients to understand what might occur if they have a relapse once they decide to quit smoking. In addition, the results seem to reveal that smokers with psychiatric disorders had lowered anxiety levels.
Dr. McDermott stated two reasons why he and his team wanted to do this particular research. To begin, other studies done in the past fell short of the mark in proving the mood-enhancing changes of nicotine. “Over half of all smokers in the UK report stress relief as a major motivation for smoking, and the loss of this tool is seen as an important barrier to quitting by many,” he reported.
He said that he also wanted challenge this belief that’s taken hold in the medical community that smoking does not relieve stress. “This manifests in the fact that those with psychiatric disorders are less likely to be offered cessation advice than those without. This is particularly problematic, as levels of cigarette smoking are higher amongst those with psychiatric disorders,” said Dr. McDermott.
Dr. McDermott said that an unexpected discovery occurred when data revealed the rise in anxiety levels of patients who found they could not quit. Other then the people who return to their previous habit and felt concern stemming from possible health risks, he was unable to arrive at any other conclusion why this happened. The association found that ceasing the activity of smoking, and the reduction in anxiety in smokers with a psychiatric disorder, has not been proven prior to this study.
“This is potentially clinically important, as it debunks this notion that those with psychiatric disorders should not be advised to quit lest it impact negatively on their psychological state.” Thus, considering Dr. McDermott’s research, smoking is not the great stress reliever many believe it to be.
Written by Ken Hattaway
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