Mental Health And Smoking

Studies have revealed that there is a link between smoking and mental health. When someone smokes, the nicotine content goes to the brain in a matter of ten seconds. As nicotine affects the structural and chemical changes in the brain, it leaves an adverse impact on the person's mental health.

When nicotine first goes to the brain, it seems to act positively by improving the mood and concentration and reducing stress and anger. Smoking can also relax the muscles and lessen one's appetite. But regular smoking means regular consumption of nicotine, which brings about changes in the brain affecting the person's mental health. Once the person stops smoking, he/she would experience the withdrawal symptoms. Some smokers take to smoking again to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms and in the process resume their habit again. This cyclic process leaves them dependent on nicotine.

Many people first experiment with smoking, and finally end up as chain smokers. With the passage of time, many of them begin abusing drugs or alcohol which leads to a high level of stress affecting their mental health. Many people defend their smoking saying that it helps them cope up with stress and to relax. Smoking with the objective of stress reduction is called self-medication. When we fail to cope with stress, it causes physical symptoms like breathlessness or headaches. It makes us sad, irritable or anxious.

Such negative feelings affect our mental condition; they may tempt one to start smoking casually to begin with, which later becomes a habit. Chronic, lasting stress is linked with depression and anxiety. And no matter what smokers claim, smoking just increases anxiety and tension. The relief brought about by nicotine is only temporary, which in fact increases one's desire for nicotine. Smoking does not deal with the underlying causes of depression and anxiety and in no way improves mental health.

When one smokes, nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain which creates a feel-good feeling and a sense of relaxation. As people suffering from depression have low amounts of dopamine, they smoke to temporarily increase their dopamine level for a ‘feel-good' effect. But once the nicotine gets to the brain, the brain stops its own dopamine supply. This makes the person to smoke more for getting the desired effect. Although it is not fully clear whether smoking affects mental health, or mental health creates the desire for smoking - it is confirmed that there is a strong link between these two.

Schizophrenics usually smoke heavily to manage their symptoms and to reduce the adverse side effects of their medications. Many people having mental problems start smoking to reduce the symptoms of their conditions. But the negative effects of heavy smoking far outweigh its apparently positive effects. It is a mistaken belief that smoking can improve a person's mental health.

So, a person should kick the habit of smoking if he/she wants to keep his/her mental health in good condition. It has been seen that smoking negatively affects both physical and mental health in the long run. Those who smoke to reduce anxiety or stress must look for alternative ways.