The Links Between Smoking and Anxiety

Published at 10 July, 2020.

Sad man smoking

Smoking and anxiety are inextricably linked, with many smokers believing that cigarettes make them feel calm during high-stress moments. They are also commonly used as an addictive crutch to provide a quick fix for feelings of anxiety and panic. Contrary to this belief, nicotine maintains, causes and in some cases exacerbates the smoker’s experience of their own anxiety.

One of the major ways the nicotine within cigarettes and other tobacco products affects the human brain is to alter it chemically, a key primary brain function it changes is your mood. For this reason, it is known that smokers are far more likely to develop long term clinical depression when compared to their non-smoking counterparts. 

Rather than having a relaxing effect on a smoker’s anxiety, what the smoker is actually experiencing is the fast easing of nicotine withdrawal symptoms occurring when they smoke another cigarette. The big boost in nicotine levels throughout the body makes the smoker feel more relaxed, calm and able to deal with life’s problems and stressors. The regularly repeated effects of feeding their nicotine addiction can actively convince many smokers that smoking consistently helps them cope under pressure and relieve their anxiety. Though this is purely subconscious, the soothing effect smoker’s experience can act as a major reason for someone to continue smoking for many years, ultimately endangering their long term physical and emotional health.

Research suggests that smokers across the UK with pre-existing mental health issues, in particular, are more likely to start smoking than non-smokers, tending to smoke more heavily and dying on average 10 to 20 years sooner than the life expectancy of the general public. Smoking can also damage the effectiveness of some anti-anxiety, depression and anti-psychotic prescription drugs. 

Quitting the habit is a great way to break both the anxiety and the smoking patterns that the smoker may have become entrenched in during their time reliant upon nicotine. After they quit smoking for good, an ex-smoker can expect a sharp decrease in anxiety, stress and a lowered risk of depression, better daily moods, and less need to rely on prescription medications for anxiety and other mental health problems. For normal levels of anxiety, quitting smoking can be just as effective as an anti-anxiety medication.*

Yorkshire Smokefree provides you with the tools and coping strategies to succeed, even if you’ve tried and failed to quit before. We create an action plan to put you in control of the daily, weekly or monthly support you’d like to receive, via telephone, text, remote, solo and group meetings, as well as our innovative online quit program with interactive features to keep you strong when cravings and anxiety feel too much. We are free, friendly and flexible throughout each step of your smoke-free journey.


If you’ve been inspired to quit your smoking and anxiety you can call our advisors on 0800 612 0011 (free from landlines) or 0330 6601 166, alternatively, get in touch with us for a Callback Request today.

*If you are suffering from extreme stress, anxiety or depression you are not alone, please contact your local GP. 

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