You Are Not Alone

Blog Post created by NDC.Treatment.Team on Oct 17, 2018

There is a complex relationship with depression and smoking. Rates of smoking are higher among individuals with depression.  


Individuals attending our tobacco treatment programs, note not only do they notice a change physically but they notice a reduction in anxiety and depression. It has been said, they no longer feel anxious about where, when, or how they will have a cigarette; therefore they do not have that sense of urgency in their day to execute an escape plan to light up.  Individuals also mention after several weeks of being quit, their mood has improved and they no longer feel they have to isolate from others. Isolation can occur in individuals who experience a depressed mood due to lack of motivation as well as individual using substances as they feel often like they are alone. Note these are anecdotal instances but it coincides with studies that have shown a decrease in anxiety and depression (to the extent of an anti-depressant) after several weeks of being quit.


There are probably a number of reasons underlying this complex relationship between depression and smoking.  Some people may use the boost they get from nicotine to treat underlying depression.  To complicate this picture, depression can be a nicotine withdrawal symptom.  Another cause of a depressed mood can be the feeling of loss and sadness that some smokers experience when they stop using tobacco.  When a person stops smoking, daily rituals that may have been a part of their life for many years are missing, and this may feel like a loss.  Feelings of loss can lead to other symptoms of depression.


Addressing depression can be an important part of your quit plan to not only quit but to avoid relapse back to smoking.  If you feel you might be experiencing symptoms of depression, talk with your health care provider.  There are ways to treat your depression while you continue on your smoke-free journey.


Counseling – Talking about what you’re experiencing can help improve knowledge of what it is you are going through and help to cope with the loss of no longer smoking.


Medication – While many medications are used to treat the symptoms of depression, Bupropion is often used for individuals who want to quit and have a history of depression. Varenicline may not be a medication suitable for you but talk with your health care provider if you believe a medication may help you in your quit.


Lifestyle Changes – Healthy eating, daily exercise, practicing relaxation techniques, and building a supportive network are activities that can help improve your mood.


As you begin to Re-Learn Habits, remember that depending on what is going on in your life, it is sometimes natural to feel down or sad.  However, if these feelings continue or become worse, be sure to speak with your care provider about what may best benefit you.


Virginia Fitch-Braun, MS

NDC Counselor/CTTS