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Quitting Smoking: A Mild Depression Can Follow
By Seth Meyers   View more articles by this author
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October 20

For smokers, particularly those who have smoked for many years, the urge for a cigarette can be incredibly powerful.  Beyond the physical drive that underlies the urge – the body’s expectation and need for nicotine – lies something that can be even more powerful: the psychological drive.


Cigarette smoking allows the smoker to mask a wide range of feelings, many of which are negative.  Rather than sit with feelings of anger, sadness, boredom, or anxiety, the smoker can simply light up and immediately shift from one mood to another.  The new mood is typically more pleasant as it is caused by smoking, which brings nicotine into the body and stimulates dopamine receptors in the brain.


The physical damage caused by smoking isn’t the only deleterious consequence.  In fact, one of the more unfortunate realities of smoking is that it allows the smoker to avoid so many raw emotions that truly needed to be integrated.  In other words, if something makes you upset, you should probably deal with it, rather than wish it away with a cigarette, right?


As a result of smoking for many years and pushing far too many feelings under the rug with a cancer stick here and there, smokers have lost touch with their ability to cope in a healthy way with the day to day trials and tribulations of life.  When the smoker quits, a mild depression can often follow because the smoker feels like there is nothing they can do when they have thoughts or feelings that are upsetting.  In these moments, they feel as if they have no control so they start feeling depressed.


The mild depression that sometimes follows quitting smoking is truly mild – I’m not talking about having suicidal thoughts or feeling hopeless about all aspects of your life.  If you experience a mild depression, you might feel sad or depressed, feel the urge to stay in bed a little past the normal time you wake up, and notice a small change in your appetite – eat more or less than usual.


If you have quit smoking and have noticed a mild depression seep in, trust that it will usually get better with time.  It’s never a bad idea to consult your doctor, as well, to tell him or her about any noticeable changes in your mind and body.  In the end, there are many supports out there for you to kick this awful habit for good.


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