Smoking is widely used as a method of relaxation in order to overcome and reduce emotional discomfort. Whilst smoking does appear to offer these short-term psychological benefits, it is also notably associated with an increase in depression and heightened stress levels.
Smokers typically report very high levels of psychological distress and a lower level of overall mental wellbeing. Therefore, when smokers decide to quit, this distress is heightened and this is why nicotine withdrawal is often associated with negative moods.
The distressing impact of smoking cessation amalgamated an elevated negative mood with a low positive one. The overarching negative mood that encompasses many smokers is exacerbated by cravings and this is what causes many smokers to relapse.
Adverse mental health makes learning to manage cravings incredibly difficult and thus, in the initial stages of withdrawal, smoking abstinence is typically associated.
\With an increased risk of depression, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, low mood, cognitive disturbance and impaired inhibitory control. Many studies state that these negative moods will reduce significantly after 2-4 weeks of abstinence.
What Causes Mood Changes When Quitting Smoking?
The reasons for mood changes when quitting smoking is largely indeterminable as these can occur for a variety of reasons that are specific to the individual.
In the field of psychology, it is understood that those who smoke were typically depressed prior to starting smoking and they may therefore associate smoking with stress relief.
Smokers who have a history of depression are far more likely to experience a greater dependence on nicotine and more intense withdrawal symptoms including negative mood swings. They are also more likely to relapse although this is never an inevitability.
Neurobiology is also a key factor as many of the emotional deficits that come along with nicotine withdrawal derive as a result of the neuroadaptation that occurs after heavy nicotine use.
These adaptations tend to affect thought patterns, motivation, attention and concentration spans and inhibition. Therefore the neurobiological impact of quitting smoking leads to a reduction in positive mood due to the hard-wiring of a smoker’s brain.
Research has shown that these adaptations are typically reversible and thus, your low mood will minimize after a period of time.
Therefore, you should take heart in the fact that you will not feel low forever after quitting smoking and it is more likely to be an immediate neurological reaction.
How Do I Manage These Mood Changes?
Mood changes can be managed by undertaking a course of psychotherapy. A psychotherapist will help you to grasp the concept of self-efficacy which is the belief that you are capable of achieving a goal.
This is essential in order to successfully overcome the mood changes that are caused by smoking cessation. A good psychotherapist will teach you coping strategies that enhance your self-efficacy and thus, you will be able to improve your mood.
Your doctor will also be able to assist you in overcoming any mood changes that are involved during the process as they will be able to teach you mood management skills that will inherently increase your self-efficacy.
The vast majority of interventions will include an element of mood management and those with a history of depression will need to focus on this area more than others. These skills are at their most effective when implemented alongside strong therapeutic support.
There are also a number of pharmaceuticals that you can use in order to lessen the mood changes that are involved in smoking cessation. Nicotine replacement therapy or NRT can enable you to deal with the psychological pressures of quitting.
This is because replacing some of the nicotine will provide a similar relief to smoking and your stress level will decrease by proxy. If you are a smoker who has tended to maintain a positive mood prior to cessation.
Then you will probably respond better to products that contain nortriptyline or bupropion as these alleviate any negative mood without necessarily enhancing positivity.
Fluoxetine can also help to relieve cessation and alleviate symptoms of depression in those who aren’t initially diagnosed as depressed.
Therefore, an antidepressant is likely to assist you in alleviating mood swings associated with smoking cessation but this is not extensively researched. As always, you should consult with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
How Do I Improve My Mood Quickly?
Implementing healthy lifestyle changes is the best way to ensure that you are balancing out any mood swings. Studies have evidenced that improved sleep and increased physical activity have a positive impact on smoking cessation and negative moods.
Sleep deprivation is proven to increase the chances of depression and decrease inhibitory control and thus, you are far more likely to relapse if you are sleep deprived.
Therefore, it is crucial that you are getting an appropriate amount of rest when you are attempting to stop smoking and where possible, you should implement an exercise routine in order to improve your quality of sleep and enhance your self-esteem.
Exercise also drastically decreases stress levels and this will help you to avoid relapsing by proxy.
Those who exercise when quitting tend to report far less mood swings and other withdrawal symptoms. Cigarette cravings are also reduced accordingly and long-term abstinence is increased.
To conclude, any mood changes that occur during smoking cessation will typically balance out after 2-4 weeks depending on how heavily you smoke.
These changes may be longer lasting in those who already have a history of mental illness like depression and anxiety. However, there are many ways that you can alleviate the symptoms of these mood changes during the withdrawal process.
Implementing a healthy lifestyle and engaging in a regular exercise routine will undoubtedly elevate your mood and reduce cravings.
Psychotherapy is also the best way to ensure that you are provided with emotional support during the withdrawal process and you can obtain valuable insight into how to manage your moods in order to prevent relapse.
Your doctor will also be able to give you advice with regards to mood management and antidepressants may be a good way to alleviate the short-term impact of smoking cessation upon your mood.
You should try to research as much as possible into the ways that you can reduce mood swings after quitting smoking and explain to your loved ones that you will be in need of their support during the process.
As with any addiction, it is far harder to quit when you do not have a strong support network around you and thus, you should seek out support groups and online forums where you will be encouraged in your efforts.
Above all, it is important to remember that the rewards and benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the short-term pains of the withdrawal process and you should keep this at the forefront of your mind whilst your brain rewires itself.