Overcoming Depression from Quitting Smoking
Your smoking habit not just affects your body physiologically. Recent studies show that smoking has some negative effects on your mind as well. These studies indicate that, compared to non-smokers, smokers are more likely to suffer from depression.
There are many theories surrounding these findings. One theory posits that many people use smoking as a coping or self-medicating skill for their depression, which they might have been suffering from long before they started smoking. Others think that nicotine addiction brings unusual stress to the body. Stress hormone levels in smokers may be unusually high, thanks to the vicious reward-craving cycle they usually go through. Some experts think that people who have difficulties resisting their nicotine cravings are more likely to have poor impulse control in other areas of their lives, too, which only adds to the stress they experience.
What is depression?
But before we delve deeper into the link between smoking and depression, let’s first define what depression and its symptoms are. Depression is defined by medical experts as severe, sustained feelings of hopelessness or misery. Depression comes with many symptoms that typically develop over time. People who have been diagnosed with clinical depression often experience these symptoms:
- Feeling grumpy or cranky
- Intense sadness
- Becoming easily frustrated or often experiencing high frustration levels
- Feeling tearful and sudden bouts of crying, even for no apparent reason
- Lack of energy or sudden lack of interest in previous hobbies
- Difficulties focusing or concentrating
- Lack of self-worth or extremely unhealthy self-esteem
- Obsessive thoughts about suicide, death, or dying
- Significant changes in eating habits
- Getting too much or too little sleep
If you experience more than five of these symptoms or if you’ve been feeling miserable or dejected for more than two weeks, you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor. Your physician can point you in the direction of other licensed medical professionals who can provide an accurate diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate treatment for what you’re experiencing, if it is indeed depression.
Depression is actually more common than you might think. Current statistics for depression state that nearly 15 million people in the US suffer from depression for brief periods during each year. That means almost 1 out of every 6 Americans will experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression isn’t picky when it comes to its victims; people of all races, walks of life, and genders can suffer from depression. But even if depression is indiscriminate, certain types of people tend to be more vulnerable to depression; these groups include chronic smokers, people who have secondary illnesses occurring at the same time as a primary illness, and people who regularly experience high stress levels.
How is sadness different from depression?
It’s important that you know the distinct differences between depression and sadness, because the two are not the same. Sadness is typically a temporary, fleeting emotion, while depression is persistent and tends to linger for weeks or even months. Most people suffering from depression say that the feeling last for at least two weeks.
Depression also tends to take over a person’s life, and its effects are much more severe than what you’ll experience with sadness. Depression can seriously debilitate you, affecting your abilities to enjoy work and leisure. Depressed people often also inadvertently give up on their hobbies and responsibilities, and this greatly affects a person’s quality of life.
What causes depression?
Mental health experts say that depression can be caused by many factors. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of some issues in brain chemistry that cause lower-than-normal production of serotonin or dopamine. For other people, depression is purely situational. Life situations that can result in depression include:
- Positive or negative major life changes
- Frequently experiencing high stress levels
- Having medical issues or serious physiological illnesses
- Taking certain medications
- Drug abuse or sometimes even just drug use
- Being genetically predisposed to depression
How do I know I’m depressed and not just suffering from nicotine withdrawal?
If you’re a smoker trying to quit smoking, it can be difficult to identify if you’re actually depressed or you’re merely suffering from the effects of nicotine withdrawal. One of the biggest signs that you’re depressed is if your negative state of mind lasts for more than two weeks. Nicotine withdrawal tends to last for a shorter period than that; symptoms of withdrawal usually completely disappear around the two-week period. So if you’re not feeling any better after two weeks, you might want to consult a doctor. The same goes for when you have persistent thoughts of suicide or if you’re feeling unusually sad.
If you’ve been depressed long before you started smoking, it will be helpful to seek support from a licensed medical professional. This way, you can get the proper treatment for your condition and you don’t end up using smoking as a coping mechanism.
Will smoking help me cope with my depression?
Smoking is not really a healthy coping mechanism for anything, especially not a mental illness like depression. Your doctor or a mental health professional can prescribe healthier, more appropriate ways of dealing with the intense negativity you’re experiencing.
Medical experts even say that smoking and nicotine can only make depression and anxiety worse, because of the way nicotine affects your brain chemistry. So the more cigarettes you smoke, the worse your depression can get. This is why it’s best to find positive, non-harmful ways of dealing with your depression.
I’ve recently quit smoking and I’ve become depressed as a result. When will my depression end?
The sad news is that the course of depression varies from person to person. It doesn’t stick to a schedule, and there is no telling when depression will or can end. Smokers who experience depression as a result of quitting smoking usually experience depression for two weeks, at most. Unfortunately, there’s no concrete evidence on the recurrence of depression in smokers after that two-week mark. In some cases, the clinical depression experienced by people trying to quit smoking occurs only once, while others encounter depression again further down the road.
But one thing is for sure: getting treated for depression greatly lowers your risk of getting depressed again during the quit-smoking process.
Are there any effective treatment methods for depression?
Yes! Depression is a serious condition, but it is completely curable. If left untreated, depression can affect your life much more than you think and it can also have a negative impact on the people around you. So you really shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to medical professionals for treatment for your depression. Even just getting diagnosed is a great first step to getting the treatment that you need.
Once you’ve successfully moved past depression, your risk of becoming depressed again in the future is greatly reduced. You have a wide variety of treatment methods available to you, whether you’re experiencing from mild or severe depression.
Some people hesitate to seek treatment for depression because of the false assumption that depression doesn’t merit attention like other illnesses such as heart disease. However, depression has long been considered a serious mental illness; it even affects your body physiologically if it gets severe enough. Don’t wait until that happens to get treatment for your depression.
What treatment methods for depression can I choose from?
A multitude of effective methods for treating depression has been developed over time. Conventional treatments include medication, therapy, and even lifestyle changes. People suffering from depression caused by chemical imbalances in the brain are typically prescribed medications that can correct these imbalances.
If you’re suffering from depression that’s mostly situational, you have the option to undergo therapy. The most commonly used therapeutic method for treating depression is psychotherapy, primarily because it has one of the highest success rates among all the treatments for depression. When you choose therapy, you’ll set up a schedule for meeting a therapist. Your schedule will largely depend on how serious your depression is; you may have a few sessions with a therapist throughout the year or have several weekly sessions for a shorter period.
Therapy typically involves studying or working with past situations that may have caused your depression. These situations may include traumatic events or major life changes you’ve experienced. Sometimes, your sessions will also include present events in your life, as these will reveal if you recently experienced unusually high levels of stress. Your therapist can provide you with healthy ways to cope with the issues you’re currently facing and he or she will give you support and encouragement along the way.
Therapeutic methods used to treat depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). For these treatments, one or the other is used, as patients usually respond better when treated using only one form of therapy. If your depression is found to be severe, you may have to be admitted to the hospital for a short period of time, so you can get one-on-one attention and support from a medical professional. This is for your own good, as this is usually done so you won’t be a danger to yourself or to others.
Aside from overcoming depression, therapy can also help you achieve overall better mental health. You may end up permanently getting over your phobias and anxieties. Therapy can also help you deal with your fears in a more healthy way. Therapy will help you be more open with your loved ones and the people around you, improving your communication skills so you can get help the next time you need it.
Will my therapist prescribe medication to help me through depression?
Many medications are considered to be effective at helping treat depression, so your therapist might prescribe some of these medications, such as anti-depressants, for you to take. Although many people have experienced benefits from using medications in their depression treatment, mental health professionals emphasize that these drugs don’t solve all of the side-effects of depression. You also can’t use anti-depressants and similar medications for dealing with some of the issues that stem from depression.
Medication can help you through depression, but it certainly won’t be enough on its own. It will help stabilize your mood or make you feel more relaxed, but it’s not it won’t magically dispel your depression.
You should also keep in mind that most medications require a prescription and that self-medication is a dangerous road to take. If there’s a certain medication you want to try, you have to run it by your therapist first. Or better yet, go with your therapist’s suggested medications.
You might have to go through a trial period for different medications first before your therapist can recommend the right medication for you. Your therapist might ask you to try out a certain medication for 6 weeks at most, so you can fully experience the benefits, if any. This will also give the side effects time to surface. Throughout this time frame, dosages will also be adjusted.
If the side effects are too much for you to handle or if there are no benefits evident during those 6 weeks, you’ll likely move on to a new medication.
There’s no reason for you to deal with depression on your own. Mental health professionals are plentiful these days and they’re all ready to help; you just have to ask for it. Make that doctor’s appointment and keep it so you can begin the process of getting rid of your depression once and for all.
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat depression. And also quit for good.