QUESTION: WHY CAN SMOKERS FEEL LOW OR EVEN DEPRESSED WHEN STOPPING SMOKING?
Mood changes can be caused by nicotine withdrawals symptoms and a feeling of grieving. After years of smoking, cigarettes become a coping mechanism or even a ‘friend’ smokers can rely on. Hence, quitting (even though very positive and beneficial change in somebody’s life) can bring a feeling of grief.
Nicotine bonds with our brain receptors and triggers release of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for the feeling of pleasure and the desire to repeat behaviours that led to that pleasure – like smoking. Therefore, mood changes are strongly associated with nicotine withdrawal symptoms. This withdrawal is when the body is getting used to not having nicotine at all and the decrease of dopamine in the brain. New research shows that it takes 3 months for dopamine levels to return to normal following a quit.
There are 5 main stages of this process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
- Denial – when smokers truly believe that the ‘smokers’ cough’ and other health issues are not related to smoking at all.
- In smokers’ world anger is often directed at health professionals who advise on quitting, as they usually make the diagnosis.
- Bargaining is quite often related to health professionals too – ‘if only they’d told me to quit sooner’ or people become more spiritual and start bargain with God ‘I’ll definitely quit if only you take this cancer away’.
- Depression results is overwhelming feeling of helplessness and is probably the first stage of taking ownership for the situation, realisation of responsibility for own bad health as a result of own choice to smoke.
- Acceptance comes when responsibility is taken on and there’s an understanding of what needs to be done next, smokers start to accept their situation and are ready to make choices – quit or not to quit.
Symptoms of grief
Your smoking cessation coach can help you to cope with your withdrawal symptoms and keep you motivated during your quit. Sign up to Be Smoke Free for free support during your quit.