Do Cigarettes Cause Anxiety or Do They Relieve It?

When it comes to cigarettes and smoking I am no expert.
For one thing, I never smoked a single cigarette in my entire life.

Since I was young I was told that they are bad, so I just avoided them over the years.
As you might have figured by now, I suffer from anxiety, depression, and maybe a few other disorders.
As such, I am not big on the idea of listening to others.

I never had any smoking friends, so they weren’t any influence, and when a few people wanted me to “sit with them” I immediately passed on it due to my crippling social anxiety.

In most cases, that didn’t work for the better, not at all – having zero friends and running away from crowds was pretty bothersome.

Yet because of that, I never even remotely considered smoking a cigarette.
Funny how this sort of stuff tends to happen – you go through a terrible ordeal only to face a single redeeming quality about it.

Now, although I am not an expert on cigarettes, I do know a thing or two when it comes to anxiety.

I have suffered from anxiety for years and I have researched the subject as a whole extensively.
Yet at first, I didn’t really see the connection between the two.

I mean, I knew that cigarettes were bad for you and all, yet I heard about how “calming” they were from so many people, so I just chose to accept it as common knowledge and say that cigarettes were indeed good for anxiety.

As it turns out, I was wrong.
I didn’t discover how wrong I was until many years after coming up to that conclusion.

At the time, A friend of mine was an addict.
I decided to go ahead and help him shake off his addiction, and during one of our conversation, he tried to convince me how cigarettes weren’t so bad.

His excuse was that cigarettes helped him with his nerves and that no other method could compare.
He was persistent about it, and it got me pretty angry.

Angry enough to research the subject and show him that smoking wasn’t the best solution for anxiety.

In fact, I discovered that it wasn’t a solution at all.

Some quick statistics

As it turns out, smoking doesn’t contribute to anxiety in any positive way.

Experimentation shows that smokers are 70% more likely to suffer from anxiety, but that data is highly questionable.
You see, they compared non-smokers to smokers, and that method is highly unscientific, to say the least.
What are the cause and the effect here?

I mean, take for example stress.
Some people may resort to cigarettes whenever they are faced with a lot of stress.
As far as we know, the cigarettes may actually improve the smoker’s condition over time.

The simple truth is that this type of data is largely inconclusive by nature, and that’s the argument that my friend made right away
People who smoke are more likely to be those who are really stressed, ‘it isn’t a cause but a symptom’ he said.

I knew that he was coming up with excuses but he wasn’t wrong.
For all we know, smoking may be a “symptom” of anxiety and nothing more.

This evidence merely suggests that people who suffer from anxiety are more likely to smoke.

So here’s a counter-argument.
Many studies largely conclude that people who quit smoking were experiencing a reduction in their anxiety.

In other words, smoking is the cause and not the symptom in this case.

Smoking anxiety

“But Vlad, so many smokers can’t be wrong!”

I already hear what some of you are saying.

You already know that smoking helps people to calm down!
You know many people who smoke when they are stressed and feel much more relaxed afterward.

You even might be one of them.

It’s true, nicotine has a variety of different, positive, effects on the mind.
Including some that directly affect your mood and mental well-being.

The only problem here is that nicotine is very addictive in nature, and it is added to all cigarettes on purpose, to make smokers addicted to them.

And that’s a huge cause of anxiety right there.

Here’s the truth: Smokers claim that cigarettes calm them down for all the wrong reasons.

1) Smoking your fix negates withdrawal, it doesn’t actually help you

Much like any other addiction, nicotine withdrawal is a nasty process to go through.

Your body craves more of that substance, and when you don’t provide any it goes crazy.
This is what “withdrawal” is all about.

Yet once you do, it calms down until further notice, and that’s not a good thing at all.

To put it simply, that feeling of relief after smoking isn’t caused by any effect that cigarettes might have on anxiety, but rather it happens solely because the brain becomes satisfied.
In other words, your “5 minutes of anxiety-free life” cost you your long-term freedom and make you more and more dependent on your cigarettes.

Is it really worth it?
Cigarettes put a long-term strain on the body, something which is bound to affect your anxiety over time.

They don’t help you at all, not one bit.

2) Cigarettes as a placebo

After getting positive results with cigarettes, people learn to attribute these results to their smoking habits.

In truth, it has nothing to do with them.
Cigarettes and anxiety don’t mix well, but that doesn’t really matter – your belief in smoking as a method of relaxation does.

You see, as cliche as it sounds, the simple power of being convinced of something is an empowering feeling.
It can’t do miracles but it’s still very powerful.

In medicine, a placebo is a fake medicine that is given in an attempt to convince the patient that it’s helping.
Surprisingly enough, placebos can be very effective in many circumstances.

The same applies to smoking.
You ‘know’ that cigarettes help you with your anxiety, as they make you feel relief, and so they do.

This isn’t an ideal scenario, far from it actually.
Imagine having this kind of effect working alongside, not against, actual, helpful, practices and medicine.

You should take you smoking time and use it to meditate instead.
Unlike smoking, meditation actually does plenty of work against anxiety by itself.

Breathing, cigarettes, and anxiety

Smoking may lead to different breathing difficulties, right? We all know that.
Yet it’s this very habit that messes up with your anxiety.

Why? Coughing and irregular breathing may lead to hyperventilation (breathing too much carbon dioxide, or in our case, air).

Hyperventilation is a symptom of anxiety, and it is known to escalate panic attacks given the opportunity.

So yeah, smoking not only damages your lungs, increasing the probability of hyperventilation, but it also messes up your breathing as a whole due to changes in frequency and overall inhaling of air on your part.

In other words, smoking messes with your lungs and in turn can really affect your overall mental state.

What about quitting?

For those of us who smoke and suffer from anxiety at the same time, that’s easier said than done.

You see, a symptom of nicotine Withdrawal happens to be hyperventilation.
In other words, it will increase any existing sense of anxiety that you already have, making it much more difficult to bear.

Nicotine withdrawal is a nasty thing to go through, yet it’s very much worth it in the end.

Learn how to stop panic attacks, take preventive measures and surround yourself with people that care to support you.

Nicotine withdrawal isn’t easy, but once you actually pull through it then your life is going to get better.
Not only will you experience a greater sense of relaxation, but there are also many added benefits to avoiding cigarettes.

Although you probably already knew that.

Stop smoking

Do cigarettes cause anxiety? The answer is obvious!

There isn’t anything good about smoking, not a single thing.
Anxiety is also pretty bad, so the two compliment each other well.

Now, we both know that you should stop smoking, but the question is – how do you go on with that?

Truth be told, I don’t know – I never smoked in my entire life, and I am not an expert in the field either.

That being said, I do know a thing or two about anxiety.
Any effort that you put into building helpful habits and managing your health will be paid back to you tenfold.
This isn’t an exception to that rule.

Here’s a quick question for you before you go – Do you smoke in order to manage your anxiety and stress? Does it work?

Make sure to write down your answer in the comment section below, I go through every single one of them!

In case you got a question you would like to ask me directly then feel free to send me an email.
I reply to those to the best of my ability.

Email: [email protected]

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8 Replies to “Do Cigarettes Cause Anxiety or Do They Relieve It?”

  1. Very true, I don’t see how smoking reduces any anxiety, I am glad that even the smell of the smoke disgusts me, so I stay away from it. The effects are really bad and it’s strange how even the smokers are shown how the end result is and still go back to smoking, that’s one deep addiction. Some just start out from seeing others smoking thinking it’s cool and little by little it turns to an addiction

    1. Hello Joseph, thank you for your time!

      It’s all about that nicotine addiction!
      The short-term satisfaction of getting rid of their nicotine withdrawal is worth a lot more than any damages done to their body at the moment.

      It’s all about psychology, really.

      Cheers, Vlad!

  2. My husband is a chain smoker and I badly wanted to help him quit. Understanding a smoker’s point of view is extremely difficult, especially for someone like me who haven’t puffed a single stick.

    But if you want to help someone important to you, you would research everything so as to at least have a glimpse of what is happening to them.

    Thanks for your very helpful article.

    1. Hello There Pitin!

      I don’t think that throwing the facts at your husbands face is going to be enough, it’s all about habits.

      I encourage you to read the following:

      How to Form Habits That Stick?

      What Causes Bad Habits To Persist?

      Cheers, Vlad!

  3. I think using cigarettes to try to calm anxiety is jut like trying to use alcohol. It might be or feel like a fix in the moment, but then you come to depend on it, so in its absence, it can actually cause you to become more anxious, jittery, shaky and even panicky. It becomes a viscous and dangerous cycle. Curing anxiety for good takes a lot more than a temporary and dangerous, short term fix. The long term consequences of cigarette smoking is not worth the risk.

    1. Heya there, how’s it going?

      That’s very much it! Cigarettes give you are certain fix, but they are nothing but harmful in the long run.
      I known that most people know this, yet many use the “Cigarettes help me calm down” excuse as a way of rationalizing their no-benefit addiction.

      Cheers, Vlad!

  4. I actually ended up on this page to find out more about the correlation between smoking and anxiety. I do/have both. Now as for the nicotine withdrawal I’ve heard that’s bs, as the nicotine leaves the body within 48 hours and it’s effects are mentally ‘the idea that all will be well if you have just one more, while it doesn’t provide any good’. I am one who really wants to quit, but who’s terrified of the anxiety peaking. Took me a long time to get nearly anxiety free and although I know smoking is bad, the anxiety got me to my knees and scared the hell out of me (don’t want to go back there). So, are there any people -with anxiety issues who actually stopped smoking- who can put my mind at ease that the idea that I’ll fully fall back into anxiety again is just as much bs/an excuse as nicotine withdrawal? Thanks in advance! X a slightly anxious wannabe non-smoker

    1. Hey Theresa,

      If you say so haha.
      It should be noted that multiple studies link smoking with anxiety.

      Although it is true that nicotine leaves the body after a certain period of time, it does have lasting effects.

      After all, if getting over a smoking addiction was as simple as not smoking for 48 hours then we would be leaving in a completely different world.


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