The relationship between tobacco smoking and stress has long been an area for controversy.
The paradox is, although adult smokers state smoking helps them feel relaxed, at the same time they report feeling more stressed than nonsmokers.
Research shows that nicotine dependency actually increases stress levels in smokers-adults and adolescence alike. Adolescent smokers report increasing levels of stress as they develop regular patterns of smoking.
They gradually become less stressed over at time when they manage to quit smoking. Whatever may be the personal accounts of the smokers, clinical evidence reaffirms that smoking is associated with heightened stress.
The research results on smoking and stress
Contrary to the belief that smoking is an aid for mood control; it actually heightens tension, irritability and depression, during nicotine depletion in the body.
This mood swing arises between smokes or during periods of nicotine abstinence.
Dependent smokers need nicotine to remain feeling normal.
Studies reveal more than 80 per cent of adult smokers respond positively to statements such as “Smoking relaxes me when I am upset or nervous,” and cigarette smoking was “relaxing” or “pleasurable.”
Interestingly, when nicotine abstinence is monitored in smokers they typically report a pattern of
repetitive mood fluctuations, with normal moods during smoke inhalation followed by periods of increasing stress between cigarettes.
The repeated occurrence of stressed moods between smoking means that smokers tend to experience a distinctly above-average levels of daily stress.
In the U.K. Health and Lifestyle Survey of 9,003 participants, significantly more smokers than nonsmokers reported feeling constantly under stress and strain.This is also true with adolescent and male shift workers, who are nicotine dependants.
Alternatively, their stress may be caused by nicotine dependency.
Studies suggested that nicotine helps constitutionally anxious (i.e.,neurotic) individuals cope with stress.
When adults quit smoking, they become less stressed rather than more stressed.
There is no evidence that smokers suffer without tobacco or nicotine (other than during the initial brief period after quitting).
There is also no neurochemical rationale for predicting that nicotine should alleviate stress, because it is a cholinergic agonist with sympathomimetic rather than sedative properties.
The indirect coping strategy of “lighting up” under stress instead of tackling the problem can leave the real problem unresolved.
However, smokers need to become aware of why these beliefs are incorrect.
What about stress and my urges to smoke?
You may have a habit of using cigarettes to relax during stressful times.
Luckily, there are good ways to manage stress without smoking.
Relax by taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or breathing slowly and deeply.
Think of changes in your daily routine that will help you resist the urge to smoke. For example, if you used to smoke when you drank coffee, drink hot tea instead.