January 2, 2013
Quit Smoking And You May End Your Anxiety
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Do you often get a little anxious, and reach for a cigarette to help relieve that anxiety? Well scientists now say that giving up the habit altogether could be the real treatment for curbing that anxious feeling.
Scientists wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry about how they followed nearly 500 smokers attending National Health Service (NHS) stop smoking clinics in England. They found a "significant" decrease in anxiety levels among the 68 smokers who had quit after six months.
"Despite a lack of empirical evidence, many smokers and health professionals believe that tobacco smoking reduces anxiety, which may deter smoking cessation," the team wrote in the journal.
They said that the aim of the study was to assess whether successful smoking cessation or relapse to smoking after a quit attempt are associated with changes in anxiety.
Researchers said the findings should be used to reassure smokers attempting to quit that concerns about increased anxiety levels were unfounded.
Although results show that quitting could relieve anxiety, the study did find that in order to relieve it, you must quit, and not give up. The researchers said that a failed attempt to quit smoking actually increased anxiety levels by a modest degree among those who had mood disorders.
Those who smoked for pleasure and experienced a relapse by jumping off the wagon did not have altered anxiety levels.
The researchers said it seems as though smokers were more likely to have a cigarette soon after waking up to stave off withdrawal symptoms. They said that by quitting smoking, it removed these episodes of anxiety and the smokers felt less anxious as a result.
"People who achieve abstinence experience a marked reduction in anxiety whereas those who fail to quit experience a modest increase in the long term," the authors wrote in the journal. "These data contradict the assumption that smoking is a stress reliever, but suggest that failure of a quit attempt may generate anxiety."
The findings come just after a series of graphic European Union government ads are set to release. The ads will tell smokers that just 15 cigarettes can cause a mutation that leads to cancerous tumors.
EU's anti-smoking ad campaign will appear on TV, online and posters until February. Smokers will also be told about NHS quit kits that are available free from pharmacies.
"We want smokers to understand that each packet of cigarettes increases their risk of cancer," Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies told the BBC. "People will see a man smoking and then a cancer growing out of the cigarette. That is what happens in people's bodies."