Smoking and Mental Health

Nicotine makes it all worse
People with mental health challenges do smoke more than others.

Years ago, cigarettes were given out as rewards for patients in in-patient facilities, and doctors thought that smoking helped people with schizophrenia and anxiety. But the smoke has cleared: research shows that smoking actually makes mental health problems worse and interferes with medication.  Getting smoke-free has been proven to improve not just physical health but mental health as well – quitting really does make people happier!

Smokers agree: they nearly all regret starting and really want to stop. They also agree – stopping is hard! Here are some tips:

Our mental health problems do not mean we cannot stop; in fact, we have even more reasons to quit. Every support agency and professional we deal with will support us  if we decide to quit.

Stopping smoking will make us feel bad before we feel good!  The withdrawal symptoms peak after about two days, but will usually fade away within a couple of weeks. Some experience it worse than others, and some lucky people have no problems at all.  The symptoms can include things like headaches, irritability, sweating, nausea and insomnia… Yay! Just what we need on top of all our other problems! But believe me: it IS worth it! By the way… most of us ex-smokers still have the occasional, fleeting hankering for a smoke… even decades later!

If you smoke less than ten cigarettes a day, then you may be able to stop without any help. But nicotine dependency is real and we may need help, especially if we are heavier smokers Your doctor may well be able to help by prescribing something to get you through.

The compulsion to smoke comes from nicotine, but also from the emotions and strong habits we build around smoking: e.g. having a smoke in a certain place or situation. Nicotine patches, gum, sprays etc., give you a window of opportunity to change those habits without also having to resist the craving from nicotine withdrawal.

Boredom is a key reason we smoke. As well as deciding not to smoke, also make decisions to add to your life things that will be interesting, fun and positive: music, hobbies, exercise, a pet, social activities. The money we save from not buying tobacco (which can be a lot!)  gives us more money to spend on these activities.

Get support. Quitline helps in all sorts of ways. 0800 778 778, text 4006,

Vaping is not harmless, but it has been shown to help some people quit smoking. Do try other methods first though as we might find we have just traded one habit for another expensive one.

Don’t give up trying to give up! It is not unusual for smokers to quit and then restart again, sometimes many times.  Nicotine is a hard drug to get clear of.

Keep the benefits in mind – Our mind and body will be healthier, it will free up so much money, and it is so much better for our family and even our pets. We will even smell better!


These blogs are offered with the sincere hope that they will be beneficial to people with mental health challenges, their families and the wider public. However, a big lesson from the history of science is that anyone can be wrong! Therefore, this disclaimer: though written in good faith, the authors and publishers cannot guarantee the accuracy of this content, or its applicability to a particular situation.  Any decisions or course of action taken as a consequence of this content must be entirely the reader’s responsibility.  In no way should this content be used as a basis to contradict or ignore the advice of a medical or mental health professional.