Mental Health & Smoking
If you smoke and also have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or another mental health condition, you are not alone. The good news is that:
- you can quit with the right support and quit plan,
- quit smoking medications can help you succeed and be more comfortable,
- quitting can actually improve your mental health, and
- BecomeAnEX can help!
There are some myths about quitting smoking for people with mental illness. Below we sort through fact vs fiction.
- Myth: Quitting smoking will make my mental health symptoms worse.
TRUTH: People with different types of mental illness say that quitting smoking actually made them feel better. Research shows this is true, too.
As you are quitting, you might feel irritable or restless or find it hard to concentrate. You might also have trouble sleeping or feel hungry. Some people feel anxious and depressed. Don't worry! In most cases, these are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and not your mental health condition getting worse. These feelings usually go away in a few days. Once withdrawal goes away, quitting smoking can make you feel as good as using antidepressants.
- Myth: Smokers with mental health conditions don't want to stop smoking.
TRUTH: This myth can be common among healthcare providers. But the reality is that smokers with mental health conditions want to quit as much as any other group of smokers. Most have tried to quit in the past, and more than half are thinking about quitting within six months. Be sure to tell your doctor that you want to quit and want help.
- Myth: Smokers with mental health conditions can't quit smoking.
TRUTH: Many people with mental health conditions have other life challenges that can make it harder to quit. Being around other people who smoke, feeling lonely, and being worried about money are common. But, even with these other challenges, you can quit! The key is getting support, making a quit plan, and using quitting medication.
- Myth: Quit smoking treatments don’t work for people with mental illness.
TRUTH: Quit smoking treatments work just as well for people with mental illness as they do for people without mental illness. However, you may need some extra help to be successful.
- You may need more support and longer treatment. You can use BecomeAnEX as often as you want and for as long as you need. EX Community members are always ready to support you in your quit. Find out more about how other BecomeAnEX members have quit smoking.
- You may need to stay on a quit smoking medication for a longer period of time to help your brain and body adjust to being tobacco free. Also, quitting smoking can change the way some medications work. Be sure to tell your doctor when you quit smoking. You may need to make changes to your mental health medicines. Click here for more information on quit smoking medications.
- Myth: People with mental illness should not use Zyban or Chantix.
TRUTH: Bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) are non-nicotine, prescription medications for quitting smoking. Both have a labeled warning that you should know about. It says 'some patients have experienced changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking the medication.' It also says that if these changes occur, the smoker should stop taking the medication and discuss these symptoms with a health care provider.
However, the warning does not exclude people with mental health conditions from taking these medications. In fact, a review of 17 different studies found that these medications help people with serious mental illness to quit smoking. The review also found that taking non-nicotine medications did not make emotional distress or psychiatric symptoms worse.
You should talk with your doctor about whether using Zyban or Chantix is right for you.
More information about non-nicotine medications.
As you are quitting, you might feel irritable or restless, have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel anxious, depressed, or hungry. Don't worry! In most cases, these are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and not your mental health condition getting worse. These feelings usually go away in a few days. Once you get past the withdrawal symptoms, quitting smoking can make you feel as good as using anti-depressants.
Additional Resources For People Living With Mental Illness
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Connection Recovery Support Group is a free, peer-led support group for adults living with mental illness. The groups are led by NAMI-trained group leaders who've been there. Tell your support system about your plan to quit. That way, they can check in with you and support you when you need it.