Why People Smoke When Stressed

Life Isn't Always A Bowl Of Cherries

Stress happens to everyone, on some level. When life sends us challenges, whether good or bad, we call those challenges stressors. Paying the bills, dealing with the death of a loved one, having a baby, or even getting married, are all life events that can cause stress. When we have to adjust to something new or different, we often feel stress while we are making the adjustments. Even daily occurrences can be stressful-we like to call them hassles-and they can add up to stress on some occasions. Such things as the car breaking down, rain when a picnic is planned, and children who are just a bit too rambunctious can be a hassle. Actually, the daily hassles add up to more stress than the major life events.

Spitting Out the Pits

People deal with stress differently. Some people handle the stress of life easier than others do and some are better at coping than others are. Those people who have difficulty dealing with stress often have strong emotional reactions when they are stressed. Their moods may swing to depression or anxiety when they are under stress, and while not all depression and anxiety are caused by stressful events, it is true that stress does cause or worsen these types of problems.

Things That Make You Want To Light Up

If a person is under a lot of stress, they will often have a difficult time cutting cigarettes out. If a person is a former smoker, it is most likely they will start smoking again in response to a stressful situation or bad mood. Statistics show that people who are depressed are twice as likely to smoke as those who are not. Most smokers learn to use cigarettes as a method of dealing with stress in their lives. When things are stressful, they reach for a cigarette. You will often hear them say that it calms them down. People who tend to be sad, tense, angry, or even bored, will reach for a cigarette when something triggers one of these emotions.

Sometimes a smoker, or an ex-smoker, may find themselves in a situation where they recall something negative and the memory triggers stress. Perhaps a trauma occurred in their life, abuse of some sort, or a catastrophe. When they begin to talk about it, the memory becomes real again and in order to cope, they smoke.

Why Does It Happen - Why Smoke?

While the exact reason for this is not known, there are some good ideas as to why it happens. When a person smokes, the nicotine causes the brain to release neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that cause a person to feel better for a short period. Beta-endorphin and norepinephrine are chemicals that are able to improve mood when they are released. Smoking then becomes a mood upper as well as a stimulant.

Lighting up can also be a time-out. The very act of taking a cigarette out, lighting it and taking a drag allows the smoker time away from the issue. It can distract the person from the problem. Since it is a group activity, smoking can invoke the feeling of support and comfort. Finally, a cigarette will relieve the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, satisfying the craving and the addiction.

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