Quitting Smoking and Depression

Among the most challenging symptoms associated with quitting smoking is depression, and for many smokers, managing mood changes and other emotional factors is a real issue. However, if you make the commitment to quit, knowing what to expect will help you deal with these symptoms effectively and efficiently, keeping you smoke free for the long haul.

Here, we take a look at the causes of depression after quitting smoking, how to manage those symptoms, and a variety of coping techniques designed to help you push through that early discomfort and maintain your commitment to quitting smoking for good!

Causes of depression after stopping smoking

The nicotine withdrawal phase of quitting smoking is the main cause of depression. In fact, due to the nature of the drug and your habit, smoking cessation and depression go hand-in-hand. This is because your body and brain have become dependent on nicotine, and as you begin to starve yourself of the drug, your dopamine levels are significantly reduced. As the “feel-good” neurotransmitter1, these reduced levels of dopamine are the key reason for feeling depressed after quitting smoking.

Another reason for depression after giving up smoking is that you suddenly find yourself without the perceived “crutch” or “companion” that made you believe they were there to help you through difficult moments. Of course, that feeling is a trap, and smoking has, in fact, been proven to increase stress levels2 over time rather than lower them. If you feel adrift or lost without nicotine, just remember that it is a vicious circle that only feeds itself while damaging your body at the same time!

Quitting Smoking and Depression — Symptoms

There are various symptoms related to quitting smoking and depression and recognizing them is the first step towards dealing with them effectively. Symptoms may include:

  • Insomnia or sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety or an “empty” feeling
  • Lethargy and apathy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Changes in appetite
  • Emotional irritability

You may experience any of these symptoms combined over the course of your journey to becoming smoke free, however, in most cases, they will be present within the first few days or weeks of quitting. Once you have associated them with your nicotine withdrawal, you can begin to deal with them.

Dealing with Depression after Stopping Smoking

While there are many symptoms related to smoking cessation and depression, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to deal with them and improve your mood.

  • Exercise — Whether it’s a quick walk, a long run, or a session in the gym, exercise releases endorphins in the brain which can help improve your mood and relieve some of your symptoms.
  • Renew Your commitment — Reminding yourself why you want to quit smoking can help. Go through the reasons you wanted to quit in the first place and concentrate on how much better your life will be once you’ve kicked the habit.
  • Do Something that Makes you Feel Good — Whether it’s seeing friends, taking up a new hobby, or eating something you enjoy, doing something that makes you feel good can help relieve the symptoms of depression after stopping smoking.
  • Join a Support Group — Sometimes, talking with other smokers going through the same experience can make a big difference. Join a support group and discuss your feelings or offer advice to others on how to deal with depression after quitting smoking.
  • NRT Products— Nicotine replacement therapy helps your body gradually deal with nicotine withdrawal, relieving many of the worst symptoms associated with it.3


For more information regarding smoking cessation and depression, contact the NHS stop smoking service or speak to your local pharmacist about how NRT can help. Additionally, learn more about NRT products here and discover the best combination for your specific journey to becoming smoke free.

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