Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cigarettes and Mental Illness

I am beginning to wonder if cigarettes can cause mental illness or at least make mental illness worse.

Cigarettes have been link to almost every major psychical health issue there is, but not to mental issues. You have to wonder though after all cigarettes change neurochemicals in the brain, so why couldn't it cause some peoples brains to get messed up?

Mentally ill people smoke more cigarettes than the general population and in the studies I have read they seem to chalk that up by saying "maybe mentally ill people started smoking to relieve their stress", but how would the brain of a mentally ill person, that never had nicotine, know that if it just smokes it will feel better? It doesn't make since and like Judge Judy says "If it doesn't make sense it's not true.".

I think in some cases cigarettes cause mental illness. After all some people can't take certain medication without having bad side effects while other people have no issue with the medication, so why should cigarettes be any different?

I know I was always a nervous person and seemed to worry more than other children, but I can honestly say the bulk of my issues surfaced around the time I started smoking, but then I was also a teenager at that time, so that could also have been a major cause of it escalating.

I know at one point I quit for 4 years and had anxiety during that time as well, but then I was hiding the fact I was gay and had a girlfriend. I was also living on my own for the first time away from home and was over 300 miles from my family, so that I can see would also aggravate an existing anxiety disorder.

I don't know, it is just a guess about the cigarettes causing mental illness in some people or even making mental illness worse. I just know from experience the longer I have smoked the worse I have become mentally. Then again maybe I would have become just as nervous if I never smoked, who knows.

I found when I did a search on google about cigarettes causing mental illness not many results came up, so I figured I would write a post, so others out there that are wondering if cigarettes cause mental illness could find my blog and comment or tell me their own experiences with it.


Anonymous said...

Yes, smoking definitely worsened by depression, anxiety and fatigue. Nicotine is of course a stimulant and like coffee, caffeine etc. can cause or worsen a flight or fight response. Some people's bodies are more sensitive to stimulants like nicotine and caffeine. I've heard that some people are so super-sensitive to caffeine that even a small amount can induce panic-like symptoms.
Aside from the nicotine, cigarette smoke apparently contains up to 4000 different chemicals so I don't think it's too far fetched to think that aside from the cancer-causing effects on the body, these chemicals can also induce chemical changes in the brain.
Of course some people are more sensitive to chemicals than others. I am chemically sensitive and found both my mental state and wellbeing is effected by everyday personal products such as certain make-up, shampoos, deodorants, perfumes, toothpastes etc. I now only use natural products without chemicals where possible and this has helped. We are exposed to so many untested chemicals today, noone can say what affect they are having on our bodies or our brains. I also feel better mentally when I eat more organic foods so I think I may be susceptible to the pesticides used in foods too.
Many food chemical additives have been indicated to cause behaviour and mood changes in children and also adults and I don't see why chemicals in cigarette smoke couldn't have the same effects.
Most people will scoff at thinking that foods and everyday chemicals, etc can cause changes in the brain and efect mental illness but there is just so much anecdotal evidence but because the evidence comes from people with mental health problems, it is usually dismissed. I think often there's probably a complex mix of purely pysical/physiological factors and also purely psychological factors which probably feed off each other.
Also, cigarette smoking also depletes the body's Vitamin C. Apparently Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are of course critical to brain function and are known to affect mood. Fatigue can be one symptom of low Vitamin C levels.
I recommend watching Mark Hyman's Ultramind videos on youtube if you haven't already.

Anonymous said...

I have bipolar and never made the link between smoking and my mood swings.
When I stopped though I couldn't believe how much more stable my mood if I have just one cigarette I feel nad for days..extreme I know but absolutely true in my case...