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Quitting Smoking Can Be An Emotional Roller Coaster


One minute you feel fine, the next you feel like crying at the drop of a hat.  Other times you may feel like breaking something (or someone). describe the image

Welcome to the roller coaster of emotions called quitting smoking.  Feelings of anger, stress, sadness, anxiety, and elation cycle back and forth, up and down, and take you for a loop-de-loop leaving you feeling physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

If you think you are on this ride alone, you’re not.  Many ex-smokers experience mood swings when they quit smoking.  This is because nicotine is a mood enhancing drug.  Nicotine works by releasing feel-good chemicals (called endorphins) in the brain awakening the reward pathway.  When you quit smoking, you lose not only this chemically induced happiness, but the behaviors, habits and associations you’ve also created with cigarettes as a “friend,” stress relief, a crutch, and as a way to deal with a myriad of emotions. 

But smoking was never a way to cope with emotions. Smoking was a way to not deal with emotions.  Smoking cigarettes literally teaches smokers to mask emotions behind a smoke screen.  Freeing yourself from behind that smokescreen means learning new ways of handling emotions more effectively.  Studies show that in the long run, ex-smokers are actually happier than when they did smoke!

The road to feeling more in control of your emotions may very well start with acknowledging that, at least temporarily, your emotions are out of control.  Try reigning them back in with these suggestions:

  • Talk things out.  Call up a friend and vent.  Or consider finding a therapist.  If you don’t want to talk things out, then write them out in a journal, text message someone, or log into the Q and use the three post rule!
  • Increase endorphins, naturally. Doing things you enjoy naturally releases endorphins: exercising, gardening, spending time with friends, working on a hobby, and playing an instrument or sport.  It’s hard to be upset or sad when you’re doing something you love!
  • Take a breather. Step outside and take some deep breaths.  Inhale slowly through the nose and out the mouth, counting to 10 each time.   Go for a brisk walk or bike ride.  Exercising outdoors has been shown to improve mood!
  • Use rote responses.  These are mantras you repeatedly chant to yourself:  One day at a time.  This too shall pass.  Just BREATHE! 
  • Ask your doctor about medications.  Some quit smoking medications can help minimize withdrawal symptoms (like irritability and mood swings) while others have anti-depressant or anti-anxiety properties (Bupropion).  Some herbal remedies like St. John’s Wort show promise in alleviating mild depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

Learning new ways to cope with emotions takes time and practice.  You may not feel like yourself again for days, weeks or even months after quitting.  While the emotional roller coaster won’t come to an abrupt stop, the bumps and dips do eventually even out.  Hang in there!









I can definitely relate to the emotional roller coaster. My feelings have been all over the map since I quit 10 days ago. I thought for a while that I was just a freak going through all of this unexplained emotion alone. I hope it levels out.
Posted @ Friday, September 21, 2012 9:50 AM by krista
I can definitely relate to the emotional roller coaster. My feelings have been all over the map since I quit 10 days ago. I thought for a while that I was just a freak going through all of this unexplained emotion alone. I hope it levels out.
Posted @ Friday, September 21, 2012 9:51 AM by krista
I had lost two loved ones to a unexpected death in a 3 yr. time. Got so scared, went to a doctor to get help with quitting. She told me not to quit yet. I was such a mess, I didn't know why she didn't want me to quit yet and began my cold turkey. Let me tell you, that was the worst thing I went through. To get through it, I slept and drank water for a week! I had to sleep to get through the depression & anxiety attacks that made me think I was having a heart attack. I couldn't call anyone for help due to not having insurance, so I chose to lie in bed so that if I died, I wouldn't fall on the floor. That's how bad it was. I would never suggest anyone going cold turkey. Once I had started it though, I didn't know which way to go anymore and couldn't stop for fear that I would bring on the Heart attack also.. damned if I did and damned if I didn't. I made it! I'll never go back after all I went though, out of fear alone, wouldn't want to go through that again.
Posted @ Friday, September 21, 2012 10:54 PM by Linda
I quit for 7 months, then started back I was so depressed and unhappy when I quit, how do I overcome this mental challenge so I can quit again and not fail? any help will be appreciated thank you
Posted @ Tuesday, August 06, 2013 3:05 PM by JoAnn Hagen
I am just started to quit smoking..this is day 1 and i dunno if i can even count it as day 1 cause i did have 2 smokes this morning but i am already going seems anything wrong triggers me to just start crying and i get so mad for no reason...i dunno if i can do this
Posted @ Friday, December 06, 2013 4:09 PM by Melinda
I quit 5 months ago and it hasn't been easy, but its getting easier. I don't have much physical craving for smoking anymore and frankly don't think about it as much, but the emotional flip flop is still going on. I find that old emotional problems are resurfacing sometimes very ferociously and I just have to wait for the feeling to subside in order to get a handle on it. I'm guessing that these are the issues that I was trying to squash or ignore with smoking. Before when I would get emotionally upset I would smoke or drink, now I just have to bear it out. Exercise helps. Deep breathing when I can't sleep helps. Walking to work helps. Taking care of my house and staying organized helps. Everyday I feel like I'm doing a bit better, and I know I am, but some days it doesn't feel like that - it feels like one step forward and one step back. I keep rehashing things over in my head - rumination is really exhausting. I may go see a therapist to help. In any case, I know that giving up crutches is the right thing to do and I will be much, much better in the long run. One thing in a time.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:27 PM by Kathleen
I've been going through a terrible time lately. I quit smoking at the end of January but was on the patch until about 4 days ago and since then I have not been able to sleep and I have re-hashed and re-lived everything wrong I've ever done in my life and believe me, it's exhausting. I thought I was literally losing mind and was honestly afraid to be by myself because it seemed like I was losing it so I'm glad to see that I'm not alone in this process and I'm learning how to deal with this stress but I'm thinking about seeking professional help. It doesn't help that I'm in my last semester of grad school either but I'm committed to quitting and I don't think I could make it through this roller coaster again. Anyways I just wanted to thank you people for showing me that I was not losing my mind. Thank you.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 19, 2014 3:01 AM by Matt
I quit 16 months ago after smoking for 30 years. Yes it's hard. Yes I am emotional. Yes I feel better. Every day it does get easier. I can stand next to a smoker and not crave now, but I now know what I smelled like. What I do know is I take one day at a time.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 08, 2014 11:29 PM by Ron
I'm on day 11 today using the patch and medication and today has been very emotional I'm in a sad mood wanting to eat everything I've been through withdraw from drugs but its compared to quiting smoking when does it go away
Posted @ Tuesday, April 29, 2014 12:34 PM by kelly
I have stopped smoking for 17 days. Felt good at fist but now really struggling. My emotions are all over the place. Ugh
Posted @ Tuesday, May 06, 2014 8:11 PM by gloria
Man its hard for me too. I'm on day 16 and I'm committed to quitting. I don't want to smoke again. I don't even have the urge to. But I'm having a hard time being separated from a loved one and I'm constantly worrying about them and the future because we are talking about marriage. I'm having doubts now and I can't sleep and I feel hungry but I can't eat. My heart sometimes feels like it going to beat out of my chest and I feel nauseous in my stomach .I'm also paranoid. I can't tell if these issues I'm having are because of me or because of quitting. This is so hard... Even now it's 1:21am in the morning and I can't sleep. I have a bad dream and I'm up... This is hard.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 14, 2014 12:23 AM by Al
I had my last cig on March 25th. The first few weeks were hell. I didn't think I could make it. I am happy to report I am staying strong and taking I day at a time.
Posted @ Tuesday, June 03, 2014 11:46 PM by Kim
I quit, cold turkey. Im on day 4, and its not easy. Looking back to when I had my last cigarette to this point feel so hazy and dream like. I used to smoke a pack a day, mostly during work. Day two was so hard I felt on edge of insainity,I felt as if I was hallucinating. Day three was a strugle full of stress and fay four seems alot easier but with sudden flashes of cravings that make my body feel weird for not having the cigarette... idk
Posted @ Saturday, June 07, 2014 11:53 PM by Alex
I am on day 1. Feels like I lost my best friend. It was the only thing that was ever there for me consistently and I could count on. Such stupid reasoning I know. Feeling weepy, sad and yet proud of myself, one minute at a time.
Posted @ Saturday, June 21, 2014 2:38 PM by Janet
I am laughing and almost crying reading some of the comments here, so similar. What a terrible drug, thank god we quit.
Posted @ Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:09 PM by Jasmine
It's now a little over a month since I quit.I have been through a lot in my life , but nothing this hard. I am a mother of two toddlers 10 months apart and a 9 year old . I am so emotional and unhappy . The hardest part for me is to find ways to deal with my stress cause I can't just walk away when there driving me crazy . I'm committed to stay smoke free. I hope I just don't loose my mind in the mean time . A month smoke free seems like forever.
Posted @ Saturday, July 12, 2014 3:01 PM by megen
Good to read comments like these when I'm going through a low, rough patch - supportive simply to know I'm not alone. It's been 10 days now, a lot of highs and lows in that time, feeling 'out if it' and fuzzy - headed. I remind myself that I've just got to ride out the rough patches, they pass. And remember how great it is to be free, no longer a slave to such a horrible addiction.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:09 PM by Matthew
Hi, I quit smoking 2 days ago. Doing cold Turkey, and I can tell you it's driving me mad. I'm just not with it at all dizzy aggitated. Chest pains. I was quite a heavy smoker a pack a day 20 for the past 30 years. I agree you realise how much you stink standing next to a Smoker. And the feeling of waking up in the morning without that Elephant sitting on your chest makes it worth it. One day at a time.
Posted @ Sunday, July 20, 2014 4:44 PM by Ed Winchester
Finding this site so helpful. Quit cold turkey 7 weeks ago, do so well first month and so proud of myself. Past few weeks feeling these cravings at "trigger times". Coming home from work, cooking dinner. Find I just burst into tears. Feel so silly and wish this too shall pass.
Posted @ Friday, July 25, 2014 6:02 PM by Julie
Help!!! Day one and I'm snapping. I WILL NOT smoke but how many days like this? I Will not smoke!!!
Posted @ Monday, August 11, 2014 5:31 PM by MIRELLA
It's been 3 weeks since I quit cold turkey! I Smoked for nearly 30 years, better than a pack a day for most of that (saying that sucks on so many levels). And I can honestly say that this is the hardest thing that I have ever done! I have passed the foggy haze of days 1-3 and the let's eat the damn house after that. I am now in a spot where my cravings are very strong, I get angry fast and have 0 patience. I'm trying to work on that. Like everyone else I'm just taking it one day at a time And not caving to temptation, knowing that I'm better for it. I don't know if the emotional roller coaster will ever level off, I'm not there yet. But the alternative of smoking myself into an early grave is a lot less appealing!! So to all that have just got on the quit ride hold on tight and don't give up. Best of luck to all!!
Posted @ Thursday, August 21, 2014 7:33 PM by Greg
I quit yesterday at 5:30pm. Had my last cig and put on the patch. I'm sitting in the car crying!!. I'm @ my fav. coffee place where I enjoyed my coffee with my "friend"-cigs. I feel lost and I'm going back and forth with the crying & emotions!. God help me.
Posted @ Friday, August 22, 2014 1:41 PM by Carrie
Believe me it does get easier . It's been almost 3 months now and I am starting to be ok with out my old friend cigs.i still miss smoking because I enjoyed it . But it's great to not feel addicted to something.
Posted @ Friday, August 22, 2014 6:54 PM by megen
Hi I have quite fro 3 month , my last day was jun 1, and i am felliung anger, get tempered in samll things,  
I si common or should i start smking again.can someone please reply
Posted @ Monday, September 01, 2014 9:19 PM by Nik
Hi,it makes me laugh hearing these stories.Im in australia i am day 6 of quitting smoking.This is my 7th attempt. Yes exercise,water, deep breathe,dark chocolate.The seratonin levels will even out eventually.My strategy this time is too not make a big deal out of it, and learn to deal with the emotions that the smoking has masked for 25years.I don't want to smell like that any more, and i hope that this time i can make it further,if not never go back to smoking. This time i need to beat my record of 25 days. Ohhh just being aware of them crazy moments. :)))
Posted @ Thursday, September 11, 2014 11:12 PM by tracey
Three weeks since I quit, and I had a major panic attack about 3 hours ago and my heart is still racing...I do not crave a cig, but the anxiety and panic feeling I don't like at all. All I do is think of bad thoughts and bad things I have done and anxiety gets worse lol. Wtf! Ah well, just gotta ride it out I guess. Good to hear that it's not only me experiencing this.
Posted @ Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:00 PM by Cyguy
Cyguy I have been of a month now cold turkey and I am going through the exact same withdrawal symptoms as yourself anxiety mind raceing panic feelings it's so scary It effects your everyday life so much
Posted @ Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:50 PM by Rodney
I have been off cigarettes for 2 months. 
I quit cold turkey and am going crazy!!! 
The first week and a half was terrible but then I felt really great for the next 3 weeks but the last 3 weeks have been hell. I can't explain what I'm going thru. At first I thought I was depressed because of work( its a crap j
Posted @ Wednesday, October 01, 2014 5:36 AM by Chris
Cont'd....crap job. 
I almost quit my job because it's what I thought was causing me depression and anxiety. How wrong I was!!! 
When I quit smoking I was told that withdrawals would last a couple of days and that nicotine would be out of my system and then life would be rosy....yeah right!!!  
I am 2 months in and I am stressed ,depression, anxious and very, very, emotional. I feel like crying all the time and it is affecting everything in my life.  
As much as it six what I'm going thru and as bad as it may sound I am so glad that I'm not the only
Posted @ Wednesday, October 01, 2014 5:42 AM by Chris
Oh Thank God, I thought I was going crazy...I am about to hit the 6 month mark of quitting, and I and happy and proud of myself, but I sincerely thought there was something wrong with me that I was getting so emotional so often. The fact is that cigarettes were just another way to hide an emotion and it almost feel as though I am grieving for a friend that is no longer there. This last month I have had so many ups and downs I seriously thought I needed to go to the psych ward at one of the hospitals close by, thinking there was a diagnosis that had been lying dormant all this time. I am glad that something sparked to google this, truly I needed to know that I was not the only one out there.
Posted @ Thursday, October 02, 2014 8:10 PM by Charity
I'm on my fourth day of quitting I'm 42 and have been smoking since I was 12. I'm an emotional wreck. Thought it was just me. Burst into tears for no apparent reason. Finding thgr site has helped.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 08, 2014 7:29 PM by Maria
Hi back again.i made it past my 6th day and have now quit for 34 days.Wow i am crying at the drop of a hat =, and do feel hungrier, though am very aware that smoking has been a part of my life for 25 years,so i have given the food the flick =,and i allow myself to have the emotions I'm having. Thank you nicorette, i could not do this without!!! Please if any one is feeling this bad please allow yourself to chew :)))
Posted @ Wednesday, October 08, 2014 11:00 PM by Tracey Crockett
Well, what can I say, nearly 6 months quit for me and it's been hell! I have been thinking that there must be something physically wrong with me as I am either angry, or crying, these seem the only emotions I am capable of feeling other than occasionally looking at other people and wishing I felt as happy as they seem.  
It's nice to realise that in fact I'm not losing my mind and there are others that feel like I do. It's also reassuring to know it will get better, when I really don't know but I do know that I cannot go back to smoking as I could NEVER go through, or put my family and friends this hell again. Smoking is evil, you only have to read these comments to see what this horrid drug has done to all of us. Well done everyone
Posted @ Sunday, October 12, 2014 5:16 AM by Trudi
Well, here I go! I've smoked a pack a day for 25 years. I'm 44 and I feel like total crap. Constant headaches, sinus problems, get winded after minimal exertion etc etc etc....Everytime I quit, I feel like I am insane. I am committed to quitting because I'm scared of dying in front of my kids. I'm on day two now. There's no other way for me but cold turkey. Glad to find similar experiences. I'll post again when I'm out a little further!
Posted @ Saturday, October 18, 2014 12:40 PM by Holly
O thank god! Thought i was going insane!Third week in after being a twenty a day person for 30 years (i'm 42). Now that I know its nicotine withdrawal I can handle tha emotions better
Posted @ Monday, October 20, 2014 8:38 AM by maria
Well. I was a Pack a day for ten years kinda gal. I stopped smoking a month ago, but for first 2, 3 weeks I let myself one or two ciggarets a day if I absolutely had to... It was tolerable... Now, first week totally off everything and I'm so easy to burst into tears, I have urges of hitting anyone or anything that angers me and my chest are hurting when I'm sad... Also, I'm coughing like insane, and things that came out of there are unspeakable... God, when will it stop?! :(
Posted @ Monday, October 20, 2014 9:17 AM by Sabina
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