The Emotional Element in Quitting Smoking

Have you ever tried to quit smoking only to find your emotional stability had gone haywire, making the challenge overwhelming? Did quitting make you so irritable and grouchy that family and friends avoided you, perhaps even encouraged you to smoke again? Were feelings of anxiety and depression reasons to relapse back to smoking? If you can relate to any of these questions, know that you are not alone, and that emotional swings are common in the early stages of your quit. But they do not have to roadblock your success…quitting and staying quit is still an achievable goal! 

Grieving the Loss

You may feel sad, lonely and miss smoking your cigarettes. Smoking is like a constant companion who is there in good times and bad, guaranteed to help boost your mood. Giving up this perceived friend may cause you to feel deprived of the enjoyment of smoking. No need to worry -- the loss of this friend is replaced with more money, more time and control over your life so you can live it in the healthiest way possible! 

Anger and Mood Swings  

Recently-quit smokers often get irritable, frustrated and angry. Emotions may swing from good-natured to snappy in no time flat. Be aware that this is normal and due to nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine elevates dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel good; when you stop smoking, these levels go down and so can your mood. In the past, you may have used cigarettes as a coping tool for dealing with these emotions.  Now you will have the choice of practicing other healthier ways of managing these feelings.

Be assertive and deal with your feelings. Don’t stifle them with a smoke! Remove yourself from a situation before things get out of hand. Walk away and take a ‘time out’ to collect yourself by calling a friend and venting. Taking some slow deep breaths, or go outside for a walk if possible. Tell yourself “This too shall pass,” and it will.


Many people feel depressed when they quit smoking. Some depression is caused by nicotine addiction and the withdrawal and recovery process. You may smoke to control your moods and feelings. When you stop smoking you no longer have this mood enhancer and may feel a reversed affect. Depression of this nature is not long-lasting and may be helped along with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and the use of an NRT product. 

Many times the depression is an underlying condition that develops when you stop smoking. Nicotine and some chemicals in smoke can decrease depressive symptoms by elevating the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (feel good neurotransmitters) in the brain and you may smoke to keep this chemistry in balance. If this is your situation, consult your doctor, as there are many helpful treatments for depression due to this nature.

Return to Normalcy

The good news is that all this emotional upheaval is temporary. It will take some time and practice to get used to the new you – the person who no longer uses cigarettes to control moods and feelings. In the meantime here are some ways you can manage these emotions:

  • Talk to your support person(s) and vent safely, or journal and write out your thoughts
  • Do deep breathing exercises, use relaxation techniques
  • Exercise, take a walk, get outdoors, breath fresh air, enjoy nature
  • Do things you truly enjoy
  • Practice your personal affirmation(s)- use positive self talk, "I love being a non-smoker!"
  • Consider using a quit-smoking medication to help minimize the emotional withdrawal symptoms

Quitting smoking is about gaining back control of your life -- emotions and all!

Keep the Quit!

Bette Q TTS-M