Today we have a guest post from a blogger who has contributed here previously with interesting anti-aging articles about health and wellness. The topic is smoking and heavy drinking, and specifically how it affects you mentally. It’s a great topic for us because lifestyle is such an important part of your anti-aging plan. Feelings of too much stress and depression are challenges for many of us, and getting information about it can be a great help.
We’re not so much talking about the occasional drinks and enjoying social time with friends or family. Heavy drinking is different. And we continue to learn more bad things about smoking every day. Just this week, the U.S. Surgeon General linked more diseases and health problems to smoking.
Smoking and Heavy Drinking: How It Affects You Mentally
People often smoke or drink because they want to change the way they feel. Maybe they want to relieve stress and depression, celebrate or simply forget their busy day at work. At first, smoking or drinking improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, makes you feel relaxed, and reduces appetite; but in the long term they have serious impact on your mental health.
Effects of smoking on the brain
When a person smokes, a percentage of nicotine reaches the brain within a few seconds. The relaxed feeling you can get in the first few seconds of smoking is due to the chemical changes nicotine has caused in your brain. For many of us, a cigar can help us feel more confident and relaxed. Studies on smoking and stress have reported that, instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases stress and depression. Nicotine gives temporary relaxation so people smoke in the belief that it reduces stress and anxiety. This sense of relaxation is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include depression, decreased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, obesity, irritability and hostility.
Smoking and depression
In recent years, depression has been linked to smoking. People who smoke are found to be more depressed than those who do not smoke. According to research from a Stirling County Study, people who gave up smoking stopped experiencing depression symptoms. While a lot of factors are associated with this result, researchers suggest that smoking was the key factor.
Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is known to trigger positive feelings. It is often less or absent in people with depression, who may then start smoking as a way of increasing their dopamine supply temporarily.
However, smoking encourages the brain to stop releasing dopamine, so in the long term dopamine production decreases which in turn causes people to smoke more.
Any short term health benefits that smoking seems to have are outweighed by the greater risk of smoking-related physical health problems like cancer and heart disorders that are prominent in people with health problems.
Role of Alcohol in Suicide
Every year in the U.S there are over 40,000 deaths from suicide. Addiction to alcohol may increase the risk of suicide by increasing depression, negatively affecting the ability to come out of stress, and interfering with the treatment of mental illness.
If you’re depressed, don’t become addicted to alcohol. Even people who are happy but addicted to heavy drinks committed suicide according to a Harvard Medical School study published in the Journal of Epidemiology. The study also reported that the chances of attempting suicide are two times more if you drink than if you don’t drink. Even casual drinking has serious impact on people who are thinking of killing themselves.
Though a glass of wine at the end of your busy day might help you relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and increase stress. This is because regular, heavy drinking lowers the level of serotonin, a chemical that helps to regulate your mood, in your brain. Drinking heavily may disturb your sleep, make you feel lethargic and tired all the time; or make you feel anxious in situations where you should normally feel comfortable.
Both smoking and drinking carry a significant risk on your mental health. What’s more, quitting alcohol or smoking can be harmful or deadly if done incorrectly. Consult your physician before deciding to do so.
Diana Maria is a freelance journalist who has been writing about mobile technology, customer relationship management and women’s health for more than a decade. These days she is busy to contributes on getamplify.
Takeaway: I think the message here is that if you think you’re having a problem with either alcohol or tobacco, and you will have signs in your life that you are struggling, there’s help out there. Whether you choose to talk with a friend or family member or consult with a professional, make yourself and your good health a priority and seek out the help you need. It’s like we talk a lot on this site about: CHOICES! Make the choice to take care of yourself and target good health as part of your anti-aging plan.