Studies have found that smoking and depression are linked. In fact, a recent study from the United States suggests that people aged 20 and older with depression are twice as likely as others to be cigarette smokers. Another study in New Zealand found that people over 18 who smoked cigarettes were twice as likely to have symptoms of depression.

It is unclear why these relationships exist. However, it is known that nicotine affects levels of chemicals in the brain. Two of those chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are dopamine and norepinephrine. Nicotine stimulation of these chemicals is largely responsible for the pleasurable feeling a smoker gets when they inhale from a cigarette. This feeling may help ease negative feelings associated with depression. It is also possible that the changes these chemicals and other neurotransmitter activity have on the brain might increase the risk of depression in the long run.

The nicotine and brain chemical relationships that exist with smoking may also contribute to the way a person feels when they quit smoking. It is normal to feel sad for a period of time after quitting smoking. If a person trying to quit feels depressed, they often will have a strong urge to smoke and feel like they aren't able to stick to their smokefree status. People who were not depressed before quitting smoking may feel mild depression after quitting, which starts on the first day, but this usually passes within 2 weeks to a month.

Everyone copes differently, but here are some tips to help you beat the blues associated with quitting, and how to stay smokefree:

  • Increase physical activity. This will help your mood and lift feelings of depression.
  • Focus on your strengths.
  • Determine why you are feeling down. If it is because you're tired, lonely, bored, or hungry, focus on addressing these specific needs.
  • Make a list of things that are bothering you and what you can do about them.
  • Plan your next vacation or fun activity.
  • Stay positive about the changes you are making in your life.

If you continue to feel depressed for more than one month after quitting smoking, see your doctor.