There has been a growing number of scientific journal issues regarding the possible causes of substance abuse in general. Whether it is drugs abuse, such as Sinha’s Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction, or Excessive Drinking, or even Compulsive Buying. We all have our ways of coping with stress. Managing anger, frustration, or depression. And using substance as a method of regulation of one’s emotions almost certainly would lead to abuse; it’s of our bodies’ nature to tolerate and regulate the need of such substances, regardless of their potential harm or long term damage. It’s even likely that we adopt the smoking behavior merely to look different, or be perceived differently, as per the attributes of our ideal self-image. Not even to regulate an emotion or a negative experience or a challenge, but just because we seek social acceptance and long to belong.
Psychological Distress *
Psychological distress is quite a general term to describe the effect of unpleasant feelings or emotions, as per their effect on our emotional state, or interference in mental or cognitive functioning. It includes a myriad of feelings, varying from the regular “sadness” that might occur when watching a dramatic change of events in a movie, to the “sadness that one cannot describe” which transforms into depression of anxiety or any other serious mental issue.
This is mentioned because of its researched effects on risk-taking behaviors, which also include initiation of smoking, up to the number of practices that lead to serious diseases such as AIDS or other STDs. And psychology is just recently focusing on this aspect of the human psyche because of its essentiality of predicting so many things that we, human beings, with various levels of psyche distress, can perform in a lifetime.
It relates directly to one’s genetics. In a close-tie. For instance, there have been studies on male twins and the predictability of substance use, especially nicotine. It has been estimated that genetics can hold accountability for 56% of the overall incentives of initiating the smoking behavior, and 70% of the possible nicotine dependence.
Depression as a Cue *
Researchers have found that negative affect and depressive symptoms increase smokers’ smoking and the intensity of smoking because when smokers experience a negative mood, the negative mood becomes a cue for smoking a cigarette. Also, researches argue that major depression is a strong driver for the intensity of smoking, and how it can easily lead recent instigators to quickly tolerate and depend on nicotine, especially among younger ages.
It is even researched how subjects reported using nicotine as a method of stress relieving, an antidepressant. It is a known fact for all that smoking isn’t healthy, and that it isn’t merely a habit; it’s a strong one that quickly leads to dependence, addiction. But when it comes to depression and the lesser amount of awareness of how it’s like to be clinically depressed, and its widely held perception as “a bad mood” or just a negative perception of the world, it’s understandable how such a strong distress can lead one to rely on smoking. It is. But let’s also keep in mind the tons of research papers that link smoking to actually inducing anxiety and depression, instead of relieving it.
Keeping in mind the interchangeable relationship between depression and anxiety, let’s add smoking to the equation and take a step back to perceive the full picture. Because smoking doesn’t really work as a link-breaker between anxiety and depression; it works as a catalyst between the two, substantially increasing the possible risk, and damage caused by the three of them combined.
Stress as a Cue *
There’s a common notion between smokers that smoking can help coping with stress, as a method of regulating the emotions and face challenges arising in day to day activities. And so this study has examined closely, while taking in perception that it can actually cause its own stress levels. When someone starts smoking to relief stress levels, it would be more likely to add it to the daily routine, and hence increase the number of cigarettes smoked. However, the rise of that number would make it more likely that nicotine withdrawal symptoms are sustained over the day.
Because the perception of withdrawal symptoms as something that would occur when someone stops smoking is so wrong; it can just happen when a smoker, especially a heavy smoker, stays away from cigarettes, from lighting them, for merely a couple of hours, for a long meeting or the like.
And it is also known that withdrawal symptoms of nicotine contain their own level of induced stress. Making it complicated for an already stressed person to take steps on the path of cessation, and hence, would just adjust, and would rather keep it as part of their daily routine, not to suffer such symptoms (whether psychological stress itself, or smoking-induced stress). It’s a matter of a Nash Equilibrium coming true.
Stages as a Vicious Reward *
Let’s consider one’s working hours, the usual 9 to 5. And picture how breaks are often perceived as rewards for the hard work, this is for most workers anyway. Smoking cigarettes starts as a voluntary action, a behavior adopted willingly, one way or another, sounds ambivalent in the beginning, with positive and negative attributions insofar.
But what turns out later, and according to several studies, especially this one, is that it induces impulsivity, and creates certain impairments to one’s ability to control “the whim” of it. Also, it creates several physiological dysfunctions to the ability of controlling the behavior. In other words, it affects one’s free will to resist the impulse of lighting a cigarette or consuming an addictive drug of any sort. Which, simply put, means that it ‘disables’ the control panel of decision making, especially when an urge of initiating the behavior (smoking a cigarette) is present. Physiologically impairing one’s ability to resist the urge of smoking cigarettes.
In conclusion, while smoking can disguise itself as a reliever of psychological distress, there’s an attached string of dependency to it, in creating its own sort of distress, added on the shoulders of the distressed person. Impairing one’s ability to resist the urges related to its withdrawal.