Smoking & Mental Illness: What Every Smoker Should Know

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Although the creation of smoke-free zones, buildings and even entire communities is a relatively new phenomenon, the dangers of smoking have been known for much longer. In fact, information provided by the National Library of Medicine shows that smoking came under the scrutiny of public health officials and the medical community as early as the 1930s. Over the next few decades, the link between lung cancer, coronary heart disease, emphysema and many other serious diseases were proven and in 1964 the Surgeon General of the United States issued a report on smoking that triggered Congress to pass the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in 1965. Curiously, however, it would not be until much later that the link between mental illness and smoking would be known.

The Depression Connection

Although many types of mental illness are now thought to be caused or aggravated by smoking, the link between depression and smoking is one of the most prevalent. One example of this was noted back in 2001 during an eighteen month long study of more than twelve hundred students at the University of Alabama. Students in the study answered questions every six months to assess the amount they were smoking, their depression levels and other important details about their lives, including other substance abuse and information about their family’s and friend’s activities. As the study wore on, students who described themselves as heavy smokers in the beginning increasingly began to describe themselves as depressed, as well. Conversely, students who began the study as depressed also began to smoke more heavily as the months went by.

Self-Medicating With Nicotine

While these effects may be more pronounced in younger people, such as the students described here, this correlation between smoking and depression, as well as other mental illnesses is now known to be present in many different age groups. According to one of the psychologists who performed this study, Dr. Michael Windle, PhD., many smokers are effectively self-medicating with nicotine delivered through smoking.

Nicotine is known to alter the pleasure centers in the brain in an attempt to enhance mood. As the nicotine levels fall, the urge to smoke again and again increases, and the destructive cycle continues. Although this study focused on depression, many other types of mental illness respond to self-medication with nicotine, in much the same way.

Finding Your Path to Success

If you are a smoker suffering from depression or some other type of mental illness, the path to success can seem harsh and unforgiving, especially if you are attempting to stop smoking without changing your environment. The smell of second-hand smoke or the visual stimuli of seeing an ashtray or sitting with a friend as they light a cigarette can simply be too hard to resist.

Instead, consider a smoke-free environment during your treatment that will help you address both your nicotine dependence and mental health. By combining many types of therapies into a socially active, culturally vast treatment experience, you will be given the real life, real world tools you need to leave the crutch of nicotine behind and begin the process of dealing with your mental illness in a truly healthy and proactive manner.

Pasadena Villa Psychiatric Residential Treatment Centers creates a comforting and therapeutic environment for those suffering from mental illness. We believe in treating all residents with compassion, and our programs are designed in ways that preserve and protect their dignity. We do common activities that many families do. Our staff and residents learn and model appropriate social, communication and life skills, from daily personal hygiene habits and etiquette during mealtimes, to many fun and relaxing social and recreational activities.

Our mental health professionals work directly with residents. They observe them in actual social situations and incorporate these observations directly into the resident’s ongoing treatment plan.  This individual, real life personalized attention makes the Pasadena Villa treatment experience more appropriate and beneficial for each of our residents, especially when compared to any other available adult residential treatment mental health services.

As one of the very first programs in the country to base its treatment upon Social Integration, our mental health facilities offer help through a unique mix of individualized therapy and group residential programs with a clear focus towards achieving more independent living.

The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. Our outpatient center is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. If you or someone you know may need counseling on mental health services, please fill out our contact form or call us at 407-215-2519 for more information.



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