Fact sheet: Depression and quitting smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health.
Quitting is also likely to improve your mental well-being.
If you’ve had depression in the past, your chances of quitting successfully are about the
same as someone who hasn’t had depression. If you’re currently suffering from depression,
this can make quitting more challenging. The good news is that with the right kind of
support, you have a good chance of quitting smoking for good.
Does depression affect quitting?
Often people with a history of depression can have a tougher time letting go of smoking. For
example, you may use smoking to help control your mood. Having low moods during quitting
may lead to having less mental energy to enable you make changes to your life so you can
cope without cigarettes. Boosting your confidence in managing your mood can increase your
chance of quitting success. Involving your doctor in your plan to quit is one way to do this.
Will quitting make my depression better or worse?
Most people who quit smoking report improved mood and less depressive symptoms in the
months after quitting. However, occasionally people do suffer depression in the months
after quitting smoking. Sometimes these feelings may be related to quitting, but often
You could be more vulnerable to developing depression after quitting if:
You’ve had symptoms of depression following previous attempts to quit
You have had an increase in depressive symptoms just before quitting
You think that your own mental health is not up to quitting at the moment
You’re in the process of changing your medication
You have current or past problems with drugs and alcohol.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and ask if this is the right time for you
What can I do? Steps for success!
Understanding addiction and withdrawal
Smoking is an addiction which, in simple terms, is made up of three parts: chemical
addiction, habit and emotional or psychological addiction.
Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco. After you’ve been smoking for a while, your body
gets used to nicotine and relies on it to feel normal.
Do you have any of these signs of nicotine addiction?
You smoke your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up.
You smoke more than ten cigarettes per day.
You have cravings and withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
If you answered yes, then quitting medications may help you.
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can include low or depressed mood, difficulty sleeping and
concentrating, anxiety, and feeling frustrated, irritable, angry or restless.
It can be hard to tell the difference between withdrawal and symptoms of depression
because mood swings or depressive-like feelings are a normal part of withdrawal. These
symptoms should at least start to improve within two to four weeks, so if you don’t feel you
are getting better after this time, seek advice.
Do you smoke as part of certain routines, in certain places and or with particular people?
These situations can become triggers for craving a cigarette. For example, drinking coffee or
alcohol, after a meal, smoking with friends, while watching TV.
Do you use smoking to deal with feelings? For example, to prevent anxiety or irritability, to
cope with or suppress anger, to cope with a crisis, to concentrate, to relax after feeling
stressed, for company, to fill in time, to give yourself a lift?
Find our what triggers your desire to smoke. For one day, fill in the sheet when you smoke or
have a craving. Rate each cigarette from 1 to 5. 1 equals least important, 5 equals “I would
die without it”. This will help you learn about your smoking. The more you know, the better
you can plan for staying stopped.
DATE TIME OCCASION / ACTIVITY FEELING/MOOD RATING
e.g. 1/9 4:00pm Running late for an appointment Very rushed 3
You can download this sheet from the Quit website www.quit.org.au >> Ways to quit >>
Steps to quit >>Step 2. Make a plan >> Do this: My smoketrack
Plan ways to deal with quitting
Make an appointment with your treating doctor to discuss quitting and call the
Quitline (13 7848) to register for their callback service.
Gather more information. The Quit Pack offers many tips and ideas and can guide
you on how to choose what help you want to quit. Call the Quitline for a free copy.
Or visit the Quit website www.quit.org.au.
Plan how to handle the feelings, places and events that you know make you want to
smoke, e.g. see friends who smoke at a time or place that they are less likely to
smoke. The more coping strategies you have, the more likely you can resist the urge
Talk to your family and friends about how they can help and encourage you to quit.
Find a support person who can help you plan how to quit and get through tough
Remember each craving only lasts a few minutes. Use the 4Ds – delay smoking, deep
breathe, drink water, do something else.
If you have a cigarette it’s not the end of your quit attempt. A slip-up is a setback, not
Some medications are used by the body more quickly by smokers than by non-smokers. This
may mean that when some smokers reduce or stop smoking, their medication needs to be
reduced. If you are taking any medication it is important to talk to your doctor about it.
How to monitor and manage your mood while quitting
Build confidence to manage your mood while quitting
If you have quit before, did you develop any symptoms depression? What quitting
methods have you used before and what has helped improve your mood?
To monitor your mood, fill in a daily mood chart or keep a journal. What are the signs
your mood is changing? Who can you talk to if you need support? For more
information read beyondblue Fact Sheet 15 - Recovery.
Choose strategies that can help you quit smoking and improve your mood at the same time
Learn new ways to reduce and manage stress. Change your thinking about problems
in your life. Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing and muscle relaxation
techniques. For more details read beyondblue Fact Sheet 6 - Reducing stress and Fact
Sheet 10 – Changing your thinking.
Reward yourself for small achievements, like getting through a craving without
smoking, by putting aside time to do enjoyable things such as reading, gardening, or
listening to music. Exercise may help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For
more information read beyondblue Fact Sheet 8 - Keeping active
Stay healthy by establishing good sleeping patterns, exercising regularly, reducing
alcohol and other drugs and eating healthily. For more details read beyondblue Fact
Sheet 7 - Sleeping well, Fact Sheet 9 - Reducing alcohol and other drugs and Fact
Sheet 30 – Healthy eating for people with depression, anxiety and related disorders.
Treatment and support
Your doctor or psychiatrist. Your doctor can advise on the best time for you to quit.
They may help you choose the most suitable quitting medications (if needed). They
can evaluate your depression, advise on treatments and help you manage your mood
while you quit. Other health professionals such as a nurse, counsellor or caseworker
can also support your quit attempt.
Quitline 13 7848 (13 QUIT). The Quitline telephone service provides access to self-
help resources, advice, support, and confidential telephone counselling for people
who want to quit smoking. If you decide to use the Quitline callback counselling
service, Quitline advisors will arrange to call you before and after your quit date at
times convenient to you. The Victorian Quitline offers a specialised callback service
for people with depression, where Quitline co-ordinates care with your doctor.
Nicotine replacement products. These are the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler
and tablet. If you are addicted to nicotine, they will increase your chance of stopping
smoking. If you have strong cravings or withdrawal symptoms, you can use the
nicotine patch (now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) and 2mg gum
or the 2mg or 1.5 mg lozenge at the same time if you need to. If you smoke 15 or
more cigarette a day, using a pre-quitting patch for two weeks before your quit date
can further improve your chance of success. For those who are not ready or unable
to quit, the nicotine gum, inhaler or lozenge can be used while cutting down the
number of cigarettes you smoke over six months before you stop smoking
Prescription medications. There are currently two medications prescribed by your
doctor for stopping smoking: bupropion (brand names Zyban, Clorpax, Prexaton) and
varenicline (Champix). These medications work well for some people but are not
suitable for everyone. One prescription per year of both medications is available on
the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme. Bupropion also has anti-depressant
properties. Nortripyline (Allegron) is an anti-depressant, and it can also help reduce
cravings to smoke.
For more information, visit the Quit website www.quit.org.au and read the Stopping
Smoking information sheets.
Quitline 13 7848 (13 QUIT).
Quit website www.quit.org.au
Quit coach www.thequitcoach.org.au - an internet based resource to help smokers quit by
generating free personal advice tailored to their needs.
www.beyondblue.org.au and beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636 (local call)
Information on depression, anxiety and related substance-use disorders, available
treatments and where to get help, (referral only).
13 11 14
24 hour counselling, information and referral (local call)
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Quitting has both immediate and long-term benefits and is likely to help improve
your mood in the months following quitting.
Help is available.
With the right treatment, people can quit smoking and manage their depression well.
It’s important to seek help as part of your quit plan – the sooner the better.
My quitting plan
Fill out the spaces and tick the boxes that apply to you.
My main reason to quit is: _
I will save $ per week by quitting.
My appointment with my doctor to talk about quitting
is on: (day) (date) (month) (time)
My questions to discuss with my doctor:
Is this the right time for me to quit?
Do I need to change my mental health medication?
Which quitting medication should I use?
What are some ways to manage my mood?
I called Quit 137848 (13 QUIT).
I asked to speak with an advisor.
I asked to use the call-back service.
I asked for a free Quit Pack to be sent to me.
My planned quit day is: (day) (date) (month)
I will benefit from quitting medication and choose to use:
I’ve bought the medication and will start using it on:
(day) (date) (month) (time)
My three main triggers Strategies
Quit is calling me(or I will call Quit again) on:
(day) (date) (month) (time)
I plan to talk to my doctor again on: __
(day) (date) (month) (time)
Other coaches or support I will use (optional):
(day) (date) (month) (time)