Feeling depressed after stopping smoking? A stop smoking hypnotherapist explains why, and what to do about it

Some smokers and vapers who have recently quit report a foggy, depressed, listless feeling that lasts for months after they quit. But what is it really, and why does it happen?

Feeling depressed after stopping smoking? A stop smoking hypnotherapist explains why, and what to do about it

Some smokers and vapers who have recently quit report a foggy, depressed, listless feeling that lasts for months after they quit. But what is it really, and why does it happen?

I sometimes hear people who have recently quit smoking or vaping say they feel low, foggy, listless and depressed. Some expected to feel this way: they previously used nicotine to manage their moods and feel a bit lost without it. But others are surprised: they never considered themselves depressive and wonder why they suddenly feel this way.

Not every recently-quit smoker or vaper will experience this, but some might. In my work with clients as a  stop smoking hypnotherapist, I’ve observed two main reasons someone might experience this after quitting smoking or vaping.


The cumulative neurological effects of nicotine use


Nicotine is a stimulant, and like many other drugs, its prolonged use changes the way the brain functions. Some brain functions to do with stress, emotional regulation, motivation, reward and pleasure become re-organized  around the consistent intake of nicotine: the brain starts to expect it and relies on it to function normally. Once this stops, the body immediately begins to return to its natural baseline and reverse the changes. For most people, the physical withdrawal period doesn’t last long. But some people’s brains seem to experience a process of re-stabilization and re-sensitization that can last several months. This is probably a form Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), a condition some users of heavier drugs like cocaine or meth experience after they stop using – although because nicotine is a much less powerful stimulant, former users of this drug will have much milder symptoms!

anhedonia representationBasically, the brain becomes so accustomed to the constant release of certain chemicals triggered by nicotine that it stops making and secreting appropriate amounts of these chemicals (dopamine, among others) after nicotine has been withdrawn. These chemical deficiencies are what cause this depressed, foggy, anhedonic feeling.

It’s mostly seen in heavy smokers, but we can’t predict exactly who it will happen to: it is likely caused by genetic or epigenetic factors we aren’t yet able to identify.

The good news is that probably won’t be severe and will almost certainly improve over time. People with PAWS report the depressive feelings coming in waves rather than a constant experience. So if you notice a ‘wave’ coming, it’s worth remembering this, and also that smoking could potentially upset any progress your body has made to get the brain back to a healthy, natural chemical balance. A good strategy when you feel it coming on is to engage in something stimulating and enjoyable: exercise or anything fun and rewarding like a game or hobby can be helpful. Some people even recommend watching a scary film or doing an extreme sport in order to get those stress-hormones activated, but this might be overkill!


How can I speed up recovery?


The best thing you can do is live a healthy lifestyle. This means eating a balanced diet with all building blocks your body needs to produce all the chemicals it needs and taking supplements to give yourself a boost (B-vitamins in particular are important for brain health). It also means getting proper exercise and sleep. (Some people find their sleep is disturbed by this condition, but this should improve as the brain finds its natural baseline again.)

It’s also important that you’re living a life you’re genuinely happy in. If you don’t find meaning in your life and don’t have time to do things you enjoy this then you might be much more easily tempted to chemically manipulate your brain chemicals in order to feel better (or at least distracted from the bad feelings!).

healthy food

A psychological reason


Nobody is born a smoker or vaper. Smokers and vapers are created, often gradually but sometimes suddenly, after a period of smoking or vaping. During this time, nicotine convinces its user that it is helpful and adds something to their life and that they would struggle in some way without it: smokers and vapers often describe nicotine as a ‘friend that’s always been there for them’. This ‘friend’ offers them a distraction from unpleasant feelings they would not rather look at, and perhaps a false sense of comfort and pleasantness instead – I have sometimes heard smokers say they smoke in order to ‘mute’ some of the sharpness of their unpleasant feelings about themselves. In one way or another, nicotine ‘completes’ them, and they feel incomplete without it.

So unsurprisingly, as people stop using nicotine but continue to exist in the same realities, they might feel depressive, lethargic, anhedonic and foggy as they are no longer distracted and find themselves confronted with their full, un-filtered feelings. These feelings might actually be depressive ones, or the recently-quit smoker or vaper might feel depressed as a result of having unpleasant feelings or thoughts about themselves but not being adequately resourced to handle this.

In order to feel complete without nicotine, there must necessarily be an inquiry in to why being a smoker or vaper was able to make them feel complete in the first place. The answers to these questions might involve digging up the past and working through it, or working out ways a person can expand more fully in to their potential so they can feel more fulfilled and happy and stay motivated to continue to feel that way.

The depressive feeling, brain fog and anhedonia can then be healed, or at the very least managed, in order to create a spacious, happy life without nicotine, and this is exactly what I help people with as a stop smoking hypnotherapist.

resolving psychological issues

Resolving difficult feelings with the support of a stop smoking hypnotherapist


I work with you until you feel you have resolved any blocks that hold you back from feeling complete as a non-smoker or vaper. Once you feel complete, nicotine loses its hold over you and you are able to live happily, healthily and freely for the rest of your life.

I work with clients in Central London, or in Camden, North London or online (see some reviews they’ve left me here). If you’d like to work with me then you can book a discovery call which gives me a chance to get to know you and ask you questions, and if we are a good fit to work together then we can book the start of your process at the end of the call.

Share this article: