Does Vaping Help With Anxiety?
You might’ve heard that vaping nicotine can relieve stress, but you’ve also heard that it can make anxiety worse. So, does vaping help with anxiety? Let’s dive in!
You’re probably already familiar with anxiety—that intense, persistent knot in your chest that won’t go away. Anxiety is a mental health condition marked by intense, persistent feelings of worry, fear, or tension. When these feelings escalate to overwhelming levels, they can interfere with a person’s daily life.
Symptoms can vary widely, from restlessness and rapid heartbeat to rapid breathing, excessive sweating, and difficulties in concentration.
But does vaping help with anxiety? It depends on who you ask. Your cousin might insist that he needs to keep his Lost Mary vape close to fend off the existential dread, but you might’ve also heard that vapes can make your anxiety worse.
Let’s explore the ways in which vaping—and nicotine in particular—can impact your anxiety symptoms.
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional with any concerns.
Is Vaping Good for Anxiety?
Vaping is increasingly being explored as a potential tool for stress relief. The main ingredient in many E-Liquids and disposable vapes is nicotine: a stimulant known for its intricate relationship with anxiety. But does vaping help with anxiety?
For some, vaping can help ease stress and regulate their mood. But for others, the physiological effect of nicotine—not unlike caffeine, another stimulant—can make anxiety symptoms worse.
The Effects of Nicotine on Anxiety
Nicotine’s impact on anxiety is complex. Initially, nicotine can induce a calming effect. However, nicotine use can also exacerbate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Let’s consider the physiological origins of anxiety. Anxiety originates in a part of your brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response you may have heard of. This part of your brain processes perceived threats and stimuli which cause you fear.
When you experience anxiety, this part of your brain signals to the logical part of your brain—the prefrontal cortex—that it’s time for the panic system to take over.
This is a mechanism that we—and a number of other species—have evolved to protect ourselves from predators: an emergency broadcast system designed to override logic. But our incredible human capacity for reason causes issues with how we perceive threats, which can lead to persistent feelings of worry or dread.
You may be familiar with how anxiety affects you physically: a racing heartbeat, a tightness in your throat, dizziness, rapid breathing, and nausea. These are all emergency signals from your brain telling you to pay attention to a perceived threat, however mundane or even imagined this threat may be. This is where chronic anxiety comes in.
In people with chronic anxiety, these emergency signals are in constant overdrive, which can lead to frequent symptoms of panic or worry that seem uncontrollable. In addition, these feelings are usually accompanied by the aforementioned physical symptoms.
It has long been understood by medical and mental health professionals alike that stimulants—a class of substances, including caffeine and nicotine, which promote wakefulness and attention—can exacerbate feelings of anxiety in some people.
This is because they can make the physical symptoms worse, like restlessness and increased heart rate. Stimulants essentially give the “fight or flight” part of your brain even more juice to thrive on, which is why many anxiety sufferers are encouraged to limit their caffeine intake, for example.
The Risks of Vaping for Anxiety
Vaping is considered a much healthier alternative to cigarette smoking. And if you smoke, you will absolutely benefit from making the switch to vaping by cutting out the numerous harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke. Still, it’s crucial to consider its potential impacts on your mental health.
While nicotine is currently being trialled as a therapeutic substance for some health conditions, its effects on anxiety are less promising. An evidence review conducted by Public Health England found that people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders experience more severe symptoms of their mental health conditions when they smoke.
The review notes that the evidence was linked specifically to cigarette smoke and not to nicotine itself. Research on vaping and anxiety is scarce.
Understanding the Relationship Between Anxiety & Nicotine
Vaping and anxiety have a complex and cyclical relationship.
Some individuals may initially find relief in nicotine’s calming effects, but this relief may become less effective over time, potentially leading to increased anxiety symptoms and dependence. This, coupled with the physiological effects of both nicotine and anxiety, can make for an uncomfortable pair.
How Does Nicotine Relieve Stress?
Nicotine can momentarily alleviate stress by stimulating the release of specific neurotransmitters which promote feelings of relaxation and pleasure.
However, the potential impacts of continuous nicotine use, such as an increased risk of worsening anxiety symptoms, warrant careful consideration.
Does Nicotine Have Long-Term Benefits or Damaging Side Effects?
While nicotine might offer some short-term benefits, like temporary stress relief, its long-term effects pose concerns for those who are prone to the physiological effects of stimulants, including those with anxiety.
If you suffer from chronic anxiety and notice that your symptoms are worse while vaping, you may want to consider lowering your nicotine dosage to see if it helps.
It’s important to note that for the average healthy adult, nicotine is not known to pose any long-term risks to health. This only changes if you have preexisting health conditions like anxiety.
Pros & Cons of Vaping for Anxiety Symptoms
Potential Short-Term Benefits of Vaping for Stress Relief
While vaping can offer short-term relief from stress, it is not an ideal long-term solution for managing mental health issues. The temporary mental relief and stress reduction provided by vaping may seem beneficial, but it’s critical to understand the potential consequences in the long run.
If you’re experiencing long-term symptoms of anxiety, self-medicating with nicotine won’t solve the problem. You should consult with a healthcare professional who can point you in the right direction for treatment of your underlying problem.
Potential Negative Impact on Chronic Anxiety
The effects of nicotine on the body are typically short-lived (taking less than 2 hours to leave your system), and nicotine is safe for most adults when used on its own—as in, without the hundreds of other chemicals present in cigarette smoke.
But nicotine can exacerbate existing anxiety problems, much like any other stimulant can. This is because it can increase your heart rate and make you feel more restless.
So, does vaping help with anxiety? Probably not—especially if there’s nicotine involved. Does vaping help with stress? Perhaps. This will depend on the individual and whether they’re predisposed to anxiety symptoms.
Understanding the relationship between anxiety and nicotine use is a crucial consideration for those exploring vaping as a tool for managing anxiety. While vaping can offer temporary stress relief, the potential physiological effects of nicotine and other stimulants, like caffeine, should not be underestimated.
However, it’s also important to note that the effects of vaping can vary widely from person to person. While some might find temporary relief from anxiety through vaping, others may experience worsened anxiety symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial for individuals to make informed decisions when they consider how to manage their anxiety symptoms.