Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder and Smoking Cigarettes
Many people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder smoke cigarettes. I should know -- I have schizoaffective disorder and I smoked for years. But I didn’t know that as many as 90% of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes (Nicotine-Tobacco-Cigarette Smoking Addiction). I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was trying to quit three years ago.
My Story of Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Smoking Cigarettes
I started smoking in high school, but my smoking didn’t really take off until I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in college. After I told my mom over the phone that people were following me -- various people from a friend’s father to Beatle George Harrison -- she came from our home in Chicago to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. She moved us to a bed and breakfast where smoking wasn’t allowed but I smoked cigarette after cigarette in the bathroom with the window wide open in the middle of December. I needed the nicotine. I was trying to finish up my semester, in the middle of a psychotic episode no less.
Later my diagnosis got changed to schizoaffective disorder, but that didn’t diminish my urge to smoke.
Cigarettes became my best friend. I would smoke when I was stressed out, bored, or when I really wanted to enjoy a moment. At my worst, I was a 2 ½ pack a day smoker. Chain smoking calmed me down when I was hearing voices. When I was having my one and only psychotic episode in Rhode Island, my voices taunted me for smoking, and they still do, even though I haven’t smoked in over three years. I guess my voices didn’t get the memo.
Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Quitting Smoking Cigarettes
One day, I coughed painfully through a really bad cold, and I was so congested. It made me realize how much I really like breathing. So, I decided to quit smoking. I used the patch to help me quit. I also sucked on lots of mentholated cherry cough drops and drank lots of Cherry Coke. After I quit I tried to cut back on sugar because people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are very susceptible to getting type 2 diabetes, a double whammy from the weight gain triggered by the antipsychotic medications most of us take. But cutting back on sugar made me crave cigarettes again, and cigarettes are a bigger threat to health.
I’m really proud of myself for having quit smoking. I feel like since I accomplished that, I can accomplish anything. But at the same time, I really miss smoking cigarettes. I miss my best friend. I also have an anxiety disorder, and cigarettes really helped with that. One of the books I read to help me quit smoking calls this “the smoker inside,” and that smoker may never go away. But it can whine away all it wants because I am never going to smoke another cigarette. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes. So every day I don’t smoke, I am beating the odds. You can too.
Photo by Elizabeth Caudy.
Caudy, E. (2015, May 19). Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder and Smoking Cigarettes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2015/05/schizophrenia-schizoaffective-disorder-and-cigarettes
Author: Elizabeth Caudy
The more awareness the better for everyone!!