Anger and Quitting Smoking

Grieving and Withdrawal

The stages of grief and loss can be somewhat similar to the stages of quitting smoking. It is extremely common to become angry or even enraged, or to experience intense bursts of anger when you are quitting smoking. When you experience triggers, such as highly stressful situations or experiences in their daily lives, you may become intensely frustrated. This is not the same as typical frustration; anger felt during the quitting process is often extremely intense. This may seem totally out of character for you. It may also lead to inner conflict, and you may have difficulty understanding exactly why you are so angry.

This can be extremely difficult for the people around you. Friends, family members, and partners may find it extremely difficult to deal with you and your angry outbursts. It can be a major annoyance for those around you, but there are ways to deal with it successfully.

The Process

Generally, one of two situations occurs when a smoker who is in the quitting process experiences a frustrating moment. Either the smoker will need to resolve the conflict before he or she can relax, or enough time will have to pass that the frustration itself is allowed to dissipate. If you are quitting, you may be unable to rationalize your anger in the same ways that you normally would. You may face the exact same situations that the average person experiences, only to become intensely angry as a result. It can be difficult for smokers to recognize this shift in coping ability. It is this shift that can cause people to feel like smoking is a benefit, rather than a hindrance, to their anger.

Stress, Withdrawal, and Urine Acidity

Stress has many effects on the human body. One of the most common effects is that it tends to acidify urine. This is a normal process, and also happens in non-smokers, but the after-effects are different in people who smoke. When there is nicotine within the human body, and stressful situations occur, urine acidifiers and pulls nicotine from the body, into the bladder itself.

Because of this process, the brain suddenly realizes that it is low on nicotine. This results in an instant withdrawal situation, and nicotine cravings. This leads to even further stress, and emotional upheaval. It also adds to the effects of the withdrawal itself. This ends up causing a vicious cycle of smoking, being in withdrawal, becoming angry, and smoking again.

Solving the Cycle

While most people could get around this by resolving the conflict itself, this is more difficult in those who are experiencing nicotine withdrawal. Even if the problem that caused the stressful situation is fixed, the smoker is likely to still feel anger. It is here that only the addition of more nicotine to the body will resolve the feelings of anger.

Alternatively, the smoker can remain free of nicotine for at least 72 hours. This will completely eliminate nicotine from the body and bloodstream through urine, feces, and sweat. Instead of sitting in the body as nicotine, it is metabolized into other chemicals that, while still somewhat harmful, won’t cause nicotine withdrawal. Smoking another cigarette is actually counter-intuitive because of the cycle it induces. But the calming ability of each cigarette lasts for only a few seconds to a few minutes. 20 to 30 minutes later, the user needs to smoke again in order to stay calm. Repeating this cycle for the rest of a smoker’s life means the smoker is causing harm to themselves just to maintain the cycle itself.

Why it’s Problematic

An additional problem occurs because the smoker feels as if the smoking was justified. The brain begins to tell the smoker that smoking assisted him with calming himself, and is necessary in order for the smoker to remain calm at all. This is a false trick the brain plays within many addictions, both to cigarettes and otherwise. This is also known as an unhealthy coping skill. While it may help for the moment, it is better for the person who is quitting to learn to deal with intense emotions, sadness, depression, and/or anger without using substances to calm those feelings. It also inhibits the potential for personal growth.

Real-Life Examples

As an example, consider if you were living with someone who constantly leaves flicks of toothpaste on the mirror. Staying calm, pointing it out, and sharing why you feel strongly about it will usually be enough to convince the person to be more careful when brushing their teeth. This is how relationships work; clear communication is the way to solve these issues. If you are a smoker who is in the quitting process, this very minor issue will likely seem like a much bigger deal to you than it otherwise would. You become upset because it is the 8th time this has occurred in the last month. This stress leads to nicotine being pulled out of the body, which triggers an instant withdrawal situation. You choose to have a cigarette, which leads to feeling a little bit better. This allows you to get some space from the situation, and begin to rationalize it again. You let it go, because you assume that the issue is resolved. However, the issue hasn’t been resolved at all; you’ve just distracted yourself from dealing with the actual problem by smoking.

You may even quit smoking, only to find that the same situation occurs years later, and it triggers you in the same way that it originally did. Instead of being angry but letting it go, you explode. This is because the original issue was never resolved, and thus, you are releasing years of anger at the same scenario. While you will probably feel ridiculous for your anger, it is only to be expected. You may even start to question whether or not you are having emotional difficulties, based on your reaction. If you had just dealt with the situation when it first occurred, you wouldn’t be so angry now. Think of the years of mild annoyances stacking on top of one another; eventually, the tower is going to fall over.

How Smoking Holds You Back

Smoking stops you from really digging into issues; it distracts you from dealing with your feelings or emotions, and this itself can be addictive. It’s far easier to distract from feelings than it is to deal with them on the spot, although it is much healthier to address the issues rather than distract yourself from them.

The best way to prevent this from ever occurring is to stop smoking, and begin addressing your problems one at a time. By learning these conflict resolution skills and communication styles now, you can prevent further issues from occurring in the future. In turn, this will help to ensure that you never pick up a cigarette again.


  1. I just don’t think this is an answer to anger and withdrawal; your answer is more intense? Anger is intense. We all have anger. I live across the street from drug dealers and the police do not care. The teenager who sells daddy’s pot and coke all summer, lives right across the street, throws fireworks all night, no one gets a good night’s sleep around here and our pets are upset. There is nothing any of us can do. We are angry as a neighborhood. To say anger will be more intense during withdrawal is absurd. What about someone delinating coping skills. Always, authors say, seek out coping skills and everything will be okay. Why not include in your articles some perspectives and put the withdrawal on a secondary level. That is to say, they should not intertwine but anger could push you to smoke as that has been the coping mechanism you could only find in Life. Teach not preach, what are coping mechanisms for anger? Very disappointed your article was DIY…just find a different coping mechanism. Print what are coping mechanisms to use instead of cigarettes? Get specific. Put withdrawal where it belongs, it is a physical discomfort that will pass and how the brain will be retrained not to consider smoking after a week, weeks, or month. Also, why not explain what the brain goes through adjusting to hard-wired change of behavior and the chemical changes. Just DIY everywhere you go on the net to read about how-to quit. To reiterate, I am very disappointed in your article.

    • Cece… awesome honesty.. But I must say its obvious youre not a smoker .. so you statement is from an ignorant perspective.. or if you are or were .. u never tried stopping… look for a psychology blog and comment there

  2. thank you for your article,,
    i am now 52 days smoke free ,, and i had smoked for 50 years.. So this is a big deal. Yet i am being triggered by small things others do or say.. big outbursts,, lots of apologies then loathing self.. Is this the real me… I thought i was generally a happy gregarious person,, yet i am discontented and not very nice or kind in my outburst. usually every few days, an outburst. It is like fried circuits,, that blow.
    I am using the nicotene patch 14 ml.. and am wondering if this is contributing to my outbursts of temper.. Any more you have gleaned on the issue of anger and quitting smoking,, i would very much appreciate hearing from you,, i have given my email,, yet will continue to check in to see if you are still using or monitoring this site, tks kate

  3. Great article especially for someone who had an addiction. And actually feels this way currently. Thank u for writing this is helps me think I’m not crazy.

  4. I’m experiencing aggressive and sudden mood swings coupled with insomnia. My entire body tenses up and I growl out loud, clenching my fists and saying “I hate you!” Referring to myself. I’m not sure why. It is like a demonic possession. I just said all sorts of mean things via text to the girl I’ve been seeing and made her utterly confused and sad. I thought I was being funny, but then suddenly realized I was being merciless. “Worst valentine’s ever.” “It’s all your fault” “Maybe next time you’ll respond to my texts” When I realized I was hurting her, I had an apologetic mood swing. “I’m sorry, I’m embarrassed, I’m an idiot.” Self deprecating. Then she didn’t respond, and I had another violent convulsion of self hatred. Ouch. I feel really disassociated from this uncharacteristic anger, but then again I always used to smoke to cope with its genesis.

    • My fellow quitter(s),

      From knowing who I am and observations of other smokers…gosh we are incredibly hard on ourselves. It’s like certain personalities are more prone to addiction and some of these personalities are just not kind to themselves. The example which was given in this article about the toothpaste splatters…I lost my sanity at my house mate about the same thing on my third day of quit smoking. Lucky my house mate is a fairly decent person. It was an epic rant about how for three years I had been cleaning his shit of the bathroom mirror. Too funny. It’s been one week now and yeh I am so angry. I beat my wooden kitchen bench with a wooden spoon whilst cooking…yep definitely feeling crazzyyyy


  5. I haven’t smoked in over 40 days. I have no patience and get angry over little things that never bothered me before. So, I quest my guess is …. when does it stop. I think I need professional help!

  6. I’m coming up to my 3rd month of non smoking and from time to time I hate how empty and lost I feel. .I really can’t explain how I feel…very sad and down..I have no get up and go..hope it doesn’t last to much longer. .

    • Finally a comment I can relate to. I smoked for 40 years and in February I quit old turkey. I have been riding an emotional roller coaster that has brought on extreme anger.shakes.sometime lasting hours…said terrible things to my wife…but i refuse to allow the addictive cycle to continue…i dont think i could go through what i have again..there really is a feeling of being totally alone in this and that nobody could possibly understand what i am going through…been told that i am being over dramatic and that it has to end which just makes me more angry…this is definitely the hardest thing that i have ever done in my life and wish that i had someone to just empty my guts to…even writing this seems to help a bit..not sure of anything…fear of being in public gatherings.i could go on and on.m

    • Oh man, I am sorry for you but glad I am not the only one who is feeling this way…I’m 2 months in and am feeling like “really, if I’m going to feel like crap, maybe I should just smoke”. I have refrained but I am so angry and hateful about the whole thing and I WANTED to quit smoking it wasn’t like someone forced me. Agree, hope it doesn’t last much longer! Good Luck to you.

      • I am right there with you Branddi. I made this decision and was great at first, now 2 months in to it I am losing my mind. How is it possible that this is getting worse? Shouldn’t it be get easier with time? My anger is out of control and I am on the verge of throwing in the towel.

    • I know this might sound strange but have you had you thyroid checked? this can cause similar problems that might be confused with stopping smoking. just a thought as it seems a common problem these days

      It can give feelings of tirdness or cause a lack of motivation etc how are you feeling now?

    • Hope you are still smoke fee.. this shit is hard. Day 22 and I am a felling just like you explained.
      Thanks for sharing your experience. It has really helped me.

  7. Smoking has been truly bad for me. I picked up a cigarette at 32 yrs. old, all because I was going through a stressful event at the time. I was given a Newport 100 cigarette to smoke. I at first thought, how bad could this be??? The so called friend at the time told me,”This will get rid of your STRESS.” So, I took a puff and choked and coughed and felt like throwing up. I had a headache and nicotine high headache I should say. However, after that I pretended to inhale, until a another so called friend caught on to what I was doing with the cigarette. Then, I was the student learning for the first time how to actually smoke a cigarette and inhale it and blow out the smoke. This morning, I woke up and decided I have had enough of smoking cigarettes. The cravings, the smell on my hands, face, hair, clothing and feeling like crap, and needing a cigarette every 5 to 10 mins. (A chain smoker). Enough already, I keep telling myself. So, today I go to a smoking cessation class at 2:00 p.m. Wish me luck… I know I can do this!!! Thanks!

  8. I always becomes angry at myself if I try to stop smoking I even get mad at my partner for no good reason so I really need help

  9. I thought this was really helpful, I’m researching for my partner.
    I used to smoke full time and then got pregnant, was enough to make me quit so I can appreciate how hard it is for someone quitting without the guilt literally living inside.

    I’m unsure about the first comment listed, I think this article is useful. Perhaps they just skipped anger management class ?
    Thank you all for great advice.

  10. Hi guys, it was really nice to have found this site. More than the article itself what helped me the most was the real life comments of real people who are going through the changes in wake of their quit. I have been into the second week of my quit now. Did try to quit several times before but relapsed all of the times mostly for the REASON that my reason to quit was not strong enough. This time around THOU it is. I quit mostly for cosmetic reasons. I used to look like a completely different person before taking up on this habit. I smoked for almost 4 years. In the same period as i mentioned before that i tried to quit many times by reverting to nicotine patches, chewing tobacco, khainis and naswar, every time to see myself going back to my old ways. Cigarettes and every other nicotine containing product took a great toll on how i looked from the outside and how i felt from the inside. Anyhow it was by far the most stupidest thing i ever did for which i will never forgive myself. I know there is no reason to be grumpy about this to your ownself but literally i hate for gettin myself into this rabbit hole. This time around my disgust factor is strong. Which in turn has helped me in keeping myself away from cigarettes and ALL of its auxiliaries. I recently got out of a crappy relationship as well. So this time around i decided to gift myself for getting out of that nasty business by committing to quit smoking forever. I treated severe mood swings with the same resilience which i ensued while getting out of that GROTESQUE relationship with my aX. Everytime the urges press me i remind myself of the transience of my fleeting emotions. At the end of the day what you guys have to remind yourself of is the fact that you are doing this for yourself and the people around you. Not just to add more years to your life but to add more life to your years aswell. Yes i am cranky, yes i am depressed but at the same time i have never felt this better either. My child like sense of wonder has returned. I am smelling things which i thought i would never smell again, i am breathing freely, i have started to look and feel better again. Although i am still in the the second week of my resolution, but God, it only makes me feel more optimistic about the yeields i am going to reap off of it in the coming times. At last remember guys your WILL should be stronger than any fleeting passing emotions which are nothing but biochemical changes in your brain circuitry. On the other hand your will and determination are what make you who you truly are. They ought to be stronger than the transitory urges and a few emotional hiccups. Almost every other comment here entails the details of the miseries we all are facing which surely should make us feel like we all are in the same boat (assimilate so to speak) but at the same time it should also make us feel like we are not like the rest of the folks. We are better than the average riff-raff, that we will pass through these feelings NOT by these feelings better and much quicker than the rest of the folks. That our reason to live our life to its full potential is mightier than to live a life full of servitude to a pathetic little addiction.
    I Also have this HUMP rule which states that in order to kick any addiction to the kurb you need to get over the hump period. Unfortunately before this period its all an uphill climb. But you never know how close you are in passing over that hump. So everytime you find your self tad bit closer to picking up a ciggy again remind yourself of the hump which might just be around the corner, your this time denial to your urge perhaps.
    Good luck ?.

  11. Yup quitting first day. Not going back to smoking. Feeling angry and frustrated but I know it will pass. I have quit at least 5 times in 20 years. This time for good. I found this article very helpful. I just was looking to see that I wasn’t alone. We can do this.

  12. Hi everyone. I’m on Day 11 of not smoking, and it has been so tough…there are waves of anger that hit me at inoportune times, and it makes me feel like the craziest person…the good news is that I know that if we can just get through the cravings and waves of intense irrational moments, it’s not too bad… I’ve tried to quit dozens of times over the past 12-15 years, and have always gone back to it… I know I want this… I know it’s the smart, healthy choice, and that I need to be an amazing example for my kids… But oh my gosh, today I had a crazy freak out over nothing, and felt like the worst mom, sister and wife in the world… Here’s hoping I can get through this anger, and become a better, healthier person…hang in there everyone… We can do this… And we have to learn to cope without smoking… Good luck to you all… And remember, “Not one puff, Not ever”

    • Hello thank you for writing this. I’m on day 3 and I’m sure this is my final time. I feel exactly how you explained. Not picking up 1 more again. 1 will put us all back to full time smoking and that 1 after quitting truly taste like crap anyways. Here’s to not stinking and letting smoking dictate us. I always remember that when you are a smoker you pheen them all day a lot worse than when ya quit. So what’s the point in ever smoking.

  13. I am in the same boat as man of you are. I am extremely pissed off some of the time and have no idea where the anger is coming from. I don’t remember half of what I am saying when I have diarrhea of the mouth and often find myself apologizing for whatever it was that I may have said. I was a very calm and collected individual before I quit smoking, but now I feel like a crazed lunatic most of the time. I quit on July 18, 2016 and the only thing I want lately is some nicotine to help me get over this pissed off phase.

  14. I am on a day 0, of this month every day of quitting smoke. The longest that I’ve been smoke free for 2 weeks, when I started feel better, and almost believed that I quit. Until, the next day I had an argument where i went really angry for no reason with my husband that trigger me go outside and have just 1 cigarette. Since that day I cannot stay away from smoke completely, because every evening I must to have one cigarette, and there is no way for me to avoid it. I tried to through in a trash a pack and lighter, but next evening i would go and buy another pack of smoke. Please someone advise me how to stop smoke the one stupid cigarette by the end of a day, because all day i am going just fine without smoke. I started hate myself for being so wick and not knowing how to say don’t smoke to myself every evening.

    • I’ve been there too. Give yourself major credit for not turning the 1 into 2 or more. You just have to make your mind up that you dislike it more than enjoy it I would say. That’s what got me to quit. Best of luck.

  15. I was a pack a day smoker for 50 years. I have tried to quit on many occasions, with no real success. the reason being is my mental attitude to quitting and my anger/attitude. This time my need to quit is many fold. First off I was informed back in November 2016 that I had lung cancer. I had my operation to have the cancer removed from my upper left lobe on my left lung. in December. They did a triangular resection and removed the cancer. The surgeon told me that he is 95% certain that he got it all. I really won’t know for another 2 years if I am truly cancer free. I haven’t had a cigarette since then. I am on the Nicoderm patches. I have was on step 1 for about a month. I am on step 2 at this time along with the occasional piece of thrive gum along with chewing gum. The other reason I had to quit is my lung capacity is diminished.. I am still having some pain when I breathe, but I am managing my way through it. The other reason is I want to be around for many more years for my wife and children and grand children.

    When I start to get the hateful feelings and the anger starts to rear its ugly head I take a piece of nicotine gum. It does help. But I have noticed and my wife will attest to this, I will be minding my own business when we are out and about I sometimes get the uncontrollable urge to lash out either verbally or physically. Sometimes it is because someone is looking at me the wrong way or is trying to provoke a response by an action or verbal attack. It is getting to the point that I don’t want to go out. When I try to talk to my doctor or the addiction counsellors they really don’t get it. Most of the time the response is get over it and move on. So my reaction is to get angry and leave. So tell me, what am I supposed to do?

  16. I quit cold turkey 7yrs ago..
    I did not waste my time sitting and judging how I felt how I’m going to manage the next minute next hour next day without cigarettes. I got myself occupied kept busy took several showers brushed my teeth more than thrice did anything to keep from thinking about a cigarette.
    Believe me it’s the best thing achieved – quitting. Never go back.

  17. Thanks for all the comments. I am on my 13th day of not smoking. I stopped approx 7 years ago for 3 years, went through a terrible time and started smoking again. At this present moment I am really struggling with intense anger outbursts. All day having negative thoughts and feelings towards friends, family and co workers. Been drinking a couple glasses of wine and eating chocolate for fun. OMG when will I feel normal again?

  18. Currently trying to quit smoking and am on day 3. Holy hell the anger issue is not good. I snapped at the grocery store cashier over nothing and wanted to smash her receipt machine against the computer. I’m always a mellow Person but lordy the rage is Terrible

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