Why Quitting Is Difficult & The Options
Quitting smoking is difficult. Cravings for nicotine are a major factor, as well as social pressures. Thankfully however, there are several methods to help. There is of course nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which helps with withdrawal symptoms by providing doses of nicotine in other forms.
And then there is talk therapy, which can offer additional support. Research has shown that a single session with a therapist can help people stop smoking. More sessions increase the chances of long-term success.
How Smoking Harms Mental Health & Makes Quitting Difficult
When individuals are depressed, they may use smoking to ‘self-medicate’. The reward centre of the brain produces dopamine, a ‘feel good’ hormone. People who are depressed tend to have lower levels of this hormone, and nicotine stimulates its release in the brain.
BUT – there is always a but – nicotine prevents the brain’s production of dopamine. This leads to a lower dopamine supply, and increases nicotine dependence. This creates a vicious cycle.
Aside from depression, sometimes smoking is a vice for dealing with anxiety, and even schizophrenia. In fact, people who experience schizophrenia are three times more likely to smoke than the general population. It is thought that this is an attempt to cope with the illness and its medication side-effects.
The research however shows that the initial relaxation induced from smoking is short-term, with withdrawal and cravings soon following. Thus, the relief experienced is due to the craving being satisfied, and does not address or reduce tension or anxiety.
Risks Of Smoking
Alarmingly, although further research is needed, smoking is also thought to increase the risks of developing schizophrenia. It also maintains depression and anxiety due to its stimulant properties.
Smoking also increases the risk of physical health issues. These issues include heart and lung disease, stroke, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), eye diseases, tuberculosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, smoking harms the immune system.
What Can Psychotherapy Do?
Therapy can help individuals understand their reasons for smoking, for example anxiety can trigger the need to light up. Identifying why a mental health problem exists can help people explore and address the issues that cause it. This can eliminate the need for short-term coping methods.
Therapy helps identify causes and coping strategies for addiction. It enables individuals to take control of their addiction when in stressful situations. In short, therapy can identify triggers and teach different response options.
What Might Therapy Look Like?
A useful approach for smoking cessation is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT assists in changing our thinking. It identifies our negative thought patterns and helps us to understand them. This can lead to new ways of looking at situations, which can help manage stress, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.
And although mental ill-health can make quitting difficult, there is a lot of support available for those who wish to make this important change. So, if you’re considering quitting, why not make that change today?
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