10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Quitting Smoking

Fighting an addiction can be a long and difficult battle. For a very long time, smoking cigarettes was considered normal. It was often even considered “cool” to be a smoker. However, the harsh reality is smoking cigarettes is a physically harmful and sometimes deadly addiction. There are also many negative mental side effects to smoking. 

While the nicotine inside cigarettes is what keeps people coming back for another puff, you would think that the long list of risks would make it easier to quit the act. Unfortunately, as with all addictions, it is not that simple. Let’s learn more about the psychological aspects at play. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of quitting smoking…

Smoking cigarettes is a psychological addiction.

We all know that cigarettes are addictive but why is this? Cigarettes contain nicotine, an extremely addictive chemical compound found in tobacco plants. Much like other addictive drugs, nicotine floods the brain with a chemical called dopamine. This chemical acts as the brain’s reward circuit and creates a subtle adrenaline rush that increases blood pressure and speeds up the heart rate. This is essentially what keeps smokers constantly coming back. 

Smoking cigarettes is also a physical addiction.

Over time, an addiction to cigarettes becomes physical as well. The nicotine keeping people with a constant supply of dopamine in their brain transitions from an emotional addiction to also a physical addiction. When someone becomes physically dependent on nicotine, the addiction takes on a whole new life. They begin to crave the chemical in a more intense way. They, along with the people around them, will notice a difference in their body language and physical need for cigarettes. 

There are many psychological benefits to quitting smoking.

While an addiction can give someone the impression that they are mentally satisfied, it is actually holding them back. When someone quits smoking they will experience a long list of psychological benefits. These often include:

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Fewer symptoms related to depression
  • More frequent positive emotions
  • Better quality of life
  • Feeling healthier and happier all around

Quitting smoking can change someone’s personality.

Research has proven that quitting smoking can actually change someone’s personality. When someone’s life is no longer controlled by their addiction, in this case an addiction to cigarettes, life can start to feel very different. They will likely see positive changes and improvements in their personality that they didn’t even know were missing. This is especially evident for their family, friends, and romantic partners. 

Quitting smoking can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Regardless of how long someone has been smoking for, quitting will always be a battle. Any addiction, but especially one to nicotine, can be mentally and physically exhausting. Experts believe that there are three key reasons as to why this is. They are as follows:

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  1. Withdrawing from nicotine can have serious physical withdrawal symptoms that require strength and commitment to get through. 
  1. Smoking is a habit that is deeply intertwined with daily activities and a social circle. The psychosocial-behavioral aspects of smoking can be hard to let go of.
  2. There is often a genetic contribution to a smoking addiction.

There are temporary mental side effects that come with quitting.

Smoking is a psychological addiction which may mean that there are psychological side effects that arise when someone decides to quit. These common symptoms can include:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia 

These can be hard to manage and get through but research has proven that they are only temporary. Many people who have successfully quit smoking noticed that the withdrawal symptoms began to lessen and then stop all together after two to four weeks. 

There are many psychological tricks to being successful at quitting.

While overcoming an addiction such as smoking can be difficult, it is 100% do-able. It is also very rewarding. Experts believe that there are many tricks that one can do to make quitting not only easier, but also make it last. Stop smoking aids such as nicotine gum, patches, or vaporizers can be helpful but there are also strictly psychological tricks. These include:

  • Listing your reasons for quitting
  • Telling the people you love that you are quitting
  • Having a plan in case you are tempted
  • Listing your triggers and knowing how to avoid them
  • Keeping busy to avoid cravings
  • Exercising to keep your brain producing dopamine

There is therapy for help with quitting smoking. 

Therapists and counselors can help smokers quit their addiction. Because these highly informed professionals are well versed in behavior modification, it makes them the perfect people to talk to when in need of help and tools for quitting smoking. Effective therapy based treatments for quitting smoking may include:

  • motivational interviewing
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • acceptance and commitment therapy
  • medication for nicotine replacement therapy, and much more.

People often have to quit more than once.

Over the years, research and studies have shown that tobacco/nicotine dependence is a serious condition and it can be quit difficult to overcome. This may be because of it’s intense mental effects, societal popularity, genetic dispositions, and so on. When quitting smoking, many people have to try more than once in order for it to stick. A study from DrugFree.Org actually claims that “smokers may try quitting an average of 30 times before they succeed.”

However, smokers can do it and they can succeed. Each year the number of current smokers in the United States drastically decreases. 

The desire for cigarettes often goes away after awhile.

When someone quits smoking, the psychological burdens associated with quitting can feel very strong and heavy. Many people may wonder if they will miss smoking for the rest of their lives. However, studies have shown that this deep craving for cigarette does begin to lessen over time. When someone has the right mindset about why they chose to quit and they feel strong enough to continue to fight their urges, their feelings and cravings will dwindle down over time.