Quit smoking and overcome anxiety

It is a hard life being a smoker these days. The financial cost is massive, the physical health cost is literally lethal, and the social cost is pretty significant too – with colder weather on the way, the knots of smokers gathered outside pub doorways will be shivering.

However, this list of smoking-related misfortunes is incomplete; we must add to it the risk smokers run of developing or exacerbating mental health problems.

Yes, I am afraid that mental health risks are becoming recognised as a significant side effect of smoking. The NHS estimates that nearly one in three smokers have a mental health problem. Most people know that quitting cigarettes improves physical health, but fewer people realise that it will enhance their mental health too.

If you were to ask that knot of shivering smokers outside the pub door why they were running all these risks, the chances are good that you will be told something like, "Oh, I want to quit smoking but it helps me to relax." Many smokers firmly believe that cigarettes reduce their levels of stress and anxiety. But research is showing that this may not be true; smoking may not help you to relax at all.

Studies have suggested that smoking increases anxiety and feelings of tension. People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing depression or an anxiety disorder. Rather than helping a smoker to relax, cigarettes actually make you more nervous and unhappy. In fact, if you successfully quit smoking, you will experience a big improvement in your sense of well-being. Stop smoking and your mood will improve.

So why on earth would our little knot of pub-door smokers think otherwise? Why do they think smoking makes them happier?

In solution-focused hypnotherapy, we understand that the answer lies in the conflict between the intellectual and primitive/emotional parts of our minds. The primitive part of our brain gets confused. Although many smokers do not realise it, the physiological addiction to smoking is slight; it is far more a psychological need.

The primitive part of our brain notices the relatively slight physiological withdrawal symptom; it also notices that this feeling of discomfort temporarily ceases when a smoker has a cigarette. As this primitive part of our brain is not an intellect, it does not make a proper assessment of the situation; it mistakes the discomfort as a threat and the cigarette as a way of mitigating the threat. The primitive/emotional brain is the seat of the fight or flight response, it can ring alarm bells if we are in  danger. When a smoker goes without cigarettes and experiences the slight physiological discomfort, the primitive brain responds as if a threat was being ignored and causes a significant sense of psychological distress.

This is why smokers can experience a sense of anxiety, irritability or depression when they go without a cigarette. As these feelings change when they smoke, a false impression is created: the smoker wrongly believes that the cigarette has improved their mood. But the truth is that smoking may have caused the unpleasant feelings in the first place! A non-smoker would not have experienced the psychological distress at all.

According to the NHS, your levels of anxiety, depression and stress will be lower when you have stopped smoking. Once you quit cigarettes, you experience a better quality of life and your mood improves. Concentration levels improve too – an increase in the amount of oxygen in the blood enables you to think more clearly.

Hypnotherapy offers a swift and decisive way for smokers to quit. Many hypnotherapists tackle smoking-compulsion in a single two-hour session. According to the National Council For Hypnotherapy, by quitting smoking with hypnosis, a person is three times more likely to give up than if they used nicotine patches.

Hypnotherapy is not magic, but it can help you to rectify the false psychological need for smoking and deal resolutely with the smoking impulses coming from the primitive/emotional mind.

A healthier and happier life awaits you – a life of decreased stress and anxiety and improved physical health; all you need to do is stop – and hypnotherapy is available to help you do just that. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bristol BS9 & BS8
Written by Jon Creffield, online therapy available - (HPD, DSFH, DHP, MNCH (Reg.) AfSFH)
Bristol BS9 & BS8

Jon Creffield (HPD, DHP, DSFH) is a CNHC registered Solution Focused Hypnotherapist specialised in using relaxation, guided imagery and metaphor to help clients achieve life-enhancing changes. He is a member of the National Council For Hypnotherapy and the Association For Solution Focused Hypnotherapy. Jon is based in North Somerset near Bristol.

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