Three types of addiction

Many smokers who attempt to stop often have less of a problem with the physical cravings for nicotine than they do with the habitual and psychological addictions attached to smoking.

There are three types of addiction:

  1. Physical addiction – this is our physical addiction to nicotine, most smokers (and stop smoking aids, gum, patches) only focus on the withdrawal aspects of smoking.
  2. Habitual addiction – “automatic smoking”, think of a bowl of peanuts in front of you, the only reason you eat these are because they are there, not because you’re hungry.
  3. Psychological addiction – emotional smoking; both for pleasure and distress.

You may experience one or a combination of these as a smoker. Many smokers who want to stop have grown tired of cigarettes controlling their lives. They want to be free from smoking and improve their quality of life. Deciding to stop is a brave first step in breaking free from an addiction.

However, the difficulty in stopping smoking for good comes from battling the psychological side of the addiction. Smoking is as much a physical addiction and a strong habit as it is an emotional crutch.

Physical addiction

Nicotine is recognised as a psychoactive drug that both stimulates and sedates the brain by releasing dopamine when it shouldn’t. Dopamine is a our “happy” chemical and any artificial release of it can change our mood drastically. This is why the process of stopping means that people experience a negative change of mood as their brains chemicals begin to stabilise.

Did you know that the effects of nicotine on the brain can wear off anytime between half an hour to two hours? This is why we reach for the next cigarette, to recreate the “high” we get from short-term nicotine. Effectively, every cigarette creates the need for the next one.

Two hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate have returned to normal. However, nicotine is highly addictive and because it’s short-acting, physical withdrawal and craving sets in quickly. The effects of withdrawal happen as the nicotine leaves your body. Those who are physically addicted will exhibit symptoms that include:

  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Drowsiness or disrupted sleep patterns
  • Increased appetite
Habitual addiction

This can be translated to “automatic smoking.”

Often you may find yourself smoking because your cigarettes are with you; in the car, on your desk or on the coffee table. You have no physical craving, no emotional trigger and yet you are smoking one cigarette after the other without even realising it.

Psychological addiction

The psychology of our smoking addiction already starts when we look back at why we started smoking in the first place. These include:

  • Peer pressure, even as adults we smoke because those around us still smoke, we even use this as an excuse not to stop, my spouse smokes so I can’t stop? Remember what your parents used to say, if Johnny jumps in the fire ….
  • Mimicking the behaviour of our elders
  • Convinced by media and advertising
  • Coping strategy when dealing with stressful situations
  • Rewarding ourselves with a cigarette after exercise or hard day at work

Once you start smoking, both the physical, habitual, and psychological addiction patterns work together perfectly.

Many believe that smoking helps them to cope with stress and anxiety. The physical evidence proves that smoking actually increases these negative emotions. The dopamine produced by smoking provides only a temporary high, which then makes way for even stronger cravings and increased tension, depression and stress.

Many of the reasons why we find it difficult to stop smoking are psychological. These include associating smoking with pleasure; for example enjoying a cigarette after a meal or unwinding with a cigarette over drinks with friends. Most importantly, we feel like we’re not strong enough or capable enough to stop.

Smokers who have stopped smoking successfully often start smoking again due to psychological distress e.g. relationship problems, anger, frustration with life and even pure spite.

Are you an emotional smoker?

  • You smoke to deal with emotions e.g. you smoke when angry, upset or even bored
  • You can’t stop even with the use of nicotine gum or patches
  • You smoke from environmental triggers e.g. seeing other people smoke
  • Withdrawal symptoms include often depression and anxiety

What to do next

The biggest step you can take is to admit you’re more than physically addicted to smoking, while the next step is what approach to take. Many of us don’t know where to begin which is where Smokenders comes in.

Smokenders has more than 40 years experience as an organisation that helps smokers overcome their physical and psychological addictions. You, too, can experience a life free from smoking. At Smokenders, we can teach you how to stop smoking and truly stay “stopped,” so that you can lead a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Contact us today.