Tobacco, Anxiety And Stress

The article discusses the erroneous beliefs of some smokers who say that tobacco relaxes them, their difficulty in quitting smoking and the different orientation of treatments.

Why does stress arise when we try to quit smoking?

After several years of experience in Smoking Cessation treatments from a privileged position to study types of smokers and their relationship with the success in treatmentwe are going to present some of the conclusions of our experience in relation to Smoking and Stress.

One of the relevant questions is…”what type of smokers would find it more difficult to win this battle” and second, “do we see any special characteristics in those who do not succeed?” Analyzing these aspects can be helpful to try to deduce what type of treatment could be most recommended. We found, after analyzing many cases over 5 years, as was also the case of Leonard et al. (2001) and Hughes (1986), that people with problems such as schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and high level of anxiety, used tobacco as a form of self-medication. In this population, the prevalence of smoking (people who use this behavior) is double or triple that in the population without these problems.

When analyzing the relationship between smoking and different disorders, the relationship is clear. If 31% smoked in the general population, it rose to no less than 70% for schizophrenic, psychotic or neurotic disorders.

The relationship between smoking and stress

As we have pointed out, it is usually found relationship between smoking and stress. In adolescents, the level of stress increases as their pattern of regular tobacco consumption increases. In adults, smoking helps to relax or so they say, finding that they are more stressed than non-smokers and, when smokers stop smoking, their stress level decreases as time passes. Finding statements in different studies that tobacco is relaxing and pleasurable is common. But, conversely, when the person cannot smoke or is under the effects of nicotine withdrawal, he has feelings of stress and irritability.

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This leads to smoking being adaptive short term because it reduces stress; But if this continues for a long time, changes will occur in certain receptors in the brain, and then there will come a time when the chronic smoker will smoke as a pharmacological coping response to maintain normal function in stressful situations for him.. If this continues, it will result in chronic stress or the need to increase the dose of nicotine. .

In our patients, after surveying their habit, we found that the first reason for continuing smoking is that “it relaxes me”, with 73%. They are followed by “out of habit” (56%), “I’m an addict” (29%), “out of boredom” (22%), etc. Of those who have tried to quit smoking, the main reasons given for not succeeding are craving or intense desire to smoke (60%), especially in social situationsdifficulties managing stressful situations (30%) and feelings of anger (10%).

Therefore, in this study, it is clear that stress, or its opposite part, relaxation, is the main reason for continuing to smoke and that stress (also produced as a result of a social gathering) is a central cause of relapse once smoking has been stopped.

Another notable fact is that when you stop smoking you reduces stress in smokers. At first, when you stop smoking, stress usually increases, decreases to normal levels in several weeks and decreases as time passes as an abstinent person.

Stress from smoking

Why does stress make it difficult to quit smoking?

In the process of quitting smoking and maintaining abstinence, know the coping strategies What the person puts in place to control stress or cope with stressful situations is of great relevance. Those who were more successful in quitting smoking had more coping resources focused on the problem and fewer irrational beliefs that based the difficulty on not knowing how to manage emotions.

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It also follows that, for smokers with a lower level of stress, it will be easier give up smoking. This means that it would be very important for smokers to reduce their stress level in order to be able to more easily quit smoking.

In summary, it is clear from what has been analyzed up to this point, the clear relationship that exists between anxiety, stress and smoking cigarettes. Stress increases as you increase your tobacco consumption. And, by quitting smoking, their level of stress as well as anxiety decreases. Therefore, what they believe to be adaptive, smoking, is maladaptive.. But habituation, the habit repeated thousands of times, makes them have firm irrational beliefs: “I need to smoke a cigarette.”

How to help someone quit smoking?

If what we discovered is confirmed in some cases, the important thing would be to treat the smoker as manage your stress, more than nicotine dependence, since this would be a consequence of the disorder.

Hence the need to let smokers know:

  • The relationship that exists between smoking, anxiety and stress
  • He role of dependency of nicotine in this process
  • The difficulty quitting smoking when this relationship is well established along with the need to quit smoking, even if it is difficult at first, to stabilize the level of stress and anxiety in the medium and long term.