There are many myths that surround the habit of smoking. One of them is that smoking helps reduce anxiety; indeed many smoking cessation clients say that they are triggered to smoke when stressed or anxious. This could be in part psychological; the smoker expects that their cigarette will calm them down, and so it does. It could also be due to them stepping out of the office, getting some fresh air and socialising (with other smokers).
It is true that dopamine is released when nicotine reaches the brain and this can result in a short-term sense of relaxation. Smokers may also experience a temporary reduction in the effects of nicotine dependency by having a cigarette. Interestingly, a recent study by the British Heart Foundation indicated that smokers are considerably more likely to experience anxiety than their non-smoking counterparts. When a person smokes, their blood pressure and heart rate increase and their oxygen availability is reduced; their muscles will tense up as a consequence. From a physical perspective, smoking is a stress-inducing activity. The good news is that nicotine addiction is short lived, but so too is the ‘calming’ effect experienced as a result of their ‘fix’. Any smoker who has a regular (rather than social) smoking habit will have experienced a craving for nicotine at some point. If that need for nicotine isn’t met, anxiety will increase.
Hypnotherapy is an ideal way to quit the smoking habit as the calmness experienced in hypnosis can mediate the anxiety caused by smoking (and quitting) and help to reduce nicotine cravings. Any positive or pleasurable associations the individual may have with smoking can also be shifted through suggestions given to the client when in trance. Many therapists choose to focus their client’s attention on the benefits they will experience once a non-smoker, rather than the disadvantages of smoking. After all smokers will be aware of the dangers and dire warnings of cancer and heart disease that haven’t stopped them lighting up before. Whilst their client is in hypnosis and suggestions are more readily absorbed, the therapist will reinforce these benefits through repetition. Naturally, the client needs to be committed to quitting smoking, as hypnosis can’t make someone do something they don’t really want to do, but if they are, hypnotherapy can be a great help.