Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why It's So Hard To Quit Smoking

For anyone who has ever been a smoker, there is a clear and definitive understanding of one thing: Smoking is hard to give up. I have been a smoker on and off for years, and am sad to say that I have returned to my full-blown smoking ways in the past year. I could say that this is due to the stress of working so hard, or justify it in some other way. The reality is that I have come to see something that is essentially self-destructive as a comfort. This is the root of the problem.

The reason why smokers have a terrible time quitting is because they come to see the cigarette as a sort of friend, or a crutch that they can rely on. This is the real tragedy because cigarettes are more like the body's enemy. If Freud were alive today, he would relate the need to smoke to oral fixation and assert that smokers' socioemotional development was arrested at a very young age. I believe Freud would be wrong to paint such a broad canvas with only one stroke.

Smokers smoke for different reasons - some out of anxiety, others out of depression, and perhaps some out of simple boredom. The bottom line is that most smokers smoke because they get some relief from this habit. Given this fact, how can smokers quit?

Research shows that quitting smoking is possible by means of many different techniques - using the patch or nicotine gum for a short period, visualization exercises, smoking cessation groups, and perhaps even by trying hypnosis. While these are the traditional techniques, I would add that smokers must stop allowing themselves to see their cigarettes as comforts in order to quit for good.

I am going to try to quit this year - and I have set a date in June. I am getting ready for it. Very soon, when I go to smoke a cigarette, with each puff I am going to say out loud just how dangerous this habit is. I am hoping that sense of comfort then starts to subside!

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