The Illogical Spiral of Smoking, Anxiety and Stress
Hi everyone. I have had a significant jump in people coming to me to deal with smoking and vaping addictions over the last few weeks. Perhaps it’s the spring air motivating people to work on their health. In almost every case, I find smoking is very much a poor coping strategy to help manage stress, anxiety, or even simple boredom. In an era where the pursuit of wellness is at its peak, it’s paradoxical that smoking – a well-documented health hazard – continues to have a stronghold on millions worldwide. Logic often dissipates in a puff of smoke for those who turn to cigarettes and vapes as a bandaid for their anxiety and stress. Yet, from a rational standpoint, smoking makes no sense. It’s a temporary escape with lasting repercussions, a fact underscored by numerous health professionals.
Obviously, this article covers both smoking and vaping. For simplicity, I’ll use the term “smoking” from here on. Having said that, I could write another article dedicated to the pitfalls of vaping, the supposed healthier option which, as research increases, is being shown to be as bad or worse than smoking cigarettes.
The Paradox of Smoking: A False Friend
The stark reality is that smoking, while commonly adopted as a coping strategy, exacerbates rather than alleviates stress and anxiety. Dr. Judith Prochaska, a professor at Stanford University, explains this contradiction: “While many smokers believe that smoking provides relief from stress, anxiety, and perhaps even depression, research has shown it to be a significant contributing factor to the genesis of these very disorders.”
The irony is almost cruel – nicotine creates a quick surge of endorphins, which mimic a relaxation effect. However, this is swiftly followed by a crash, leading to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. The smoker then lights another cigarette, and thus, the cycle perpetuates – a cycle that not only undermines physical health but mental well-being as well.
The Role of Strategic Psychotherapy
Breaking this cycle requires more than just willpower; it necessitates strategic psychotherapy, which offers powerful tools for change. Quitting smoking is challenging, staying quit even more so. Strategic psychotherapy is a solution-focused approach that aims to alter the dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaviour that keep individuals shackled to their smoking habits.
Renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr. Milton H. Erickson, known for his revolutionary approach to therapy, believed that by engaging the unconscious mind and leveraging an individual’s internal resources, one could effect significant behavioural changes. Erickson’s methods are a cornerstone of strategic psychotherapy, which helps individuals deconstruct the illogical foundations of smoking. By addressing the underlying anxiety and stress, strategic psychotherapy can uproot the very basis of the smoking habit. I very much emulate the techniques and methodologies of Dr. Erickson in my approach.
Clinical Hypnotherapy: Tapping into the Subconscious
Clinical hypnotherapy, often walking hand in hand with strategic psychotherapy, provides a unique avenue for cessation. This therapeutic tool engages the subconscious mind to reshape attitudes and extinguish the ingrained patterns of smoking. In essence, I look to establish “how” you maintain the pattern that leads to your problem space, then alter the components of the pattern.
Dr. Alfred A. Barrios, a clinical psychologist known for his extensive work on hypnotherapy, found that hypnosis has a higher success rate for smoking cessation compared to other methods, stating that “hypnotherapy is the most effective way of giving up smoking.” His seminal study revealed a 93% success rate after a 6-month follow-up when using hypnotherapy. By inducing a state of deep relaxation, hypnotherapists like me guide individuals to visualize the harmful consequences of smoking and the benefits of quitting, embedding these critical truths where they can enact the most change – in the subconscious mind.
Expert Endorsements and Evidence
The effectiveness of strategic psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy isn’t just anecdotal; it’s backed by research and expert endorsements. According to the American Psychological Association, “Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their stress and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioural, interpersonal, and situational causes.”
The field of hypnotherapy, similarly, has gathered substantial support. Dr. Carolyn Daitch, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Michigan, advocates for hypnotherapy, explaining that it helps control the anxiety and stress that often lead to smoking. By calming the nervous system, hypnotherapy can reduce the perceived need for cigarettes as stress relief.
Beyond the Smoke: Real-Life Strategies for Anxiety and Stress
Acknowledging that smoking is an irrational solution to stress and anxiety is the first step. Implementing strategies from strategic psychotherapy and hypnotherapy is the next. Some tactics include:
- Reframing the Narrative: By changing the internal script from “I need a cigarette to relax” to “Smoking is a temporary fix that worsens my stress,” one can begin to dismantle the psychological reliance on smoking.
- Stress Management Techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can be incorporated to manage stress levels, a method often promoted within strategic psychotherapy.
- Utilizing Hypnotherapy Recordings: Many individuals use self-hypnosis recordings at home to reinforce their new non-smoking identity and manage anxiety. I typically provide my clients with a recording of our hypnotherapy session to listen to daily between sessions. I find this far more effective than generic recordings.
The Logical Choice for a Smoke-Free Life
Smoking as a coping mechanism for anxiety and stress is, by all logical standards, self-defeating. It’s a band-aid on a bullet wound, offering momentary relief but exacerbating the underlying issues. Turning to strategic psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy offers not just a logical alternative, but an effective one that has been substantiated by both research and real-world success.
In conclusion, while the irrationality of smoking continues to puzzle many, the path to cessation and better handling of stress and anxiety does not need to be mysterious. The tools provided by strategic psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy are not just logical but lifesaving, offering a beacon of hope to those caught in the smoke.