Psychosomatics of Harmful Habits: Smoking in Adults and Teenagers

People start smoking for various reasons: to try something new, to seem grown-up, for company, etc. There are also various ways to quit smoking: some use willpower, others use medical aids, and some learn psychological techniques. However, few are aware that the reasons for smoking, as well as the methods to combat this harmful habit, are actively studied in psychosomatics – the science of the connection between mind and body.

What are harmful habits and why do they arise

A habit is a need for a certain action that arises and is satisfied under certain conditions. A harmful habit is a need for an action that destroys health and hinders personal development.

Habits resemble skills, but they are more connected to personal interests and motives. For example, the habit of sleeping until noon hides a desire to rest, to escape reality into a world of dreams. We’ll talk about motives and hidden needs later, but first, let’s examine the influence of society.

If we consider a habit as a skill, it’s appropriate to talk about learning. A positive attitude towards smoking is formed during a child’s socialization. Examples include parents who smoke, their acquaintances, media, movies, etc.

Interesting to know! Parents should be aware that children copy their behavior. Therefore, punishments for smoking and words of reprimand, prohibitions, will not yield the desired result if the parents themselves do not quit smoking.

Why does cigarette addiction occur

During smoking, blood vessels in the brain expand, improving blood circulation and oxygen supply. But 15 minutes after a cigarette, the reverse process occurs: the vessels narrow even more than before. This worsens the smoker’s wellbeing and mood, prompting them to smoke a new “dose”. With each time, the body demands more and more nicotine, as tolerance to the substance constantly increases.

Initially, smoking stimulates adrenaline release, causing a state of euphoria. At this stage, productivity, performance, and activity increase. However, the longer one smokes, the less positive effect cigarettes have. Eventually, instead of euphoria, aggression and irritation are observed.

It’s believed that psychological dependence is harder to overcome than chemical dependence. Indeed, understanding the principle of chemical reactions makes it clear what to do. Smoking stimulates the production of happiness hormones. Gradually, the body becomes so accustomed to artificial stimulation that it becomes lazy to produce hormones independently. Thus, dependence arises: a cigarette indeed improves the smoker’s wellbeing.

However, endorphins can also be obtained in other ways: sports, hobbies, watching an interesting movie, pleasant conversations with friends, changing jobs to something more enjoyable, etc. Over time, with a change in lifestyle, the body will again begin to produce happiness hormones.

As for psychological dependence, its causes vary for everyone. For some, a smoke break is an opportunity to rest from work or leave a house with an unfavorable atmosphere. For others, smoking is an integral attribute of meeting a significant person, etc.

Who is prone to developing psychological dependence

People with an inner predisposition to self-destruction are prone to addictive (dependent) behavior. The reason for this predisposition is the belief “I am bad, I am unworthy”. This belief is usually formed in childhood, typically under authoritarian upbringing. The “I am bad” belief is combined with low stress resilience, weak self-regulation, low self-esteem, poor understanding of one’s emotions and feelings or prohibition on their expression, inability to ask for help.

Smoking is a form of escaping reality, solving problems by altering consciousness. Smokers do not see difficulties as opportunities for growth; they do not know how to change themselves or the situation. They know no other means of adaptation besides smoking.

Manifestations and symptoms of addiction

The main sign of nicotine addiction is an obsessive need to smoke. Smokers consume several cigarettes a day, and in advanced stages, several packs a day. The need to smoke can arise at any time and place. At that moment, the smoker can think of nothing else. The first cigarette is smoked immediately after waking up.

Another important manifestation of addiction is withdrawal syndrome. When the number of cigarettes is reduced, completely quit, or a cigarette is missed, the following are observed:

  • Memory and attention deterioration
  • Slowed thinking
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Weakness

However, over time, unpleasant symptoms disappear, and the body begins to self-heal. If you want to quit smoking, you need to endure the withdrawal syndrome.

How to determine the degree of dependence

To determine the degree of dependence, you can use the Fagerström test. Honestly answer 6 questions:

  1. How many minutes after waking up do you smoke your first cigarette? Five minutes – 3 points, 6–30 minutes – 2 points, half an hour to an hour – 1 point, more than an hour – 0 points.
  2. Is it difficult for you to refrain from smoking where it is prohibited? Yes – 1 point, no – 0 points.
  3. Which cigarette is harder for you to give up? The first one – 1 point, the second and subsequent ones – 0 points.
  4. How many cigarettes do you smoke per day? Up to 10 – 0 points, 11–20 – 1 point, 21 to 30 – 2 points, more than 31 – 3 points.
  5. Do you smoke more often in the first half of the day than in the second? Yes – 1 point, no – 0 points.
  6. Do you smoke when you are very sick and forced to stay in bed? Yes – 1 point, no – 0 points.

Calculate your total score and determine the result:

  • 0–2 points – no dependency
  • 3–6 points – mild dependency
  • 7–10 points – pronounced dependency

Interesting to know! Physical dependence, which makes it hard to quit smoking, develops after 20 years of intensive smoking (more than 20 cigarettes a day). In all other cases, it’s about psychological dependence. In such a situation, you should not worry that “the body will not cope”, “organs will fail”. The organs have not yet had time to get used – it’s the psyche that has become accustomed.

Possible consequences

Smoking adversely affects all systems of the body. Diseases such as stroke and other heart diseases, cancer, vascular diseases, anemia, emphysema, bronchitis, ulcers develop against the background of smoking.

In addition, smoking complicates and exacerbates the course of chronic diseases, worsens the condition of hair and nails, teeth. Smoking can also be a contraindication for surgery or taking certain medications.

Besides physical harm, psychological consequences should be noted. Smokers have reduced cognitive abilities, increased aggression and irritability. Smokers get tired faster, are more anxious. They cannot work productively without cigarettes, but the stronger the dependency, the more cognitive functions decline. Eventually, even a cigarette does not help improve brain function.

What is the Psychosomatics of Smoking

The primary hidden psychological reason for smoking is the desire to calm down. This indicates its psychosomatic nature. A cigarette helps to mask anxiety, excitement, irritation, anger. However, smoking does not provide true relief or solve problems. It creates an illusion of calmness and control.

Psychological Reasons for Smoking in Adults and Teenagers

The psyche of adults and teenagers differs, hence the psychological motives for smoking vary. However, common predispositions can be identified. Psychosomatics of smoking:

  1. Stress, conflicts. Repetitive motions made while smoking are calming. Exhaling smoke is associated with releasing negative emotions.
  2. Desire to escape from problems and pain. In the beginning, cigarettes act as pain relievers, and chemical reactions boost mood.
  3. Advertising and anti-advertising. Most cigarette ads associate smoking with the image of a successful and attractive young man or woman.
  4. Loneliness. Some smokers admit that cigarettes help them cope with loneliness.
  5. Anxiety. On a subconscious level, smoking can be an analogue of a child’s thumb sucking. It calms the child, and for an adult or teenager, a cigarette does the same.
  6. Idleness, boredom, the desire to fidget with something in the hands.

Additionally, cigarettes help people with poorly developed communication skills. Smoking together can initiate conversations; the mere act of asking for a light can be a pretext for acquaintance. Smoking brings people together in groups, subconsciously creating a sense of shared experience.

Main Psychological Motives in Adults

From the perspective of the psychosomatics of tobacco smoking, smoking is considered a distorted way of satisfying the need for wealth, success, love, stability. Achieving all these is not easy, but buying a pack of cigarettes is much simpler. The illusion of control over life, the accessibility of fulfillment: desire it – buy and smoke. This reason is more common among adults.

The reasons for smoking in women differ somewhat from men’s motives – the urge for cigarettes arises from the need for independence. Psychosomatics of smoking in women: a cigarette is perceived as a symbol of emancipation, masculinity, freedom, power. Some women use it to fight for gender equality. In adolescence, female smoking becomes a means of bonding with boys. But this is not the only reason for smoking among teenagers.

Motives in Youth, the Transition Age

Adolescence is a period of active self-discovery and self-determination. A teenager must decide who they are and what their place in the world is. They occupy a marginal position between children and adults but strive to join the adult group as soon as possible. One of the primitive ways is to copy the appearance, behavior, and habits, often the bad ones, as they are the easiest to replicate. Thus, teenagers start smoking, drinking, swearing, etc.

However, this is not the only psychosomatic reason teenagers start smoking. Other possible predispositions include:

  • The desire to fit in with a peer reference group, earn authority (at this age, peers’ opinions are more important than others’).
  • Stereotypical thinking that smoking helps relieve stress (the entire transitional period is stressful).
  • Stereotypes that smoking helps fight hunger (more common among girls trying to lose weight).
  • Imitating idols and ideals.
  • Curiosity and inability to see the long-term future (due to age, the consequences of smoking seem unreal or delayed – “that definitely won’t happen to me”).

Interesting to know! Adolescence is characterized by a romanticization of death and harmful habits. Having watched in films how a beautiful girl cries and smokes a cigarette or how a serious man contemplates the future while looking at the sky and lighting up, teenagers decide to mimic what they’ve seen. In the eyes of some young people, smoking appears aesthetic. Adolescents often have a specific perception of beauty and aesthetics.

How to Quit Smoking

Those who want to quit smoking should first try to replace smoking with breathing exercises. Try doing the same things, but without a cigarette. You’ll be surprised, but this will help alleviate anxiety, refresh your thoughts, and energize your muscles. The difference is that after the vessels expand, they won’t constrict back to even smaller sizes than originally.

Main Reasons for Quitting Smoking

People quit smoking for various reasons:

  • The desire to set a positive example for children.
  • The need to save money and fulfill a cherished dream.
  • Fear of accidents, fire, illness, death.
  • The demand of relatives. However, the main reason is one – the desire to improve the quality of life. Sooner or later, people recognize that smoking negatively affects their consciousness and body, and the expenses on cigarettes significantly hit their budget. The very realization of dependency causes discomfort. For instance, a person notices becoming irritable and passive if they can’t smoke.

Affirmations for Overcoming Harmful Addictions

Louise Hay in her book “Letters to Louise: Answers Are Within You” suggests using several affirmations to get rid of harmful habits:

  1. I have enough strength to resist. I need to release it.
  2. Life loves and supports me. I try my best in response.
  3. Each day it gets easier for me.
  4. I am ready and able to free myself from harmful habits.
  5. I break out of habits and become free.
  6. I accept and support myself, my changes.
  7. I am stronger than my habits.
  8. Now I realize how good and beautiful I am.
  9. I love myself, I admire myself.
  10. Life is safe.

Lise Bourbeau in her book “Listen to Your Body – Your Best Friend on Earth” suggests not only affirmations but also a step-by-step plan for changing thinking:

  1. Make a list of good and bad in your life. Analyze how much your perceptions match those of others. Compare your value system and others’ values. Realize that you can’t demand from others what you don’t demand from yourself and vice versa. You and your environment should be in the same value system.
  2. Now analyze each item and get rid of polarized thinking. There are no absolutely bad or good people, events, conditions. Everything depends on the specific moment, you, and the situation. Find good and bad in each item.
  3. Make a list of harmful habits. Over the next three days, replace at least one bad habit with a good one. It’s important that the right habit results from awareness and positively influences development and health. Realize that harmful habits are usually the result of societal influence or your fears, previous choices.
  4. Reinforce self-belief with this affirmation: “I am beginning to better understand my habits and can determine which are beneficial for my evolution and my harmony. I remind myself that there is no good or evil, and that life is a choice.”

Another psychosomatic specialist, Valery Sinelnikov, suggests looking for the problem by asking, “why do I smoke?”. If a cigarette is associated with masculinity, then you should find other ways of self-affirmation: developing willpower, building a career, playing sports, etc. If a cigarette is associated with wealth and success, then you should find more useful ways of self-realization and self-actualization, achieve real success in business, etc.

And to consolidate the result, Valery recommends using such affirmations: “I easily free myself from cigarettes; I lead a healthy and sober lifestyle; I have clean lungs and fresh, pleasant breath. I create new ways of behavior, new thoughts, with which I easily free myself from cigarettes”, “I thank you for helping me in realizing my intentions; I free myself from addiction, bless you with love and let you go from my life forever” (addressing the cigarette).

Treatment and Prognosis

To quit smoking, you need to learn other methods of relaxation and self-regulation. In addition to breathing exercises, you can try relaxation, meditation.

You can only quit the habit forever if you understand why you need it. You need to have strong motivation and a clear understanding of the deep reasons. To definitely determine the cause of anxiety, it is worth visiting a psychotherapist.

Sometimes comprehensive treatment is shown, i.e., not only sessions with a psychologist, but also such ways to quit smoking:

  • Nicotine patches, pills, and other medications that help reduce the craving for nicotine.
  • Electronic cigarettes (they help fight chemical dependency, reduce health risks, but do not eliminate psychological dependency).
  • Coding (a psychological method based on suggestion and hypnosis).

The danger of cigarette addiction should not be underestimated. Smoking can be equated with drug addiction, overeating, and alcoholism. From a psychological point of view, all these dependencies speak of chronic dissatisfaction and inner pain, a lack of love and care. But the prognosis is favorable at all stages: you can get rid of addiction at any moment if you really want to.

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