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The Smoking Cycle

More than just a bad habit

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The Smoking Cycle

Smokers may seem happy, but new studies show that they face a greater risk of depression. By offering our support, we can help someone quit smoking.

Smokers may seem happy, but new studies show that they face a greater risk of developing depression than non-smokers. People who are depressed are also more likely to start smoking. By offering our understanding rather than lecturing, perhaps we can help the smokers we know butt out for good.

According to Dr. Edwin Fisher, spokesperson for the American Lung Association, when smokers feel stressed or depressed they often look to a quick fix to make themselves feel better, so they reach for a cigarette, which reduces anxiety. The nicotine in cigarettesaffects the brain’s pleasure centres, enhancing mood.

Once someone starts smoking, however, it becomes very difficult to stop, because they build up a tolerance to nicotine, which means they have to smoke more to gain those pleasurable effects. When they try to quit, they are more likely to feel depressed, because without nicotine, their mood plummets, and consequently they turn to cigarettes for comfort. The cycle of smoking and depression then becomes a continual and unhealthy pattern of cause and effect.

How to Help

If a family member, friend, or co-worker is trying to quit smoking, be sensitive to their moods and needs. If they relapse, try not to make them feel guilty. Offer support, not blame. Let them know you’re there to help when they’re ready to try quitting again. Reassure them that the unpleasant effects they feel at first are temporary.

In addition some smokers harbour depressed feelings, which caused them to start smoking in the first place. Symptoms of depression include loss of interest in normal activities, crying spells, sleeping problems, headaches, and weight loss or gain.

Let them know that it is okay to talk about their feelings. Try not to offer advice or minimize how they are feeling. Reassure them that you are there to listen and to be supportive. If you think they are suffering from depression, encourage them to contact their doctor. A treatment program that offers help dealing with depression is another option.

If stress is the cause of their addiction, help them to deal with it in a healthy way, such as by talking, exercising, or meditating. Encourage them to explore natural ways to quit smoking such as acupuncture or hypnosis. A natural health practitioner can offer advice on helpful herbal supplements such as valerian, ginseng, oatstraw, and green tea, to name a few. By offering support instead of criticism, we can help all smokers to quit for life.

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