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Psychological Approaches to Quit Smoking

Published on Mar 17, 2023   -  4 min read


One of the best methods of smoking cessation is the psychological approach. Read the below article on the effective psychological methods to quit smoking.


People with long-term mental health problems suffer greater smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Psychological interventions help reduce smoking in adults with mental health problems. Tobacco contains nicotine that causes pleasant feelings and avoids uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. Over some time, the person gets addicted to nicotine. The sudden withdrawal from tobacco can cause severe withdrawal symptoms because the person gets addicted to the nicotine drug. The withdrawal symptoms cause emotional and mental effects. Nicotine affects brain chemistry. Almost everyone will feel withdrawal symptoms after quitting. However, the symptoms can vary among individuals. If a person suddenly quits, the body and brain take time to get over it. The process can be very unpleasant, and the body will urge you to smoke again. Almost everyone who smokes regularly gets urges to smoke when they quit. They feel overwhelmed after quitting. It is important to find out techniques to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms After Quitting Smoking?

  • Over time, withdrawal symptoms will fade as long as the person stays smoke-free. However, it is common to feel irritated or grouchy when someone quits abruptly. The person feels harder to concentrate, irritated, and restless immediately after quitting.

  • The person will face trouble sleeping on time or have irregular sleep patterns. Over time it will get better. If the person feels exhausted because of irregular sleep, they will crave smoking again when the opportunity comes their way.

  • The person might feel more hungry because of the stress induced by quitting. The taste improves after quitting because the senses are not dulled by the dose of smoke. Nicotine does not help with depression or anxiety. They just make the person feel better because the nicotine helps stop the discomfort of withdrawal.

  • All know that smoking is a tough habit to kick off because nicotine is very addictive. Nicotine’s high risk is not as dramatic as cocaine or heroin but is equally addictive as other drugs.

  • Nicotine affects all body parts, like blood vessels, the heart, metabolism, and the brain. The person will physically crave nicotine and become irritable if they cannot have it.

  • Nicotine withdrawal lasts for a few months, but the person will fight the mental battle against cigarettes for a long time.

  • Physical, mental, and emotional symptoms are involved in tobacco withdrawal. The initial 5 to 10 days are crucial because it is the time when nicotine starts clearing away from the body. The person develops irritability and insomnia (inability to sleep properly).

  • Voluntary and commercial clinics, nicotine replacement strategies, counseling, hypnosis, acupuncture, and behavioral programs are the methods used by smokers to break the habit.

What Is the Psychological Approach to Quit Smoking?

Many use cessation programs at some point in their cessation journey. They act according to the advice from the psychotherapist or healthcare providers. A smoking cessation kit from a non-profit health organization also aids some.

Smoking-cessation programs are comprised of three phases:

  • Preparation.

  • Intervention.

  • Maintenance.

Preparation phases increase the motivation to quit and build confidence to be successful. Intervention includes a combination of forms to help smokers to achieve abstinence.

Maintenance and coping strategies are required for permanent abstinence. The American Cancer Society recommends the stop smoking program. The program has the components such as:

  • Sessions of 20 to 30 minutes.

  • The number of sessions is 4 to 8 sessions.

  • The number of weeks of sessions should be at least two.

What Are the Types of Psychological Treatments to Stop Smoking?

They are broadly classified as:

  • Behavioral interventions.

  • Hypnosis.

  • Practical, supportive, and educational counseling.

What Is Behavioral Therapy for Smoking Cessation?

They are structured programs that include identifying the individual's trigger points for smoking and helping them develop alternative skills to cope with the situation. People successfully quit smoking after individual counseling from a smoking cessation specialist and quit at six months follow-up. The intervention groups are of two types: Individual counseling and group intervention. The individual counseling consists of face-to-face sessions, and the group intervention consists of brief advice and self-help materials.

The type of behavioral therapy for smoking cessation is:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- Cognitive behavioral therapy includes treating many psychological problems. It includes changing thinking and maladaptive patterns associated with negative behavior. It is a promising psychological intervention involving reconstructing thought and new learning processes. The one-on-one sessions with the healthcare professionals allow them to personalize the therapy according to the individuals. Individual problem-solving strategies help cope with difficult environments, such as avoiding smoking in environments where the person used to smoke. The person can cope emotionally better by changing their thinking pattern. The person can be educated about nicotine dependence and withdrawal symptoms. So he can be better equipped to face the challenges. The situations that trigger the urge to smoke can be identified and avoided. For example, if beer is a cue for smoking, then the beer can be replaced with a soft drink. To identify the cues, every time the person feels like smoking, the cause of the feeling should be recorded or written down in a diary. Identifying the motivational cues such as places, people, and actions, make the person feel more motivated to quit. It also counts the efforts taken by the current social network to motivate the person to quit.

  • Motivational Interviewing- It is a type of counseling where they help to explore the reasons why people feel unsure about quitting and they find ways to make them feel more comfortable to stop quitting. Counselors help people to choose how to change their own behavior. Planning to change involves a commitment to change and formulation of a concrete change plan. The goals of motivational interviewing are an engaged appreciation of an individual’s internal frame of reference, a clear focus on change, and evoking the individual’s motivations for change.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)- It emphasizes the acceptance concept as a way to deal with feelings, and negative thoughts and symptoms. It encourages people to avoid the negative influences that trigger smoking and focus on meaningful life activities. Cognitive defusion is the process of separating from inner experiences. The benefit of ACT is the impact on psychological flexibility. This allows them to respond to inner experience and avoid impulsive actions,

  • Contingency and Monetary Incentives- Contingency management are behavioral interventions that use cash payments, gifts, rewards and vouchers to reinforce behavior change.


Nicotine dependence is a chronic dependence disease where the user should be given tobacco cessation treatment irrespective of their readiness to quit. Successful cessation can be achieved with a combination of psychological and pharmacological treatment.


Last reviewed at:
17 Mar 2023  -  4 min read




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