Why Hypnosis is So Effective at Breaking the Smoking Habit

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For readers of this blog, it is certainly no secret that hypnotherapy is a highly effective tool for changing lives, enhancing health, and breaking bad habits.  That goes especially for the odious habit of smoking cigarettes.

In fact, when it comes to methods for stopping smoking, a study of 6,000 smokers found hypnosis to be the method with the highest success rate, according to an article in the Mirror, a British publication. But why is hypnotherapy more effective than nicotine gum or patches or drugs?

The key to answering this question lies in the idea that while many refer to smoking as an “addiction,” it is actually a habit.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, “People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life.” Smokers may certainly feel like their lives are ruled by a need for cigarettes at a certain time or in a certain situation, but the problem is not nearly as severe as for those who are truly addicted to alcohol, for example, which is known to cause delirium, tremors, hallucinations, liver disease, and possibly death.

On the other hand, a habit, in psychology, is “any regularly repeated behavior that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. A habit—which can be part of any activity, ranging from eating and sleeping to thinking and reacting—is developed through reinforcement and repetition,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica.  . This certainly better describes what happens to smokers.

Consider some of the feedback I have gotten from literally hundreds of smokers with whom I have worked over the years.  Almost no one–even among long-term smokers–says they smoke because it “tastes good.”  Instead, they (mistakenly) believe that it will help reduce stress–while in fact in may actually aggravate such stress.  Most smokers will habitually reach for a cigarette at a particular time (in the morning, or after a meal), in a particular place (visiting a bar is often a trigger), or in a particular situation (at work, or while reading or having a glass of wine, for example).

These habits become ingrained to the point where there is a psychological need, especially if the smoker thinks having a cigarette is beneficial.  While some claim there is a physical addiction to nicotine taking place, others–including E-Cigarette Politics, point out that “No clinical trial specifically to examine the potential of nicotine to create dependence in people who have never consumed tobacco has ever been published.”

The truth is that hypnosis is highly effective for smoking cessation because it is highly effective in helping people to change their habits–or to substitute a new habit for the old one.  A number of my patients have substituted drinking a bottle of water for having a cigarette, for example.  One patient I worked with just wanted to have a cigarette burning next to him in the ash tray as he worked.  He rarely bothered to even take a drag.  Some are satisfied just to have a pencil between their fingers instead of a cigarette.

Hypnosis is also very effective at psychologically linking smoking to something the patient finds disgusting or distasteful, such as dog food or a “plate of hair.”  Obviously, this aversion is helpful in avoiding cigarettes.

Do you or does someone you know have a problem with the deadly habit of smoking?  If so, we invite you to try hypnotherapy.

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