Irritability. Mood swings. Frustration. Trouble sleeping. Anxiety.

These are some of the withdrawal symptoms that people might experience in the early stages of a quit attempt. Others may also be affected by restlessness, difficulty concentrating and an increase in appetite. Cigarette withdrawals and cravings come about because the body is no longer receiving its expected dose of nicotine from tobacco. They’re also known as recovery symptoms - the first signs that the body is beginning to heal itself from the damage caused by smoking.

Withdrawal is temporary

Make Smoking History interviewed Dr Peter Wynn Owen, a consultant psychiatrist with experience in helping people quit smoking. He said that it’s important to acknowledge the struggle of getting through withdrawals, and to understand that while they may be intense to begin with, they will gradually fade away in time.

“Withdrawal can be really difficult, the first thing is to expect it. This is going to be uncomfortable, you can be moody and irritable, you can get low, you can be snappy. This will pass. This is the result of the physical addiction, it’s a result of that psychological dependency, but it’s transient.”

Distract yourself

It’s a good idea to manage nicotine withdrawals by distracting yourself to take your mind off the cigarette cravings.

There are many ways to do this, including going for a walk, spending some time with friends or finding an activity that helps you relax, such as listening to music or practising deep breathing exercises. You might like to visit our webpage for ways to cope with specific withdrawal symptoms.

Have a plan

Dr Wynn Owen also suggested that people who smoke would benefit from planning for withdrawals before commencing a quit attempt.

You can plan for it, you can actually decide what you’re going to do. If you’ve got people helping you with your dependency then they can actually work with you on this. Who are you going to spend time with? What about your work colleagues, have you told them what you’re trying to do? All these sort of things can be really useful. Ideally you’ll actually write some things down; you’ll remember a few simple steps that you’re going to take.”

If you’re thinking about quitting, or know someone that is, try our Quit Planner so you can write down and easily recall any tips that you think might help you to quit. The Quit Planner also comes with some handy hints to assist you along your quitting journey.

Craving can be insidious. It won’t go on forever, it will stop. If you stick with it, you’ll be able to quit.” -Dr Wynn Owen.

Watch the interview with Dr Wynn Owen about withdrawals here. You can also explore our website to find out ways to quit and support after quitting.

Other stories you may like

Wooden logs piled in a forest clearing

Tobacco x the environment – a tale of pollution, poison and poverty

Quitting smoking could be the next big thing you do for the environment.

person wearing mask with cigarette poking through a hole where their mouth is

Is COVID-19 a reason to quit smoking?

COVID-19 has hit the WA community… and there has never been a better time to quit!

image of a surgeon standing by an operating table with the Make Smoking History logo

From targeting 15 to making smoking history - Our campaign history

Do you remember the first anti-smoking campaign you saw? Chances are if you live in WA it was a Make Smoking History campaign.

Red and white words on a black background 'World No Tobacco Day 31 May 2021'

Call on WA Government to commit to making tobacco control a priority

New data reveals that the tough approach to tobacco has saved around four lives a week from death due to lung cancer since 1982

Free Quit Support

Talk to the Quitline

Quitline is a confidential advice and information service for people who want to quit smoking. For the cost of a local call (except mobile phones), a trained advisor can help you to plan and develop strategies to quit smoking and stay stopped. You can also use webchat during opening hours.

My QuitBuddy App

The My QuitBuddy App tracks your quitting progress, such as days smoke-free, cigarettes avoided, health gained and dollars saved.

Google Play ButtonApp Store ButtonMicrosoft Store Button
Call Quitline 13 7848
Call Now


Request a Callback
Request Callback