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.

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