The profile of an addict
Everybody is unique and it would be useless to generalize; however it is often:
- people who have the need for an immediate reward allowing them to avoid difficult situations,
- people suffering from psychological hyperactivity,
- people suffering from cerebral hyperactivity,
- hypersensitive people,
- people who have a tendency to think too much, or dwell on things
Why does one smoke?
Various reasons lead a person to smoke, for instance:
- to better their social standing,
- to deal with stress or anxiety (in a chronic or punctual way),
- for pleasure (with a coffee, with an aperitif, during a night out),
- to fight against boredom,
- to fit in a group (notably teenagers).
Why is it so hard to stop? And above all why is hard not to relapse?
As a specialist in addiction and director of the Montevideo clinic, Doctor Lowenstein notes that there is a permanent conflict between the reptilian brain (emotional brain) and the cortical brain (cortex) where our reasoning lies. Substance use including nicotine increases the liberation or concentration of dopamine in the reptilian brain, in other words, pleasure. Interestingly, inhaled nicotine reaches the brain in less than 7 seconds. From the first puff onwards, nicotine produces an immediate rewarding feeling which gives it its addictive power. This is also why even temporarily stopping the intake of nicotine can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as:
- an urgent need to smoke,
- irritability or even aggressiveness,
- sleeping troubles,
- eating disorders,
- concentration problems.
Nicotine produces anxiolytic, anti-depressive and anorectic (appetite loss) effects. It is to be noted that women seem to be more sensitive to nicotine’s toxicity due to hormonal and anatomical reasons. Furthermore, during important periods in their life such as puberty, pregnancy, menopause and during menstrual cycles, hormonal storms can arise and women can experience depression, anxiety or doubt. Smoking a cigarette then offers a fast and easy solution to bear with these emotional overflows.
What types of dependencies?
- Physical dependency and physiological withdrawal: the body becomes used to nicotine and its absence leads to a state of withdrawal.
- Psychological, emotional dependency: cigarettes are related to different pleasures that are sought after, the urge to find the feeling of relaxation and intellectual stimulation.
- Behavioural dependency: the gesture is embedded as a positive act that produces pleasure. It is very important to take into account the behavioural dependency whilst cutting back and think about how it might be possible to replace the physical motion and reflex.
How can sophrology help in quitting addictions, in particular nicotine addiction?
To begin with, it is important to point out that the person must have a real motivation to stop. Indeed, being deprived of the substance does not lead to immediate wellbeing, far from it. Chances of success are higher when a person is quitting FOR something or someone (partner, child, sport) instead of against something (fear of illness, or death for instance). Sophrology is not going to perform miracles but can be a supplementary tool or aid, considering that the person will have to find one or two replacement activities to help fight against boredom and anxiety.
Several interesting techniques exist and will be adapted to the individual, for instance:
- The Vittoz method, thanks to which an individual can work on their will to quit smoking or not to relapse.
- Getting rid of negativity to reduce all psychological and/or physical tensions.
- The trigger signal which is very pertinent as it will allow the replacement of the automatic gesture of smoking a cigarette.
- Conscious breathing that one can use as soon as one feels the urge to smoke.
- Progressive acceptance, where one imagines oneself in the near future no longer smoking and is breathing pure air.
- Future programming where the person imagines oneself years after having quit and visualizes oneself telling others how they successfully quit.
- The 5 senses to help come back to the present and to quieten down the mind.
- The restful spot, helping to find a calming and tranquil area if the person tends to be stressed.
- Dynamic relaxations helping one to become aware of the body.
The movements, exercises and techniques taught during sessions are simple and can be rehearsed alone at home. The idea is to help the person to be able to independently deal with the addiction such as smoking a cigarette.
During the first session, the sophrologist will discuss with the person the exact goals and at the end of the session will agree the number of sessions required. This is usually between 5 and 8 sessions, but this depends on the person’s motivation and goals. Remember that every person is unique and every withdrawal is unique. Sophrology sessions are generally held once a week. It is also advised to rehearse exercises at home for better results.