After you quit smoking, you with have some withdrawal symptoms. Such symptoms generally peak in intensity 3 -5 days after you quit, and usually disappear after 2 weeks, although some may persist for several months.
The symptoms of withdrawal include both physical and mental difficulties.
Withdrawal symptoms should be treated accordingly, just as you would with physical symptoms due to an illness or disease.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms. Tension and craving build up during periods of withdrawal, sometimes to a nearly intolerable point. Nearly every moderate-to-heavy smoker experiences more than one of the following strong emotional and mental responses to withdrawal:
The first signs of nicotine withdrawal seem to appear within 30 minutes of a smoker's last cigarette. The findings, published in Psychopharmacology, are believed to be the first to show just how early nicotine withdrawal occurs. The study involved 50 people who smoked a pack of cigarettes daily. Half refrained from smoking for 4 hours, while the others smoked as usual. After 30 minutes, those who did not have a cigarette craved one and did more poorly on tasks requiring attention than those in the smoking group. Within 3 hours, the non-smoking group showed increases in anxiety, sadness, and difficulty concentrating.
Depression is common during withdrawal and over the long term. In the short term, it may mimic the feelings of grief felt when a loved one is lost. A smoker should plan on a period of actual mourning in order to get through the early withdrawal depression.
There is a significant association between cigarette smoking and a susceptibility to depression. People who are prone to depression face a 25% chance of becoming depressed when they quit smoking, and this increased risk persists for at least 6 months. What's more, depressed smokers have a very low level of success. Only about 6% remain smoke-free after a year. There are strong reasons for this:
People who suffer from depression while quitting might do better using a combination of emotionally supportive therapy (as opposed to behavioral therapy), nicotine replacements, and antidepressants, such as bupropion (Zyban). If severe depression lasts beyond the withdrawal period, professional help should be sought as soon as possible.
Quitting smoking does increase the risk for weight gain, and may actually cause more weight gain than previously thought. One study found that the average weight gain among former smokers was about 21 pounds, rather than the 5 - 15 pounds commonly cited. However, fear of weight gain shouldn't stop a person from quitting smoking. Instead, the study authors encourage weight-control measures after quitting.
Smoking uses up calories -- about 200 a day according to one study. Burning calories helps you lose weight. After quitting, the body's metabolism slows down, and food is digested better. Insulin levels increase, enabling the body to process more sugar for energy. When you quit smoking, you may snack more frequently.
How to Keep the Weight Off After Smoking. Exercise is very helpful in controlling weight. To burn the same amount of calories as you did while smoking, you need only take an extra 15-minute daily walk and eliminate 100 calories a day from meals. Just a moderate increase in physical activity can help keep weight gain to a minimum.
Nicotine replacement therapy can help protect against weight gain.
[See the Quitting Smoking section in this report.]
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