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The psychology of quitting smoking

Because the nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive, quitting is a challenge for most smokers. Psychologists have identified four “stages of change” that anyone trying to change a habit or behavior goes through. Understanding these changes will help you become an ex-smoker.

  1. Contemplation. At this stage, you’re thinking about quitting. You’ll be more likely to stop smoking successfully if you worry that you could get a smoking-related disease and if you believe the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke.
  2. Preparation. Planning when and how you’ll quit is the next stage. It involves setting a date when you’ll quit smoking, telling friends and family of your quit day, preparing for that day by stocking up on things like sugarless gum and signing up for any support group you wish to join.
  3. Action. This stage lasts from your quit day through the next six months. The biggest challenge now is withdrawal. The physical symptoms of withdrawal can be relieved by nicotine gum or patches. Psychological withdrawal can be more difficult to manage. Try to change any habits that are linked to smoking.
  4. Maintenance. This period lasts from six months to five years after your quit date. If you slip and have a cigarette, don’t give up. Instead, review the health-related and financial benefits of quitting and renew your commitment to quitting permanently.