Biofeedback and Quitting Smoking

The Drug of Choice

In order to control stress many people use cigarettes, or more specifically, nicotine, as their drug of choice. Nicotine, without the harmful smoke inhalation that is inherent in its ingestion, is a psychoactive agent that works on the brain. A unique property of nicotine is its ability to counter stress by producing internal relaxation. It is comparable to Valium in its ability to induce relaxation.

The Effects of Stress on the Body

Stress causes emergency responses in the body, such as rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, digestive problems, stomach pain and sweaty palms, to name a few. Anxiety is a product of this stress and they feed one another, so if becomes a vicious circle. The only way some people feel they can control it is with a relaxation drug - like nicotine.

How Biofeedback Works

Biofeedback is a method of therapy that helps a person use the electrical impulses generated by stress in the body to their benefit. It teaches self-regulation of bodily functions that usually happen involuntarily - like heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and skin temperature. Body responses are monitored by electrodes that are attached to the skin and the measurements found in the body are fed back to a monitor where they are displayed. A person can see how their body is responding to different stresses.

By working together with a trained biofeedback therapist, a person can learn how to control various internal processes through relaxation techniques and mental exercises. The combination of seeing the responses on a monitor and learning how to control them through learned processes becomes an effective method of dealing with stresses that create addictions. Biofeedback has been used successfully in a variety of situations, including smoking cessation.

Studies Proves Its Efficacy

There have been several studies done over the years that have concluded that smokers have more anxiety than nonsmokers. It is also known that people who have a high level of anxiety are more inclined to smoke than those who have low anxiety. Smoking, it is safe to conclude, is associated with anxiety. It is common to hear a smoker say that smoking calms them down. That is because the nicotine acts as a relaxant. By teaching a person how to control the negative effects of anxiety and stress in their body without the use of drugs, like nicotine, they can break free of addiction using mental training and relaxation techniques that are non-invasive and non-addictive.

By using biofeedback therapy as a means of stress management in addition to other smoking cessation tools, many smokers are able to stop smoking without developing higher levels of anxiety.