The neurological reason for withdrawal symptoms and cravings when quitting smoking is that your brain is suffering a lack of nicotine. The extra neuronal receptors have developed to adapt to the floods of nicotine molecules you pump your brain with during each inhalation, leading to mini bursts of dopamine.
When the receptors are empty, this is felt as a lack of acetylcholine (the chemical that nicotine mimicks) and therefore a lack of dopamine. So the brain goes into its moody withdrawal, trying everything it can to make you have nicotine. There is a powerful subconscious expectation for nicotine. What happens if someone is refused something they are subconsciously compelled towards? They become moody, irrational, irritable, depressed, stressed…
So are cravings real or imagined?
Cravings are real because they feel real, and afterall they are only feelings and not things. But they are very much influenced by your mindset.
For example. When you get on a plane, and you know you can’t smoke for nine or so hours, do you get cravings? Probably not – you know you can’t smoke. The moment you step off the plane, its a different story – the craving erupts and you can’t relieve it fast enough. Similarly for patients in hospital – in my experience as an Inpatient Specialist Stop Smoking Advisor, I frequently found patients surprised themselves at how easy it was to stop smoking whilst in hospital. Often, this led to a belief that it would be easy when they got home, but of course once the temptation is there then the cravings start. If withdrawal symptoms and cravings were a pure and simple consequence of neurochemistry then these interestingly easy periods of abstinence wouldn’t be possible. But they are.
So when you subconsciously know that you aren’t going to smoke, quitting becomes a whole lot easier. It’s like your subconscious compulsion for nicotine knows it has lost the fight, so its useless trying to persuade you otherwise. It gives up trying to persuade you with all the negative feelings of withdrawal.
This is why my Quit Smoking CD is built upon getting that motive to quit to its maximum, and reducing all those fears and doubts about being able to quit. Its about making that will power strong and robust, so you can join the many people who have quit easily.