There has been a big drive by health bodies in the UK to help people quit smoking , and the results have been impressive. Since the link between smoking and addiction was discovered, a range of stop smoking aids has flooded the market, ranging from e-cigarettes to prescription medication.
However, even with the assistance of these aids, kicking the habit is still an incredibly difficult experience. Researchers in Wisconsin have tried to pinpoint the reason why smoking cessation is so difficult, especially in the first few weeks. Their findings, published in the 'The Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology', provide a fresh insight into the matter.
The study suggests that a key reason why smokers find it so difficult to quit is because they are unable to get pleasure from the other things in life that they normally enjoy. This is known as anhedonia, and it was previously not associated with smoking cessation. In fact, the study suggests that anhedonia actually accounts for an extremely high proportion of smoking cessation failures.
In the study, people with the highest levels of anhedonia, were also the group who were most likely to relapse and start smoking again. It found that this group were also the people who smoke during otherwise enjoyable activities, which would in turn become less enjoyable once the habit was kicked.
It also suggested that people with mental health issues, like depression, were most at risk of developing anhedonia. One of authors of the report states that 'the smoking rate has not fallen for smokers with mental health issues. They are more likely to smoke, smoke more heavily and suffer greater physical health consequences. This makes this population an especially important one of to understand and target with appropriate treatment.'
However, the research could also be useful in treating smoking cessation in the general population, especially amongst those who have tried and failed to give up multiple times. For these people, combining smoking cessation with a focus on activities that give pleasure could be a useful method in preventing relapse within the first few weeks.
To find out more about the side effects to quitting smoking and the treatments available to help you our medical experts provide advice and guidance.