The other day I was resting comfortably on my balcony, enjoying a cup of green tea, when my neighbour stepped out onto his balcony and ruined my zen with his chain smoking. One cigarette isn’t completely finished and he’s lighting up a new one. He even smoked a cigarette while eating a sandwich. It occurred to me that he might need my help. Before I became a neurofeedback therapy specialist, I could never understand why many of my family and friends couldn’t quit smoking, especially being privy to the many health risks that come with it, which include cancer, coronary disease, stroke, blood and vessel damage. In fact, according to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes over 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths! Smoking kills one in ten people worldwide. A study in the Lancet medical journal stated that smoking was the second leading risk factor for early death and worldwide disability in 2015, claiming more than five million lives every year since 1990. And shockingly, even with this compelling evidence, knowing the high possibility of death, people continue to smoke. In fact, just in the United States alone, people are addicted to nicotine than any other drug.
Nicotine, which is found in Tobacco, is the cause of addiction, hence why so many people find it extremely difficult to quit. When a person inhales the tobacco, nicotine stimulates the brain, bringing pleasure and a sense of calm to the addict. When the nicotine in a person’s blood is low the smoker will begin to crave additional nicotine and experience anxiety, which brings on the symptoms of restlessness, headaches, hunger, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, until they’re able to have their next cigarette. The nicotine will subsequently counter that anxiety, allowing the person to feel calm and relaxed until their nicotine levels are low once again. Knowing that smoking is just as addictive as other drugs, a person who desperately wants to quit smoking will benefit from professional help. On the positive side, since nicotine affects the brain, Neurofeedback therapy is a highly effective treatment for those addicted to smoking. Studies over the years have proven that smokers have more anxiety than non- smokers, and that smoking is related to anxiety. For this reason, the key to overcoming this addiction is to treat the part of the brain that causes the anxiety. By teaching a person how to train their brain, through various techniques and exercises, they will learn how to control the negative effects of their anxiety and stress without the use of nicotine and therefore be free of their nicotine addiction. Nevertheless, kicking a nicotine addiction is difficult, and it takes time. Some of the patients I’ve treated required more sessions than others since each person is unique.
Anyhow, getting back to my neighbour, the chain smoker, we had a long conversation about his health. Sadly enough, he confided that his job’s extremely demanding and consequently, smoking became therapeutic for him. He also confessed his smoking began in his late teens due to the fact that many of his friends smoked. Like many of my other clients who battle/battled a smoking addiction, the need and the desire to fit in with their peers, which is also called, social anxiety, lead to their smoking. With that being said, I offered my expertise and introduced him to Neurofeedback therapy. I told him how effective it has been, not only for many of my clients but for my father as well, who are proudly gone from smoking five packs of cigarettes a day to one pack a day in just a few weeks. Happily, my neighbour agreed to try Neurofeedback therapy and as a result, in just a short time, he’s now able to enjoy a sandwich without smoking a cigarette at the same time! My neighbour is aware of the long, arduous road ahead, after smoking for thirty plus years, but he’s committed to therapy and shows magnificent signs of improvement after each session.
Dr. Elena Eustache is a specialist in Neurofeedback Therapy, with a PhD in Psychology and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Dr Elena Eustache helps her patients reach their full potential so they can live the life they’ve always dreamed of.