So, you have decided that the next packet of cigarettes that you buy will be your last. You’ve read up on the effects of tobacco on pretty much every part of your body, and none of it is good.
So, you’ve decided that it is time to quit. Once the last cigarette from this packet is gone, that’s it, you’re done with these things.
If this sounds like a familiar step to you, or a step that you are currently taking, then congratulations.
Even wanting to take the first step, much less going through with it, can be an incredibly difficult step, and it is a very respectable thing to want to do.
After all, smoking and its related health conditions are the cause of around 1 in five fatalities in the United States or almost half a million deaths. So it is probably better to kick the habit sooner rather than later.
However, whilst the first step to quitting smoking is important, you are quite likely to find that it is one of the easier things you’ll do on this journey.
As we will show in this article, many things are going to make the journey towards quitting cigarettes altogether a tough, but worthwhile, experience.
We are going to discuss some of the symptoms that withdrawal from cigarettes can trigger, (including tightness in your chest), as well as what causes them, and how they can be dealt with.
We’ll also go over a few other symptoms you may be experiencing alongside or instead of chest tightness.
The road to cigarette sobriety is a little different for everyone, so it pays to be aware of some of the other signs you might be experiencing.
Why Does My Chest Feel Tight Once I Have Quit?
So, you’ve had your last cigarette, and you don’t intend on buying another packet. This is the first step of many, and, if you don’t have a clear strategy or nicotine substitute, the next step may be quite shaky for some people.
After you have first quit smoking, you may start to notice that something feels wrong with you within the first few days. If you were a heavy smoker, it may even be the first.
You may notice that you are getting out of breath much more quickly than normal, or that you become much easier to make dizzy by just doing everyday activities. You may also have started to feel your chest tightening for no reason.
Symptoms like these, as well as many others, are very common for people who have just quit smoking, and can very easily cause new quitters to panic, or worse, go back to smoking cigarettes.
Either option can feel incredibly demoralizing, and make you feel like quitting is impossible, or that you must not be strong enough to do it.
We’re here to tell you that both of these thoughts are not true. The journey was never going to be an easy one, but it is a journey that many other people have gone through, and many have probably found it just as difficult.
This means that the symptoms that you are experiencing now that you have stopped smoking are very well-studied, and have a pretty clear explanation to them.
If you are experiencing a change in how your body is reacting or functioning within the first few hours and days after you have quit the cigarettes, then what you are feeling are some of the withdrawal symptoms of not having nicotine in your system.
And this is often the biggest hurdle you will have to overcome on your journey toward getting sober.
What Is Nicotine Withdrawal?
You may have heard of the term ‘nicotine withdrawal’ before, especially if you have told people that you plan on quitting smoking.
Whilst it can be a difficult thing to wrap your head around if you are not a smoker, or haven’t tried to quit smoking before.
But, the chemical processes that it affects have very clear and traceable effects. Because the fact is, quitting smoking isn’t just a psychological or emotional battle. It is very much a physical struggle as well.
Whilst you are smoking a cigarette, the nicotine contained in it will bind to receptors in your brain, causing your body to release a chemical known as dopamine.
The effect that it can have on the body is a feeling of pleasure and is released when you experience something gratifying, such as completing a task, or, in this case, smoking a cigarette.
This effectively means that, when you are smoking a cigarette, your body is receiving a kind of dopamine rush or ‘fix’.
When you stop smoking, you also stop receiving the nicotine that releases the dopamine ‘feel-good’ chemical.
The withdrawal of a steady high supply of this can trick your body into detecting something wrong, which causes the many side effects of withdrawal from nicotine.
One of which, as we have already mentioned, is the tightness in your chest that you experience within a few days, or even hours, of quitting.
Other Effects Of Nicotine Withdrawal On The Body
As with such a complex system as the human body, tightness in your chest is unlikely to be the only effect that nicotine can and will have on your body.
Your body may also begin to experience a few of these other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal alongside the tight feeling in your chest:
- You may suddenly find that your appetite has increased immensely. As your brain tries to find some alternative means of creating dopamine, you may find yourself wanting to eat a lot to create a similar hit. This is not exactly a healthy option for you, and can also be quite an expensive coping mechanism!
- You may find that you are much more irritable or aggressive during withdrawal, as you do not have a steady amount of dopamine helping to regulate your mood.
- On a similar note, you may find yourself experiencing more depressive moods, due to the lack of dopamine in your system.
- Concentration also becomes much more difficult to maintain without enough dopamine.
Any combination of these symptoms and more can result in you caving in to those cravings, and picking up smoking again.
How To Deal With Nicotine Withdrawal
The many symptoms that withdrawal brings with it can make quitting incredibly difficult. Before you fully quit, you should consider the following options as a way of coping with them.
- Discuss Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) With a health professional. You can use several nicotine products to slowly wean yourself off of needing nicotine from cigarettes with things such as patches, gum, or lozenges.
- If you feel hunger cravings, try drinking water instead.
- If you feel like you’re in a depressive moment whilst quitting, talk to someone about it.
So, to wrap up, the road to quitting smoking is not a sprint, but a marathon. Remember to plan how to cope with the nicotine loss, and you will find your sailing through this journey much smoother.