Terssing and Addiction—How It Can Help.
How Addiction Works
Any psychologist can tell you that there are three kinds of addiction: physical, behavioral, and psychological.
What any smoker can tell you is that when you try to quit, you have to deal with three kinds of challenges: withdrawal symptoms, habits, and negative feelings.
Withdrawal symptoms come from physical addiction. Your body and brain get used to nicotine, and when you cut off the supply they start to get unhappy. It’s the most popular image of why quitting is hard: your hands are shaky, you feel sweaty and anxious, your body aches. It’s miserable.
It also fades. And medication can help tremendously, whether it’s nicotine patches or prescription drugs like Varenicline. If withdrawal were the only barrier to quitting, most of us would probably succeed on our first try.
Instead, the reason smoking can be so hard to kick is the psychological and behavioral sides of addiction. Smoking fills a role in our lives. On the one hand, it gets built into our habits and routines: we have a cigarette after dinner, we pull out our vape on the walk to work. We get used to it, and now every time we have dinner, it feels wrong not to smoke. That’s the “behavioral” side.
On the other hand, there’s the “psychological” aspect. This is the part that’s about feelings: feeling stressed, feeling unhappy, feeling lonely, and wanting to cope with those feelings by smoking. In fact, those feelings are a leading cause of relapse.
To overcome addiction, you’ll need to find ways to handle all three aspects of it. We already talked about the physical part, so let’s zoom in on the psychological part of smoking.
Boredom, or, What To Do Instead of Smoking
Here’s a cool piece of science. If you train people to pay close attention to what smoking feels like—how it tastes, how it smells, how it makes their body feel—they quickly start liking it less and less. It gets easier to quit. The same thing happens with alcohol: sure, the initial rush is nice, but after that it doesn’t take long for us to start feeling fuzzy-headed, tense, heavy, and tired. Smoking tends leaves people anxious and stressed.
What that means is that people smoke absent-mindedly. We smoke because we’re used to it. Because it used to feel good. Because we associate smoking with certain times, places, activities, and people.
For a lot of us, we smoke just because we’re bored. In a huge study, boredom turned out to be one of the leading causes of relapse. It’s a powerful psychological trigger: with noting else to do, we turn to what's simple and familiar.
And that shows us what to do about it, and how Terss can help.
Terssing and Smoking
The American Psychological Association keeps a list of science-backed advice for smokers. Much of the list is about replacing the role that smoking fills in your life. They quote Robert Shipley, president of QuitSmart and Director of Duke University’s Stop Smoking Clinic.
“We say that the habit is strong, but it's dumb. If you change some part of it you won't get as strong an urge because the habit is so tied to specific cues that have been repeatedly paired with smoking.”
That’s the first way Terss can help. Instead of needing to abandon every routine, or weaken every habit, you can pair the habits you love with something new. Change the outcome, not the trigger. The APA goes on,
“Successful tobacco cessation requires people to stop seeing themselves as smokers or users of tobacco. Shipley encourages them to ‘fake it till you make it’ and view themselves as calm, comfortable nonsmokers through such relaxation techniques as deep breathing, muscle relaxation and physical exercise.”
Deep breathing, of course, is exactly what the Terss is designed for. Switching from smoking to terssing is just the kind of change the APA is talking about.
Other major guides offer similar advice : avoid triggers and find new ways to deal with boredom and stress. Just the roles Terss made built for.
Then there’s the science. Most smokers worry that quitting will take away a coping mechanism they depend on. Replacing smoking with another calming, pleasurable coping mechanism takes that worry away. At the same time, one major predictor of successful quitting is having a clear plan. There’s no plan that’s clearer, or more actionable, than to live your life just the way you were. All Terss does is replace your cigarettes; no other changes needed.
All together, the deep breathing, relaxation, consistency, stable habits, and lack of major changes is a recipe for success. Terssing might not handle the physical side of addiction (even though it can help in warding off a nicotine craving as we discussed here), but it can certainly make the other parts easier to bear.
Brewer, J. A., Mallik, S., Babuscio, T. A., Nich, C., Johnson, H. E., Deleone, C. M., ... & Rounsaville, B. J. (2011). Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 119(1-2), 72-80.
Cosci, F., Pistelli, F., Lazzarini, N., & Carrozzi, L. (2011). Nicotine dependence and psychological distress: outcomes and clinical implications in smoking cessation. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 4, 119.
De Vries, H., Eggers, S. M., & Bolman, C. (2013). The role of action planning and plan enactment for smoking cessation. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1-11.
Kerr, S., Woods, C., Knussen, C., Watson, H., & Hunter, R. (2013). Breaking the habit: a qualitative exploration of barriers and facilitators to smoking cessation in people with enduring mental health problems. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1-12.
Martínez-Vispo, C., Senra, C., López-Durán, A., del Río, E. F., & Becoña, E. (2019). Boredom susceptibility as predictor of smoking cessation outcomes: Sex differences. Personality and Individual Differences, 146, 130-135.
McLaughlin, I., Dani, J. A., & De Biasi, M. (2015). Nicotine withdrawal. The Neuropharmacology of Nicotine Dependence, 99-123.
Twyman, L., Bonevski, B., Paul, C., & Bryant, J. (2014). Perceived barriers to smoking cessation in selected vulnerable groups: a systematic review of the qualitative and quantitative literature. BMJ Open, 4(12).
 McLaughlin, Dani, and Biasi (2015).
 Kerr et al. (2013).
 Cosci et al. (2011).
 Brewer et al. (2011).
 Martinez-Vispo et al. (2019).
 Twyman et al. (2014).
 Kerr et al. (2013).
 De Vries et al. (2013).