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Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5418
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I am a recent ex-smoker 36 years of age. I do suffer from anxiety

Resolved Question:

I am a recent ex-smoker 36 years of age. I do suffer from anxiety and as I started at smoking I have noticed that over the years chainsmoking was how I dealt with stress. As a smoker my diet also wasn't the best as smoking replaced meals. The fact is, I have been a heavy smoker for 16 years. Recently, I quit due to my GP sharing more info than my old physician ever had. I had some scaring in my lung that could be from anything including smoking. I did have a CT scan and the scan showed everything to be benign. As I can be a bit of a hypochondriac my physician was very patient in explaining to me that everything was benign and if I quit smoking now (unless there is some genetic factor) that I will live a healthier life and longer life and in all of his years of practice has never seen anyone come back to him with cancer later in life. In short, something else gets them. Still, over the past week I have baraged medical websites to determine my risk of cancer and in lieu of being focused on the positives of quitting smoking, my increased exercise and improved diet, I am hung up on the health risks I might have imposed on my body. In short, I'm being very fatalistic. Even though evidence, and people I know who quit at my age have had long lives...I've never known a healthy continued smoker. Part of the issue is I lost my dad at 61 to lung cancer, while smoking and my grandfather at 67, again, while still smoking. I am on an axiety med and I expect with diet, exercise, and not smoking for my anxiety to subside.

I know I can't change the past and can only move forward, but what would you recommend for a recent ex-smoker to see the benefits in quitting, be satisfied with that, and quit, "Fortune Telling?" I seem to keep fortune telling, spinning my wheels, and have anxiety about premature death. I know I wasn't an average smoker, but statistics still show that quitting in your thirties is better than the alternatives and in either situation there are no guarantees in life.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

 

Although you have taken the very healthy step of quitting smoking, you probably have uncovered a psychological issue you have had most of your life. When you smoked, you demonstrated a self destructive tendency. You knew that your father and grandfather died from cancer but you still continued the habit. But recently, when you were able to quit smoking, you started on a path of good health but you still retained the self destructive tendency. But instead of being able to express this self damaging trait through smoking, now that you are a non-smoker, it now has no place to go. Because of this, you have developed an anxiety about your own health.

 

You have become convinced that you are going to be sick, even against what your doctor says and evidence you have seen to be true. But you continue to search for someone somewhere who will back up what you are sure is true. But no matter what you find, you are going to still feel these feelings because the basis for them has not been dealt with.

 

The first step in helping yourself overcome the anxiety and fear is to talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you pinpoint what in your life is causing these feelings, where they originated, and how to process them so you can cope better. To find a therapist, talk to your doctor about a referral. Or search on line at http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/.

 

The next step is to challenge how you feel. Start writing down your beliefs about getting sick. For example, exercise will not make a difference. I will get sick anyway. Then find all the evidence you can to refute this. The idea is to change your beliefs by changing your thought process.

 

Next, you can practice thought stopping. This is similar to changing your beliefs but more immediate. Each time you are convinced you are going to get sick, say "stop" or use another technique such as a rubber band on your wrist. This not only makes you aware of your thoughts and how often you have them, but it provides a negative response to your thoughts.

 

And finally, learn to understand anxiety better. It will help you respond to your fearful thoughts and calm yourself when you feel upset. Here are some resources to help you:

 

http://helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_self_help.htm

 

http://panicdisorder.about.com/od/symptoms/a/worry.htm

 

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne

 

I hope this has helped you,

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5418
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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