The Brain and Motivation
Motivation to Stop Smoking
Emeka Wolfe-Norman, Ed.S, LPC
February 27, 2012
Most drugs, including nicotine, induce a “euphoric” effect in the mind (Lewis, 2009) that can be difficult to “undo.” Smoking for most will be the most difficult thing they will ever do. I know that I have a personal interest in ...view middle of the document...
Because nicotine and smoking are a dual-edged sword, the addiction to smoking is not only physiological, but behavioral as well. In many cases, the physical act of smoking can be more difficult to break than the physiological addiction to smoking (Lewis, 2009).
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
Quitting smoking becomes difficult because there is a nearly complete lack of intrinsic motivation to do so. The difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, as defined by Deckers (2005), is that extrinsic sources of motivation come from the outside of the actual behavior, or are results of said behavior. Intrinsic sources of motivation, however, are internal and natural, following the body or mind’s innate needs and desires.
Because intrinsic motivation is internal, the addiction itself becomes the only source of intrinsic motivation. The powerful internal need to continue smoking becomes a huge barrier to the behavior of quitting smoking. The calming effects of smoking on the brain are something the brain seeks continuously in a person who has become sensitive to smoking (Lewis, 2009), and there are no internal counter-balances to outweigh this source of motivation.
In addition to the positive effects of smoking, there are extreme negative motivations to quitting. A person suffers what is known as withdrawal, where they experience increased irritability, a sense of mental disorder, lessened senses, a feeling of physical illness, weight gain, and coughing as the sensitive cilia in the lungs begin to reactivate (Lewis, 2009). These effects are very unpleasant, and are the primary reason for relapse in those attempting to quit (Lewis, 2009).
While the detrimental health aspects of smoking are well-known, even those can be difficult to overwhelm the intrinsic source of motivation, and are more extrinsic than intrinsic. People who try to quit have an 80% relapse rate, with only 6% of those attempting to quit making it for more than a month before relapsing (Lewis, 2009). Most people who attempt to quit and fail experience a relapse within three months of attempting to quit (Lewis, 2009).
There are many more extrinsic sources of motivation to both sides of smoking (quitting and continuing) than there are intrinsic ones. People are motivated to continue smoking because they become aware of its calming effects, enjoy fitting in with friends and family who smoke, are sensitive to peer pressure, or learn of its possible weight-controlling aspects (Lewis, 2009). The desire to begin and continue smoking has also been linked to a number of dopamine-reducing mental disorders, such as...