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When you quit smoking you may experience withdrawal symptoms - temporary physical and emotional changes as your body adjusts to being free of nicotine.

Withdrawal can be unpleasant so it’s useful to think of the symptoms as signs that your body is recovering from smoking. Some people only have a few mild symptoms but others have more severe symptoms that are harder to deal with. Most people find that symptoms are gone within two to four weeks, though for some people they may last longer. Symptoms tend to rise and fall over several weeks. Remember, it all passes if you hang on and stay quit.

Nicotine replacement therapy and quitting medication can reduce most withdrawal symptoms.

Common recovery symptoms include:

  • Cravings
    • While they can be quite strong at first, they usually lasts only a few minutes. Resist each one and they get less frequent until they’re just memories.
  • Restlessness and/or difficulty concentrating or sleeping
    • These feelings will pass as your system settles down. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help. It’s also important to reduce your caffeine intake, i.e. coffee, cola, chocolate, and tea. When you quit your body absorbs almost twice as much caffeine, which can make you feel restless, anxious and irritable.Quitting smoking is hard enough without the effects of too much caffeine as well!
  • Irritability, anger, anxiety, crying, sadness or depression
    • It’s normal to feel emotional early on - don’t panic. Accept that you might be more emotional for a while and it will pass.
  • Increase in appetite and weight gain
    • You may have an increase in appetite for several weeks. Planning ahead to help keep weight gain low – see managing weight gain for helpful tips.

Less common recovery symptoms can include:

  • Cold symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, sneezing
  • Constipation, diarrhoea, stomach aches or nausea
    • A varied diet and plenty of water can help.
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Mouth ulcers

If you are really struggling with withdrawal symptoms, or they are not going away, consult your doctor or call the Quitline for advice.

Why do I feel so emotional?

In the first few days or weeks, quitting can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. It’s normal to feel emotional when you make big changes. Giving up cigarettes can feel like losing a friend. Having an idea of what to expect can help. You can recognise and acknowledge the change in your emotions and understand that it’s just a stage. If you can ride through the uncomfortable feelings, your emotions will gradually settle down and you will feel more confident and comfortable without cigarettes.

Ways to manage nicotine withdrawal

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or quitting medication

If you are troubled by very strong and persistent cravings, you can consider using NRT or quitting medication, which can reduce most withdrawal symptoms.

Ask your doctor for a prescription; prescribed patches and quitting medications are available on the PBS.

Remember, the most effective way to quit isCounselling / behavioural support + NRT or quitting medication

Other ways to manage withdrawal

Focusing your attention on something that gives you pleasure or is relaxing can help with withdrawal:

  • Do exercise you enjoy
    • Exercise can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also lower stress and help keep your weight down.
  • Get involved in new or favourite hobbies
    • or spend more time with supportive friends and family.
  • Focus on relaxation
  • Get a massage or spa, try deep breathing exercises, listen to music, or take yoga or Pilates classes.

Remember the good things that are happening to your body. Now that you’ve stopped smoking, your body can start to heal and reverse the damage from cigarettes.