TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida State University professor will share a $3.3 million federal grant with a colleague from the University of Vermont to develop an innovative method that will help smokers with anxiety disorders extinguish the habit.
FSU psychology Professor Brad Schmidt and UVM psychology Professor Michael Zvolensky are recruiting about 600 people -- 300 at each campus -- to participate in the study over the next five years. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the $3.3 million grant is one of the largest the scientific organization has ever awarded for this kind of study, Schmidt said.
Cigarette smoking, the leading cause of preventable death and disability in North America, is particularly common among those with, or at risk for developing, panic disorder, according to Schmidt. About 40 percent of individuals with panic disorder are regular smokers and more than 60 percent have a lifetime history of smoking.
These rates are higher than in the general population where about 25 percent are smokers. Yet no specialized approach currently exists to help smokers with anxiety problems quit, Schmidt said.
The thing that makes this smoking cessation program unique is the focus on reducing anxiety sensitivity, which is a risk factor for developing anxiety problems, he said. Nicotine withdrawal produces all kinds of unpleasant feelings, and if youre extremely sensitive to these kinds of bodily sensations, it could provoke anxiety and panic responses.
People with anxiety sensitivity perceive certain physical responses -- such as a pounding heart, sweaty palms or dizziness -- as a sign of imminent personal harm, even if the cause is something as mundane as stress, caffeine or nicotine. They not only fear their own reactions, they also fear that other people will detect their anxiety, which then increases their anxiety and puts them at risk for a panic attack.
Some people with anxiety sensi
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Florida State University