Photo courtesy University of Texas and U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Perry

Study: Anxious smokers should do this to kick the habit

As many as one-third of all smokers have a hard time quitting because they’re particularly sensitive to stress, but researchers have discovered an effective way to help them kick the habit, according to a new study by University of Texas researchers.

The study found that between 20 percent and 33 percent of smokers have “high anxiety sensitivity.” They have a fear of anxiety-related symptoms such as a sweating, dizziness or rapid heartbeat. They smoke to keep those sensations at bay, so quitting is tough.

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Anxiety is surprisingly closely linked with smoking, said Jasper Smits, a psychology professor and lead author of the study, which was published in the academic journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

“Those with high-anxiety sensitivity experience greater problems with nicotine withdrawal, which is a strong predictor of lapse and subsequent relapse,” Smits said in an extended UT news release. The study suggests that exercise doubles the chances of quitting for people with anxiety sensitivity or depressive symptoms.

Smits said the finding is of particular importance for people with psychiatric disorders. According to the National Health Interview Survey, smoking has dropped among people without such disorders (from 24.1 percent in 1997 to 18.2 percent in 2011), while it has stayed nearly the same among people with the disorders (43.6 percent to 42.1 percent).

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