Bonnie Spring, PhD, began smoking as a way to concentrate while writing papers in college. The nicotine and the ritual of lighting up later helped her think through her dissertation on schizophrenia's tangled underpinnings and write grant proposals for her research, she says. But Spring knew that along with this increased concentration came a greatly increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease, so she attempted to quit while completing her clinical internship.
"I got through the entire internship year not smoking because I was just writing [patient] chart notes," says Spring, now a health psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Then when I went back to writing schizophrenia research grants, I went right back to smoking."
The experience sparked Spring's interest in addictions and led her to switch from abnormal to health psychology after becoming a full professor. Spring observed that her own smoking habit had a specific purpose: She was self-medicating to concentrate. This led her to theorize that smokers use cigarettes to regulate their mood, concentration and weight, to name a few uses. Those attempting to quit smoking might have an easier time if they could replace cigarettes with something else to fill those needs, she thought--such as controlling weight with exercise and an improved diet.
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