Differential associations between components of anxiety sensitivity and smoking-related characteristics

Casey R Guillot, Michael J Zvolensky, Adam M Leventhal
Addictive Behaviors 2015, 40: 39-44

INTRODUCTION: Anxiety sensitivity (AS)-the tendency to fear anxiety-related experiences-is a risk factor for anxiety disorders and may contribute to smoking motivation and maintenance. Few studies have examined the relations between conceptually distinct components of AS and smoking behavior. The purpose of the current study was to examine the associations between AS components-physical concerns, mental concerns, and social concerns-and an array of smoking-related characteristics.

METHODS: In a cross-sectional design, we administered the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) and self-report measures of tobacco dependence, smoking abstinence behavior, and smoking outcome and abstinence expectancies to 314 smokers (≥ 10 cigarettes/day, 32% female, M age=44 years).

RESULTS: The ASI Mental Concerns subscale was most clearly associated with greater difficulty maintaining abstinence and stronger expectations of smoking-related negative reinforcement and withdrawal (βs=.21-.31, ps ≤ .005); the ASI Social Concerns was most clearly associated with stronger positive reinforcement smoking expectancies (β=.20, p=.0009); and ASI Physical Concerns subscale was most clearly associated with stronger tobacco withdrawal symptoms experienced in prior quit attempts (β=.20, p=.002).

CONCLUSIONS: Based on these findings of patterns of associations with smoking-related characteristics across distinct components of AS, we speculate that (1) mindfulness training may be useful for treating tobacco addiction in smokers high in AS mental concerns, and (2) smokers high in AS physical and social concerns may benefit from smoking cessation treatment that incorporates interoceptive exposure and cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety, respectively.

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