Anxiety sensitivity mediates the association between post-traumatic stress symptom severity and interoceptive threat-related smoking abstinence expectancies among World Trade Center disaster-exposed smokers

Samantha G Farris, Daniel J Paulus, Adam Gonzalez, Brittain L Mahaffey, Evelyn J Bromet, Benjamin J Luft, Roman Kotov, Michael J Zvolensky
Addictive Behaviors 2015, 51: 204-10

INTRODUCTION: Anxiety sensitivity (fear of internal anxiety-relevant bodily sensations) is an individual difference variable that is associated with the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is also involved in the maintenance/relapse of smoking. Abstinence expectancies are crucial to smoking maintenance, yet, past work has not explored how PTSD symptom severity and anxiety sensitivity contribute to them.

METHOD: Participants were 122 treatment-seeking daily smokers (36.1% female; Mage=49.2, SD=9.7; cigarettes per day: M=18.3, SD=15.2) who were exposed to the World Trade Center disaster on September 11, 2001 and responded to an advertisement for a clinical smoking cessation trial. The indirect effect of anxiety sensitivity was tested in terms of the effect of PTSD symptom severity on smoking abstinence expectancies (i.e., anxiety sensitivity as a statistical mediator).

RESULTS: PTSD symptom severity was positively associated with interoceptive threat-related smoking abstinence expectancies: expecting harmful consequences (β=.33, p<.001) and somatic symptoms (β=.26, p=.007). PTSD symptom severity was also significantly associated with anxiety sensitivity (β=.27, p=.003). Anxiety sensitivity mediated the association between PTSD symptom severity and expectancies about the harmful consequences (β=.09, CI95%=.02-.21; ΔR(2)=.076) and somatic symptoms (β=.11, CI95%=.02-.24; ΔR(2)=.123) from smoking abstinence, with medium effect sizes (Κ(2)=.08 and .10, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: These data document the role of PTSD symptoms in threat-based expectancies about smoking abstinence and suggest anxiety sensitivity may underlie the associations between PTSD symptom severity and abstinence expectancies.

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