Publication Abstract

Authors: Watson NL, Heffner JL, McClure JB, Bricker JB

Title: Relationships Between Social Anxiety and Smoking-Specific Experiential Avoidance.

Journal: J Dual Diagn 13(1):1-5

Date: 2017 Jan-Mar

Abstract: OBJECTIVES: Although social anxiety is associated with higher prevalence of smoking and lower cessation rates, little is known about the underlying mechanisms of these relationships. Research suggests that socially anxious smokers have higher levels of smoking-specific experiential avoidance and are inclined to smoke to avoid internal smoking cues. However, it is unknown which types of internal smoking cues they avoid. Thus, this study aimed to address this gap in the literature. METHODS: Participants (N = 450) were adult smokers from a group-based trial for smoking cessation. Bivariate correlations and hierarchical linear regression models examined relationships between baseline levels of social anxiety and acceptance of internal smoking cues-physical sensations, emotions, and cognitions. RESULTS: Social anxiety was associated with lower levels of acceptance of thoughts, sensations, and emotions that cue smoking. After controlling for levels of nicotine dependence, depression, generalized anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety still explained unique variability in overall acceptance of internal smoking cues and in acceptance of physical sensations and emotions that serve as smoking cues. Social anxiety no longer explained unique variability in acceptance of thoughts that trigger smoking. CONCLUSIONS: Smokers with high levels of social anxiety are less accepting of internal smoking cues. For physical and emotional cues, this effect was independent of level of dependence and mental health comorbidity. Results help explain why smokers with social anxiety are less likely to quit and can inform the development of targeted cessation treatments for smokers with social anxiety.