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Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Jan;15(1):1-10. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntr332. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

Panic attack history and anxiety sensitivity in relation to cognitive-based smoking processes among treatment-seeking daily smokers.

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Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.



Empirical research has found that panic attacks are related to increased risk of more severe nicotine withdrawal and poor cessation outcome. Anxiety sensitivity (AS; fear of anxiety and related sensations) has similarly been found to be related to an increased risk of acute nicotine withdrawal and poorer cessation outcome. However, research has yet to examine the relative contributions of panic attacks and AS in terms of cognitive-based smoking processes (e.g., negative reinforcement smoking expectancies, addictive and negative affect-based reduction smoking motives, barriers to cessation, problem symptoms experienced while quitting).


Participants (n = 242; 57.4% male; M (age) = 38.1) were daily smokers recruited as a part of a larger randomized control trial for smoking cessation. It was hypothesized that both panic attacks and AS would uniquely and independently predict the studied cognitive-based smoking processes.


As hypothesized, AS was uniquely and positively associated with all smoking processes after controlling for average number of cigarettes smoked per day, current Axis I diagnosis, and participant sex. However, panic attack history was only significantly related to problem symptoms experienced while quitting smoking.


Although past research has demonstrated significant associations between panic attacks and certain aspects of cigarette smoking (e.g., severity of nicotine withdrawal; lower abstinence rates, and negative affect reduction motives), the present findings suggest that AS may be more relevant to understanding beliefs about and motives for smoking behavior as well as perceptions of cessation-related difficulties.

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