Anxiety Makes Quitting Smoking Harder

Cigarette habit hard to break for those with anxiety

A recent study suggests, smokers diagnosed with anxiety disorders had lower quitting rates than smokers who were not diagnosed with anxiety.The Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention conducted a study that found an interesting association between anxiety disorders and the likelihood of successfully quitting smoking.

The study consisted of 1,504 smokers. Subjects were eligible to participate if they smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day for 6 months and expressed a desire to quit. The results showed that the participants with anxiety disorders had higher nicotine dependence than the participants without anxiety disorders.

All participants completed surveys concerning demographics, smoking history, and previous attempts to quit. Experts also administered a test to the participants to diagnose their mental health, which determined if they had general anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, or no anxiety.  The participants were randomly assigned to receive different treatments that either consisted of one quitting aid, a combination of aids, or a placebo. Quitting rates were evaluated by following up with the patients 8 weeks and 6 months after quitting.  Additionally, a smokerlyzer device was used to determine the amount of carbon monoxide in the participants’ systems.

Each anxiety group reported more withdrawal symptoms and higher fatigue rates than the non-anxiety group, but the participants with multiple anxiety disorders reported the highest. The non-anxious participants had the highest rate of quitting at the 8 week follow-up and the 6 month follow-up, while the participants with multiple anxiety disorders had the lowest quitting rate at the 6 month follow-up.  And while there was a significant difference in quitting success between the non-anxious participants who received quitting aids and the placebo treatment, there was no difference amongst the anxious participants.

The results of this study demonstrate that habitual smoking may be caused by more factors than nicotine addiction. A study conducted in Australia also found that depressed and anxious teenagers were twice as likely to start smoking than their peers, especially teenage girls.  Another study found that smoking may also increase depressive symptoms in teens.  These studies suggest that it is imperative for smokers diagnosed with anxiety to treat the psychological disorder along with the physical addiction in order to quit successfully.  It is also important to address the negative effects of nicotine use to prevent susceptible individuals from using smoking as an unhealthy psychological and emotional aid.

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2 Comments

  • I do have an anxiety disorder. But I don’t want to use this as an excuse to smoke cigarettes. I have quit smoking in the past without any pressure or prodding. I just love smoking; period. I can joke around about how it’s killing me; what doesn’t? I’d rather not debate about the subject. I can do other things like exercise, work, stay up too late, eat, etc. I feel it when I smoke too much, & don’t exercise & stay up late stuffing myself w/ whatever snacks I might be in to.

  • The Surgeon General’s warnings mandatory on all tobacco products should add these two messages, which are based solely on NICOTINE side effects:

    Quitting Smoking Now May Greatly Decrease Incidences of Erectile Dysfunction.

    Smoking Causes Penile Shrinkage

    The Heck with the other stuff; these are serious deterrents.

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