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.
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).
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; ΔR2 = .076) and somatic symptoms (β = .11, CI95% = .02–.24; ΔR2 = .123) from smoking abstinence, with medium effect sizes (Κ2 = .08 and .10, respectively).
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.