Anxiety, Rumination, and Tobacco Use

Have you found yourself reaching for a cigarette when stressed out and anxious or when brooding over negative thoughts?

In their study, Martínez-Vispo et al. (2022) examined the shared and specific link between brooding rumination and anxiety sensitivity with depression and anxiety symptomatology in a sample population of treatment-pursing smokers (p. 49). The sample population was comprised of 275 treatment-pursuing adult smokers. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were used to analyze the relations among both variables with depressive and anxiety symptoms. They found that higher brooding rumination and being prone to anxiety predicted greater levels of depression and anxiety symptoms.

Additionally, several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown that smoking tobacco is linked with depressive and anxiety symptoms and the more-severe syndromes (e.g., emotional psychopathology). Research has time and again found, for instance, that depression and anxiety symptom severity is associated with a boost in smoking rates, heavier smoking patterns, greater tobacco dependence, and increased challenges with quitting smoking. Smoking has also been linked with the duration and the harshness of depressive and anxiety symptoms. The large co-occurrence of emotional symptoms in the population in general is also often recognized in smokers.

To explain the relationship between emotional psychopathology and tobacco usage, it has been proposed that some cognitive vulnerability processes, such as brooding rumination and anxiety sensitivity, may be involved in the start and maintenance of different forms of emotional psychopathology. From this point of view, rumination and anxiety sensitivity may work as maladaptive emotion-regulation strategies that boost the risk of emotional conditions and symptoms (Martínez-Vispo et al., 2022).

Brooding rumination may be thought of as a person’s predisposition to bring attention to negative thoughts, feelings, and problems. It also involves negative interpretation patterns and a perception-based bias for negative events. The available research supports the idea that both anxiety sensitivity and brooding rumination may be implied in smoking behavior and dependence on tobacco. Similarly, studies have demonstrated that rumination is associated with greater depressive symptoms in smokers (as compared to non-smokers) and that brooding rumination is linked with higher tobacco dependence. In addition, research has shown that depressive rumination was positively linked with the number of unsuccessful quit attempts (Martínez-Vispo et al., 2022).

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Martínez-Vispo, C., López-Durán, A., Senra, C., & Becoña, E. (2022). Brooding rumination and anxiety sensitivity: Associations with depressive and anxiety symptoms in treatment-seeking smokers. Psicothema, 34(1), 49–55.