Anxiety Make it Harder to Kick the Habit

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A new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin concludes that smokers with a history of anxiety disorders have a more difficult time trying to quit smoking making it harder to kick the habit.

Tobacco is the biggest cause of preventable death and disability in the United States. Nicotine is highly addictive and can be hard to quit. While overall quit rates for the study were high, participants with anxiety diagnoses were much less likely to quit smoking.

Study results also showed that anxiety diagnoses were very common among participants and that more than a third of them met criteria for at least one anxiety diagnosis in their lifetime.

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Many smokers claim that they smoke to calm their nerves and cigarettes have helped them to get through some of life's most trying challenges however, they contain nicotine, which is an addictive drug and is a stimulant which is known to cause excitement. It will also intensify worries and make them seem bigger than they are which can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Out of all 1,504 study participants, 455 had had a panic attack in the past which included 199 social anxiety disorders, and 99 generalized anxiety disorders. There has been other research that has shown that up to 25 percent of the more than 50 million smokers in the U.S. had at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Researchers are starting to notice that very little research has addressed smoking in this population.

Lead author Megan Piper says it surprised her that the nicotine lozenge and patch alone or in combination failed to help patients with an anxiety history to quit smoking. “Further research is needed to identify better counseling and medication treatments to help patients with anxiety disorders to quit smoking,” Piper says.

Smokers in the study with anxiety disorders also reported higher levels of nicotine dependence and withdrawal symptoms prior to quitting. Researchers are excited to discover that anxiety makes it harder to kick the habit. Anxiety medications alone haven’t boosted cessation rates and Piper is planning further research to test other quit-smoking counseling interventions and medications with patients who have had an anxiety diagnosis.

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