Smoking and social anxiety: the role of false safety behaviors

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Despite the negative health consequences associated with smoking, most smokers find it difficult to quit. This is especially true for smokers with elevated social anxiety. One factor that may play a role in maintaining smoking with elevated anxiety is false safety behavior (FSB), behaviors geared toward decreasing anxiety short-term but that maintain or increase anxiety long-term. The present study tested whether FSB explained the relation of social anxiety severity with smoking among 71 current smokers. Avoidance-related FSB was the only type of FSB related to cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and it was robustly related to more CPD. Further, social anxiety was related to CPD indirectly via FSB-Avoidance. Findings suggest that more frequent use of avoidance behaviors to manage anxiety may maintain smoking and may partially explain the high rates of smoking among those with elevated social anxiety. Thus, FSB may be a promising target in smoking cessation interventions, especially among those with elevated social anxiety.

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Cognitive behaviour therapy

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