Objective: DSM-IV lists increased anxiety as a nicotine withdrawal symptom. Increased anxiety has been reported to follow smoking cessation in most but not all studies. Indeed, there is some evidence for a reduction in anxiety, compared with precessation levels, after the first few weeks of abstinence. This study reports data from 101 smokers who attempted to stop smoking and who satisfied DSM-III-R criteria for nicotine dependence.
Method: Unlike most studies in this area, a strict criterion of lapse-free abstinence was adopted. It is argued that lapses during an attempt at cessation may underlie a transient increase in anxiety. Anxiety was measured both by a single rating typical in withdrawal studies and by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory--State Form X. Patients were rated 2 weeks and 1 week before cessation, immediately before cessation, 24 hours after cessation, and 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks after cessation.
Results: Seventy patients were abstinent for the 4-week follow-up period. There was no evidence of an increase in anxiety following smoking cessation. However, there was a significant decrease in anxiety from the first week of abstinence.
Conclusions: The results weaken the view that increased anxiety is a robust and central element of the nicotine withdrawal syndrome and suggest that giving up smoking is quite rapidly followed by a reduction in anxiety that may reflect removal of an anxiogenic agent, nicotine.