It is widely recognized that smoking is related to abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as gastrointestinal disorders. Research has shown that visceral sensitivity, experiencing anxiety around gastrointestinal sensations, is associated with poorer gastrointestinal health and related health outcomes. Visceral sensitivity also increases anxiety symptoms and mediates the relation with other risk factors, including gastrointestinal distress. No work to date, however, has evaluated visceral sensitivity in the context of smoking despite the strong association between smoking and poor physical and mental health. The current study sought to examine visceral sensitivity as a unique predictor of cigarette dependence, threat-related smoking abstinence expectancies (somatic symptoms and harmful consequences), and perceived barriers for cessation via anxiety symptoms. Eighty-four treatment seeking adult daily smokers (Mage = 45.1 years [SD = 10.4]; 71.6% male) participated in this study. There was a statistically significant indirect effect of visceral sensitivity via general anxiety symptoms on cigarette dependence (b = 0.02, SE = 0.01, Bootstrapped 95% CI [0.006, 0.05]), smoking abstinence somatic expectancies (b = 0.10, SE = 0.03, Bootstrapped 95% CI [0.03, 0.19]), smoking abstinence harmful experiences (b = 0.13, SE = 0.05, Bootstrapped 95% CI [0.03, 0.25]), and barriers to cessation (b = 0.05, SE = 0.06, Bootstrapped 95% CI [0.01, 0.13]). Overall, the present study serves as an initial investigation into the nature of the associations between visceral sensitivity, anxiety symptoms, and clinically significant smoking processes among treatment-seeking smokers. Future work is needed to explore the extent to which anxiety accounts for relations between visceral sensitivity and other smoking processes (e.g., withdrawal, cessation outcome).
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Visceral sensitivity