Isolating the Role of Psychological Dysfunction in Smoking Cessation: Relations of Personality and Psychopathology to Attaining Cessation Milestones

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Abstract

Research exploring psychological dysfunction as a predictor of smoking cessation success may be limited by nonoptimal predictor variables (i.e., categorical psychodiagnostic measures vs. continuous personality-based manifestations of dysfunction) and imprecise outcomes (i.e., summative point-prevalence abstinence vs. constituent cessation milestone measures). Accordingly, this study evaluated the unique and overlapping relations of broad-spectrum personality traits (positive emotionality, negative emotionality, and constraint) and past-year psychopathology (anxiety, mood, and substance use disorder) to point-prevalence abstinence and three smoking cessation milestones: (a) initiating abstinence, (b) first lapse, and (c) transition from lapse to relapse. Participants were daily smokers (N = 1365) enrolled in a smoking cessation treatment study. In single-predictor regression models, each manifestation of internalizing dysfunction (lower positive emotionality, higher negative emotionality, and anxiety and mood disorder) predicted failure at one or more cessation milestone(s). In simultaneous predictor models, lower positive and higher negative emotionality significantly predicted failure to achieve milestones after controlling for psychopathology. Psychopathology did not predict any outcome when controlling for personality. Negative emotionality showed the most robust and consistent effects, significantly predicting failure to initiate abstinence, earlier lapse, and lower point-prevalence abstinence rates. Substance use disorder and constraint did not predict cessation outcomes, and no single variable predicted lapse-to-relapse transition. These findings suggest that personality-related manifestations of internalizing dysfunction are more accurate markers of affective sources of relapse risk than mood and anxiety disorders. Further, individuals with high trait-negative emotionality may require intensive intervention to promote the initiation and early maintenance of abstinence.

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