Network theories of psychopathology highlight that, rather than being indicators of a latent disorder, symptoms of disorders can causally interact with one another in a network. This study examined tobacco withdrawal from a network perspective.
Participants (n = 525, 50.67% female) completed the Minnesota Tobacco Withdrawal Scale four times (2 weeks prior to a target quit day, on the target quit day, and 4 and 8 weeks after the target quit day) over the course of 8 weeks of treatment with nicotine patch and behavioral counseling within a randomized clinical trial testing long-term nicotine patch therapy in treatment-seeking smokers. The conditional dependence among seven withdrawal symptoms was estimated at each of the four measurement occasions. Influential symptoms of withdrawal were identified using centrality indices. Changes in network structure were examined using the Network Comparison Test.
Findings indicated many associations among the individual symptoms of withdrawal. The strongest associations that emerged were between sleep problems and restlessness, and associations among affective symptoms. Restlessness and affective symptoms emerged as the most central symptoms in the withdrawal networks. Minimal differences in the structure of the withdrawal networks emerged across time.
The cooccurrence of withdrawal symptoms may result from interactions among symptoms of withdrawal rather than simply reflecting passive indicators of a latent disorder. Findings encourage greater consideration of individual withdrawal symptoms and their potential interactions and may be used to generate hypotheses that may be tested in future intensive longitudinal studies.
This study provides a novel, network perspective on tobacco withdrawal. Drawing on network theories of psychopathology, we suggest that the cooccurrence of withdrawal symptoms may result from interactions among symptoms of withdrawal over time, rather than simply reflecting passive indicators of a latent disorder. Results indicating many associations among individual symptoms of withdrawal are consistent with a network perspective. Other results of interest include minimal changes in the network structure of withdrawal across four measurement occasions prior to and during treatment with nicotine patch and behavioral counseling.