Recent evidence supports a negative association between anxiety and cognitive control. Given age-related reductions in some cognitive abilities and the relation of late life anxiety to cognitive impairment, this negative association may be particularly relevant to older adults. This critical review conceptualizes anxiety and cognitive control from cognitive neuroscience and cognitive aging theoretical perspectives and evaluates the methodological approaches and measures used to assess cognitive control. Consistent with behavioral investigations of young adults, the studies reviewed implicate specific and potentially negative effects of anxiety on cognitive control processes in older adults. Hypotheses regarding the role of both aging and anxiety on cognitive control, the bi-directionality between anxiety and cognitive control, and the potential for specific symptoms of anxiety (particularly worry) to mediate this association, are specified and discussed.
Late-life anxiety; Worry; Older adults; Cognitive control; Inhibition
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with functional abnormalities within aneurocircuitry that includes the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex. Evidence of structural abnormalities within these regions, and their association with PTSD severity and symptom burden is, however, sparse. The present study evaluated the relation between indices of gray matter volume and PTSD symptom severity using voxel-based morphometry. Fifteen individuals meeting DSM-IV criteria for PTSDcompleted the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale and underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. Greater PTSD severity and avoidance/numbing were correlated withincreasedgray matter volume of the right amygdala-hippocampal complex. Greater hyper-arousal was associated with reducedgray matter volume in the left superior medial frontal gyrus. Findings are consistent with current neurocircuitry models of PTSD, which posit that the disorder is associated with structural and functional variance within this distributed network.
magnetic resonance imaging; chronic post-traumatic stress disorder; prefrontal cortex; hippocampus; amygdala
Paroxetine alone is not sufficient to decrease alcohol use in socially anxious alcoholics seeking anxiety treatment. We tested the hypothesis that adding a brief-alcohol-intervention (BI) to paroxetine would decrease alcohol use. All subjects (N = 83) had a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, endorsed drinking to cope with anxiety, were NIAAA-defined at-risk drinkers, and were randomized to either paroxetine alone, or paroxetine plus BI. Both groups showed significant improvement in both social anxiety severity (F(5,83) = 61.5, p < 0.0001) and drinking to cope (e.g. F(4,79) = 23, p < 0.0001) and these two constructs correlated with each other (B = 3.39, SE = 0.696, t(71) = 4.88, p < 0.001). BI was not effective at decreasing alcohol use (e.g. no main effect of group, all p values >0.3). Paroxetine decreased social anxiety severity in the face of heavy drinking and decreasing the anxiety was related to a concurrent decrease in coping related drinking. BI was not effective at decreasing drinking or drinking to cope.
Social anxiety; Social phobia; At-risk drinking; Brief interventions; Drinking to cope
Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) has a high level of symptom overlap and comorbidity with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (GSAD). We examined whether the presence of comorbid AvPD adds significant clinically relevant information for individuals seeking treatment for GSAD. Results suggested that AvPD was significantly associated with poorer quality of life and greater disability in univariate, but not multivariate analyses. Endorsement of more AvPD symptoms was associated with increased disability, increased risk of intimacy, and lower social support, even after covariate adjustment. Specifically, AvPD item 3, hard to be “open” even with people you are close to, was most strongly correlated with quality of life and disability. A binary diagnosis of AvPD alone adds little beyond a marker of greater GSAD severity and depression among patients with GSAD, while a specific feature of AvPD not captured by the GSAD diagnosis, namely emotional guardedness, may be associated with greater impairment.
Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (GSAD); Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD); Severity Continuum Hypothesis; Major Depressive Disorder (MMD); Social Phobia; Anxiety
Risk-taking behavior involves making choices with uncertain positive or negative outcomes. Evidence suggests that risk-taking behavior is influenced by emotional state. One such emotional experience is social anxiety, which has been related to both risk-avoidant and risk-seeking decision making. The present study examined a community sample of 34 adolescents grouped into low (Low SA Group) and high (High SA Group) social anxiety (SA). Both groups were compared on changes in performance on a risk taking task (Balloon Analogue Risk Task) between a social threat condition (modified Trier Social Stress Test, High Stress) and a control condition (Low Stress). These conditions were administered on different days, and the order was counterbalanced across subjects. A group x condition interaction revealed that the High SA Group showed greater risk-taking behavior when exposed to the High Stress Condition compared to the Low Stress Condition, while the Low SA Group evidenced no difference between the two conditions. Conceivable interpretations for the increased risk behavior under the condition of social stress for those high in social anxiety are discussed as well as implications for understanding the complex relationship between social anxiety and risk behavior.
Risk-taking behavior; social anxiety; adolescent; in-vivo anxiety manipulation
This study examines prevalence and correlates of help seeking for emotional problems among undergraduate female rape victims. A national college sample of women endorsing a lifetime history of rape (n=228) interviewed in 2006 to assess demographic characteristics, rape history, rape characteristics, psychopathology, and substance abuse. Participants were asked if they ever sought help for emotional problems, and what type(s) of services were sought (medical professional, religious figure, or mental health professional). Prevalence of help seeking was 52%. Of help-seekers, 93% went to a mental health professional, 48% went to a medical doctor, and 14% sought religious counsel. Only PTSD was related to ever seeking help (OR=2.35). Findings suggest that university-based mental health and medical facilities should be well prepared to identify and treat PTSD and other rape-related sequelae. Health promotion campaigns are needed to target substance abusing and depressed rape victims, who were less likely to seek help.
posttraumatic stress disorder; help seeking; college; rape
A growing body of literature suggests that virtual reality is a successful tool for exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Virtual reality (VR) researchers posit the construct of presence, defined as the interpretation of an artificial stimulus as if it were real, to be a presumed factor that enables anxiety to be felt during virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE). However, a handful of empirical studies on the relation between presence and anxiety in VRE have yielded mixed findings. The current study tested the following hypotheses about the relation between presence and anxiety in VRE with a clinical sample of fearful flyers: (1) presence is related to in-session anxiety; (2) presence mediates the extent that pre-existing (pre-treatment) anxiety is experienced during exposure with VR; (3) presence is positively related to the amount of phobic elements included within the virtual environment; (4) presence is related to treatment outcome. Results supported presence as a factor that contributes to the experience of anxiety in the virtual environment as well as a relation between presence and the phobic elements, but did not support a relation between presence and treatment outcome. The study suggests that presence may be a necessary but insufficient requirement for successful VRE.
Exposure therapy; Virtual reality; Specific phobia; Anxiety disorders
Emerging evidence has documented comorbidity between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among individuals with a history of traumatic events. There is growing recognition of the importance of disgust in each of these conditions independently. No study, however, has examined the potential role of disgust in these conditions following traumatic event exposure. The current study examined the unique role of peritraumatic fear, self-focused disgust, and other-focused disgust in predicting posttraumatic stress symptoms and contamination-based OC symptoms among 49 adult women (Mage = 28.37, SD = 13.86) with a history of traumatic interpersonal victimization. Results demonstrated that intensity of peritraumatic self-focused disgust was significantly related to contamination-based OC symptoms while peritraumatic fear and other-focused disgust were related to posttraumatic stress symptoms. These results highlight the need for future research aimed at elucidating the nature of the association between disgust experienced during traumatic events and subsequent psychopathology.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; Disgust
This study examined the structure of PTSD comorbidity and its relationship to personality in a sample of 214 veterans using data from diagnostic interviews and the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire-Brief Form (MPQ-BF; Patrick, Curtin, & Tellegen, 2002). Confirmatory factor analyses supported a three factor model composed of Externalizing, Fear and Distress factors. Analyses that examined the location of borderline personality disorder revealed significant cross-loadings for this disorder on both Externalizing and Distress. Structural equation models showed trait negative emotionality to be significantly related to all three comorbidity factors whereas positive emotionality and constraint evidenced specific associations with Distress and Externalizing, respectively. These results shed new light on the location of borderline personality disorder within the internalizing/externalizing model and clarify the relative influence of broad dimensions of personality on patterns of comorbidity.
We describe the rationale, method, and intake demographic and clinical findings of the Harvard/Brown Anxiety Research Project-Phase II (HARP-II). HARP-II is the first prospective, observational, longitudinal study to describe the characteristics and course of anxiety in African American, Latino, and Non-Latino White individuals. Participants met criteria for at least one of the following disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia, Agoraphobia without history of Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Initial intake data, collected between 2004 and 2011, are presented for 165 African American, 150 Latino, and 172 Non-Latino White participants. Participants evidenced substantial psychiatric comorbidity (mean number of Axis I disorders = 3.4), and moderate to severe symptoms and functional impairment. HARP-II will examine clinical course, in the context of potential socio-cultural and individual moderators (e.g., discrimination, acculturation, negative affect). Results should lead to improved understanding, prognostics, and treatment of anxiety in diverse populations.
longitudinal study; anxiety; African American; Latino; Hispanic; ethnicity; minority
The current study compared ethnic minority and European Americanclinically-referred anxious youth (N = 686; 2–19 years) on internalizing symptoms (i.e., primary anxiety and comorbid depression) and neighborhood context. Data were provided from multiple informants including youth, parents, and teachers. Internalizing symptoms were measured by the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, Child Depression Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist and Teacher Report Form. Diagnoses were based on the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for Children. Neighborhood context was measured using Census tract data (i.e., owner-occupied housing, education level, poverty level, and median home value). Ethnic minority and European American youth showed differential patterns of diagnosis and severity of anxiety disorders. Ethnic minority youth lived in more disadvantaged neighborhoods. Ethnicity and neighborhood context appear to have an additive influence on internalizing symptoms in clinically-referred anxious youth. Implications for evidence-based treatments are discussed.
anxiety disorders; youth; ethnic minorities; neighborhood context
African Americans are underrepresented in OCD treatment centers and less likely to experience a remission of symptoms. This study examines the barriers that prevent African Americans with OCD from receiving treatment. Seventy-one adult African Americans with OCD were recruited and administered the modified Barriers to Treatment Participation Scale (BTPS) and the Barriers to Treatment Questionnaire (BTQ). Comparing the BTQ between a European American Internet sample (N=108) and the African American OCD sample (N=71) revealed barriers unique to African Americans, including not knowing where to find help and concerns about discrimination. A Mokken Scale Analysis of the BTPS in the African American participants identified seven major barriers, including the cost of treatment, stigma, fears of therapy, believing that the clinician will be unable to help, feeling no need for treatment, and treatment logistics (being too busy or treatment being too inconvenient). Pearson and point-biserial correlations of the scales and demographic and psychological variables were conducted. Significant relationships emerged between age, gender, income, education, insurance status, and ethnic affirmation/belonging among several of the Mokken scales. A one-way ANOVA demonstrated that concerns about cost were significantly greater for those without insurance, versus those with public or private plans. Suggestions for overcoming barriers are presented, including community education, affordable treatment options, and increasing cultural competence among mental health providers.
African Americans; obsessive-compulsive disorder; barriers to treatment; health disparities; ethnic differences
This study examined the relation between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation among U.S. military veterans deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Specific aims included investigation of (1) whether PTSD was associated with suicidal ideation after controlling for combat exposure and history of suicide attempt(s), (2) whether PTSD was associated with suicidal ideation absent a co-occurring depressive disorder (MDD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD), (3) whether co-occurring MDD or AUD increased risk of suicidal ideation among those with PTSD, and (4) whether PTSD/MDD symptom clusters were differentially associated with suicidal ideation. Results pointed to unique effects associated with prior suicide attempt(s), PTSD, and MDD. PTSD-diagnosed participants with co-occurring MDD or AUD were not significantly more likely to endorse suicidal ideation than PTSD-diagnosed participants without such comorbidity. The ‘emotional numbing’ cluster of PTSD symptoms and the ‘cognitive-affective’ cluster of MDD symptoms were uniquely associated with suicidal ideation.
posttraumatic stress disorder; trauma; suicide; OEF-OIF; military
There is limited information about the nature of anxiety among youth with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study examined (a) differences in the clinical characteristics of anxious youth with and without symptoms of ASD and (b) the symptoms of anxiety that best distinguish between these groups. Results indicated that anxious youth with elevated ASD symptoms had significantly more diagnoses (e.g., specific phobias), and were more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for social phobia (and list social concerns among their top fears) than youth without elevated ASD symptoms. At the symptom level, severity of interpersonal worry based on parent report and severity of fear of medical (doctor/dentist) visits based on youth report best differentiated ASD status. The findings inform diagnostic evaluations, case conceptualization, and treatment planning for youth with anxiety disorders and ASD symptoms.
child anxiety disorders; autism spectrum disorders; comorbidity; anxiety symptoms; distinguishing characteristics
Recent investigations have demonstrated that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with a range of impulsive behaviors (e.g., risky sexual behavior and antisocial behavior). The purpose of the present study was to extend extant research by exploring whether emotion dysregulation explains the association between PTSD and impulsive behaviors. Participants were an ethnically diverse sample of 206 substance use disorder (SUD) patients in residential substance abuse treatment. Results demonstrated an association between PTSD and impulsive behaviors, with SUD patients with PTSD reporting significantly more impulsive behaviors than SUD patients without PTSD (in general and when controlling for relevant covariates). Further, emotion dysregulation was found to fully mediate the relationship between PTSD and impulsive behaviors. Results highlight the relevance of emotion dysregulation to impulsive behaviors and suggest that treatments targeting emotion dysregulation may be useful in reducing impulsive behaviors among SUD patients with PTSD.
posttraumatic stress disorder; emotion regulation; impulsivity; impulsive behaviors; risky behavior; risk-taking; substance use disorders
The present study assessed potential gender differences between the two prevailing PTSD models – the emotional numbing (King et al., 1998) and dysphoria (Simms et al., 2002) models – in order to establish whether one model is superior with regard to its cross-gender generalizability. The sample included 188 female and 690 male trauma-exposed United States Veterans presenting to Veterans Affairs primary care medical clinics. Multigroup confirmatory factor analyses with covariates (MIMIC models) were conducted using the PTSD Checklist. The covariates included were socio-demographic variables and the type of traumatic event experienced. The emotional numbing model was statistically superior for men, but no difference between models was noted for females. After controlling for model covariates, men reported higher item-level severity and women had larger residual error variances and larger factor variances and covariances in the emotional numbing model. These results suggest partial generalizability of the emotional numbing model across gender.
PTSD; gender differences; confirmatory factor analysis
Individuals with elevated social anxiety appear especially vulnerable to cannabis-related problems, yet little is known about the antecedents of cannabis-related behaviors among this high-risk population. The present study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to examine the relations among social anxiety, cannabis craving, state anxiety, situational variables, and cannabis use in the natural environment during ad-lib cannabis use episodes. Participants were 49 current cannabis users. During the two-week EMA period, social anxiety significantly interacted with cannabis craving to predict cannabis use both cross-sectionally and prospectively. Specifically, individuals with higher social anxiety and craving were most likely to use cannabis. There was a significant social anxiety X state anxiety X others’ use interaction such that when others were using cannabis, those with elevations in both trait social anxiety and state anxiety were the most likely to use cannabis.
social anxiety; state anxiety; cannabis; marijuana; craving; ecological momentary assessment
Research demonstrates substantial comorbidity between PTSD and alcohol use disorders. Evidence for functional relationships between PTSD and problematic alcohol use has not always been consistent, and there have been few investigations with adolescent samples. Further, research has not consistently controlled for cumulative potentially traumatic event (PTE) exposure when examining prospective relationships between PTSD and problematic alcohol use (i.e., binge drinking). This study examines the prospective relationships between PTSD symptoms, problematic alcohol use, and cumulative PTE exposure measured at three time points over approximately three years among a nationally representative sample of adolescents exposed to at least one PTE (N = 2399 and age range = 12–17 at wave 1). Results from parallel process latent growth curve models demonstrated that increases in cumulative PTE exposure over time positively predicted increases in both PTSD symptoms and binge drinking, whereas increases in PTSD symptoms and increases in binge drinking were not related when controlling for the effect of cumulative PTE exposure. Further analyses suggested that these relationships are specific to assaultive PTEs and are not found with non-assaultive PTEs. Theoretical implications are discussed.
PTSD; trauma; assault; binge drinking; adolescents
Modern pharmacological treatments for anxiety disorders are safer and more tolerable than they were 30 years ago. Unfortunately, treatment efficacy and duration have not improved in most cases despite a greater understanding of the pathophysiology of anxiety. Moreover, innovative treatments have not reached the market despite billions of research dollars invested in drug development. In reviewing the literature on current treatments, we argue that evidence-based practice would benefit from better research on the causes of incomplete treatment response as well as the comparative efficacy of drug combinations and sequencing. We also survey two broad approaches to the development of innovative anxiety treatments: the continued development of drugs based on specific neuroreceptors and the pharmacological manipulation of fear-related memory. We highlight directions for future research, as neither of these approaches is ready for routine clinical use.
Pharmacotherapy; Anxiety disorders; Antidepressants; Memory consolidation; Psychedelics
The current study tested the association between fear and perception in spider phobic individuals (n = 57) within the context of a treatment outcome study. Participants completed 5 post-treatment Behavioral Approach Tasks (BATs) in which they encountered a live spider and were asked to provide spider size estimates. Consistent with predictions, results indicated that high levels of fear were associated with magnified perception of phobic stimuli. Specifically, we found a significant positive correlation between size estimates and self-reported fear while encountering spiders. Together with previous findings, these results further support the notion that fear is involved in the encoding and processing of perceptual information.
Phobias; Cognitive Bias; Perceptual Distortion
The current study examined sex differences in psychological (i.e., self-reported anxiety, panic symptoms, and avoidance) and physiological (i.e., heart rate and skin conductance level) response to, and recovery from, a laboratory biological challenge. Participants were a community-recruited sample of 128 adults (63.3% women; Mage = 23.2 years, SD = 8.9) who underwent a 4-minute 10% CO2-enriched air biological challenge. As predicted, women reported more severe physical panic symptoms and avoidance (i.e., less willingness to participate in another challenge) and demonstrated increased heart rate as compared to men above and beyond the variance accounted for by other theoretically-relevant variables (recent panic attack history, neuroticism, and anxiety sensitivity). Additionally, women demonstrated a faster rate of recovery with respect to heart rate compared to men. These results are in line with literature documenting sex-specific differences in panic psychopathology, and results are discussed in the context of possible mechanisms underlying sex differences in panic vulnerability.
CO2 challenge; panic; sex differences
The present investigation examined the main and interactive effects of anxiety sensitivity and behavioral distress tolerance, indexed using the breath-holding task, in relation to PTSD symptom severity among trauma-exposed adults. Participants were 88 adults (63.6% women; Mage = 22.9, SD = 9.1, Range = 18-62), recruited from the community, who met DSM-IV-TR PTSD Criterion A for lifetime trauma exposure. Covariates included number of potentially traumatic events, nonclinical panic attack history, and participant sex. Anxiety sensitivity was significantly incrementally associated with PTSD total symptom severity, as well as Avoidance and Hyperarousal symptom severity (p's < .01). Breath-holding duration was not significantly related to PTSD symptom severity (p's > .05). However, breath-holding duration emerged as a significant moderator of the association between anxiety sensitivity and PTSD Avoidance symptom severity, such that lower breath-holding duration exacerbated the effect of heightened anxiety sensitivity with regard to PTSD Avoidance symptom severity.
PTSD; trauma; distress tolerance; anxiety sensitivity
The current study investigated the main and interactive effects of emotion dysregulation and distress tolerance in relation to panic-relevant variables among daily smokers. The sample consisted of 172 adults (61.2% male; Mage = 31.58, SD = 11.51), who reported smoking an average of 15.99 cigarettes per day (SD = 10.00). Results indicated that both emotion dysregulation and distress tolerance were significantly related to interoceptive fear and agoraphobia. Additionally, emotion dysregulation, but not distress tolerance, was significantly related to anxiety sensitivity. All effects were evident above and beyond the variance accounted for by average cigarettes per day, tobacco-related physical illness, and panic attack history. The interaction between emotion dysregulation and distress tolerance significantly predicted interoceptive and agoraphobic fears as well as the cognitive component of anxiety sensitivity. Such findings underscore the importance of emotion dysregulation and distress tolerance in regard to panic-specific fear and expectancies about anxiety-related sensations among daily smokers.
Anxiety; Anxiety Sensitivity; Distress Tolerance; Emotion Dysregulation; Smoking
Anxiety disorders (ADs) and substance use disorders (SUDs) often occur together, but the strength of this association and their apparent order of onset differ across studies. The goals of this study were to examine: (1) which ADs were associated with which SUDs, and (2) among people who experienced both an AD and a SUD, which disorder had an earlier onset. Lifetime diagnoses from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication (n=9,282) were used. Social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia were positively associated with all SUDs. Among people with both an AD and a SUD, the order of onset differed by anxiety type: social phobia nearly always had an onset prior to any SUD; panic disorder and agoraphobia tended to occur prior to some SUDs; and generalized anxiety disorder tended to occur after the onset of at least one SUD. Therefore, all ADs are positively associated with SUDs, but ADs differ in the timing of their onset relative to comorbid SUDs.
Social phobia; generalized anxiety disorder; panic disorder; agoraphobia; substance use disorders; comorbidity
Social phobia is characterized by extreme fear in social or performance situations in which the individual may be exposed to embarrassment or scrutiny by others, which creates occupational, social and academic impairment. To date, there are few data examining the relationship of social phobia impairments to quality of life. In this investigation, we examined how demographic characteristics, comorbidity, and social competence are related to quality of life among patients with social phobia and normal controls. In addition, we examined the impact of social phobia subtype. Results indicated that individuals with generalized social phobia had significantly impaired quality of life when compared to individuals with no disorder or individuals with nongeneralized social phobia. Comorbid disorders decreased quality of life only for patients with nongeneralized social phobia. Hierarchical linear regression revealed that a diagnosis of social phobia and observer ratings of social effectiveness exerted strong and independent effects on quality of life scores. Results are discussed in terms of the role of social anxiety, social competence, and comorbidity on the quality of life for adults with social phobia.
social phobia; quality of life; social skills; clinical significance; impairment