Current research on cognitive aspects of anxiety disorders

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Cognitive dysfunction is frequently reported in anxiety disorders. Our aim is to describe recent advances concerning these cognitive aspects.

Recent findings

Cognitive dysfunction in anxiety disorders can be classified into four domains. The first concerns executive functions, mainly attentional processes. The second concerns memory, including deficits in working, episodic, and autobiographical memory. The third encompasses maladaptive cognitions, or thoughts and beliefs. Finally, a burgeoning area of research (mainly in obsessive–compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder) concerns metacognitions, or thoughts and beliefs about one's own thoughts and beliefs. All of these dysfunctions may contribute to maintain or aggravate anxiety disorders. When developing and implementing interventions, researchers and clinicians alike must consider these cognitive aspects, and may need to tailor their approaches accordingly.

Summary

Advances have clearly been made in the elucidation of the cognitive functioning associated with anxiety disorders. It remains unclear if particular cognitive profiles can help to distinguish anxiety disorders from one another, although emerging evidence suggests this may be the case. Further clarification will add to our understanding of the development and maintenance of these disorders, and may provide targets for future therapy and endophenotypes.

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