Inhibitory control and symptom severity in late life generalized anxiety disorder.

Department of Psychology, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 152 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.
Behaviour Research and Therapy (Impact Factor: 3.85). 12/2007; 45(11):2628-39. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.06.007
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Contemporary models of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) posit that worry functions as an avoidance strategy. During worry, individuals inhibit threat-related imagery in order to minimize autonomic reactivity to phobic topics. This conceptualization of worry suggests a role for the executive system in exerting top-down inhibitory control (IC) over threat processing. We tested the hypothesis that better performance on an IC task would be associated with greater severity of worry and concomitant anxious mood. Forty-three older adults (age 60-77) with GAD completed the Stroop color word task and a battery of self-report symptom measures. Fifteen of the GAD patients were paired with age- and sex-matched non-anxious controls. In the full GAD sample, age-normed t-scores of Stroop performance were positively correlated with measures of worry and trait anxiety, but not anxious arousal or depression. Positive relationships between IC and symptom severity were upheld in the smaller subsample of GAD patients, while in the matched control group, no relationships between Stroop scores and clinical measures were observed. Patients and controls did not differ in Stroop performance. In the context of a disorder-specific tendency to make maladaptive use of executive functions, better IC may be associated with more severe symptomatology.

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