Executive Functioning Constructs in Anxiety, Obsessive–Compulsive, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Related Disorders

Nur Hani Zainal, Michelle G. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: We synthesize theories proposing complex relations between cognitive functioning and anxiety-related concepts. We evaluate vulnerability theories suggesting that deficits in various cognitive functioning domains predict future anxiety-associated concepts. We examine scar theories asserting the opposite direction of effects (i.e., anxiety predicting cognitive dysfunction). Furthermore, we examine more novel frameworks on this topic. Recent Findings: Reliable evidence exists for the scar and vulnerability theories. This includes mounting data on diverse anxiety symptoms predicting cognitive dysfunction (and conversely) unfolding at between- and within-person levels (dynamic mutualism theory). It also includes data on the stronger effects or central influence of anxiety (versus non-anxiety) symptoms on executive functioning (EF; i.e., higher-order cognitive control governing myriad thinking and action repertoires) versus non-EF domains and vice versa (network theory). In addition, it reviews emerging evidence that enhanced cognitive control can correlate with higher anxiety among children (overgeneralized control theory). Summary: The generally inverse relations between anxiety symptoms and cognitive dysfunction are bidirectional and complex within and between persons. Plausible mediators and moderators merit more attention, including immune, metabolism, and neural markers and the social determinants of health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-880
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent psychiatry reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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