Attentional control in OCD and GAD: Specificity and associations with core cognitive symptoms

Thomas Armstrong, David H. Zald, Bunmi O. Olatunji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are both defined by excessive negatively-valenced cognitions. Although obsessional thoughts are considered essential to OCD and perseverative worry is considered essential to GAD, these excessive cognitions have been found to co-occur in both disorders. Accordingly, a common diathesis may influence the emergence of excessive thoughts in both disorders. The present study examined deficits in attentional control as a cognitive vulnerability that may contribute to both obsessional thought and perseverative worry. Patients with OCD (n= 30), GAD (n= 29), and non-clinical controls (NCC; n= 29) completed measures of obsessional thoughts, perseverative worry, and attentional control. Deficits in self-reported attentional control were found in both OCD and GAD relative to the NCC. However, attentional control was only related to excessive cognition in the GAD patient group, where deficits were associated with increased perseverative worry. Mediational modeling suggested that trait anxiety mediated the relationship between attentional control and perseverative worry in GAD. Implications of these findings for conceptualizing the role of attentional control in the genesis of excessive cognitions in OCD and GAD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-762
Number of pages7
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Attention
  • GAD
  • OCD
  • Obsession
  • Rumination
  • Worry


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