Executive Function Deficits in Psychiatric Outpatients in Australia
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This study compared deficits in executive functioning in psychiatric outpatients with anxiety and depression to neurologically impaired patients and a community sample using a cross-sectional design. Anxious, depressed and neurologically impaired patients were compared for executive dysfunction using the revised Dysexecutive Questionnaire. A large sample of 663 community individuals, 39 mood disordered, 121 anxiety disordered and 120 neurologically impaired outpatients participated. Anxious and depressed patients exhibited significantly greater executive dysfunction than neurological patients and healthy controls. Anxiety patients reported the greatest executive dysfunction than all other groups including greater total problems and specific deficits in inhibiting responses and in acting with volition. Problems with inhibition reflect difficulties of anxiety patients in preventing automatic responses. Problems with volition reported by anxiety patients were attributed to comorbid depression, consistent with anxiety patients reporting the highest levels of depressive as well as anxious symptomology. Depressed patients reported greater problems with volition than community members, reflecting problems with planning and motivation. Neurologically impaired individuals reported a comparable level of executive dysfunction to the general community. This was attributed mainly to the poor ability of neurologically impaired individuals to report their own deficits. We discuss the relevance of executive functioning to anxiety and depression, and the implications of using the DEX-R with clinical samples.
KeywordsDEX-R Executive function Executive dysfunction Dysexecutive syndrome Depression Anxiety disorders
Dr. Oei is now an Emeritus Professor of UQ and also a visiting Professor of James Cook University, Singapore and Nanjing University, Pr China. We would like to thank the participants, in particular the outpatients who participated in this study.
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