Impulsivity in anxiety disorders. A critical review

Psychiatr Danub. 2015 Sep;27 Suppl 1:S452-5.


Background: Anxiety symptoms and disorders are common. High comorbidity between anxiety and other psychiatric disorders has been observed in community. Still, the relationship between impulsivity and anxiety disorders is controversial and not well explored.

Material and methods: The aim of this paper is to review measures of trait impulsivity in anxiety disorders. A literature review of the theoretical bases of the relationship between anxiety disorders and impulsivity is presented.

Results: Impulsivity is a key feature of numerous psychiatric disorders. Traditional conceptualizations suggest that impulsivity might display a negative relationship with anxiety. However, an association of impulsivity in patients with anxiety disorders is present. Some studies support proposition that anxiety may influence impulsivity in individuals with predisposition toward behavioural disinhibition.

Conclusion: There is a link between anxiety and impulsivity in psychiatric patients characterized by problems with impulse control (e.g. pathological gambling, self-harming behaviour, eating disorders), mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Behavioural and pharmacological interventions for decreasing impulsivity may effectively be used in the treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / epidemiology
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*