Effect of comorbid anxiety and depression in complicated grief on perceived cognitive failures

Depress Anxiety. 2020 Jan;37(1):54-62. doi: 10.1002/da.22943.


Background: Bereavement is associated with cognitive difficulties, but it is unclear whether these difficulties are associated with normative and/or complicated grief (CG) and how comorbid depression and anxiety contribute to them. Self-reported "minor errors in thinking" (i.e., cognitive failures) may manifest following bereavement and be differentially affected by CG, anxiety, and depression.

Methods: Associations between perceived cognitive failures and CG, anxiety, and depression were investigated in 581 bereaved participants. To examine both single and comorbid conditions across the spectrum of bereaved participants, these relationships were examined using both linear regressions and group comparisons.

Results: Continuous measures of depression, anxiety, and grief each independently predicted perceived cognitive failures. Group comparisons indicated that the group with three comorbid conditions had the highest frequency of perceived cognitive failures and the group with no conditions had the lowest. In addition, groups with threshold depression levels (both alone and comorbid with another condition) had higher frequencies of perceived cognitive failures than other groups, suggesting that depression was more strongly associated with perceived cognitive failures than CG or anxiety.

Conclusions: Future research about cognition following bereavement should address how multiple mental health symptoms or conditions combine to affect perceived and actual cognitive capacity.

Keywords: anxiety; cognitive failures; comorbidity; complicated grief; depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Bereavement*
  • Cognition*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult