Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Anxiety, worry, and subjective difficulty concentrating: Examining concurrent and prospective symptom relationships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Blendermann, Mary (2024) Anxiety, worry, and subjective difficulty concentrating: Examining concurrent and prospective symptom relationships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

[img] PDF
Restricted to University of Pittsburgh users only until 10 January 2026.

Download (607kB) | Request a Copy


Difficulty concentrating is an understudied cognitive phenomenon, despite its status as a diagnostic criterion for generalized anxiety disorder and contributor to clinically significant distress and impairment. Existing theoretical accounts of the observed relationship between worry and subjective difficulty concentrating rely on a deficit model, in which impairments in trait attentional control render anxious individuals vulnerable to pathological worry. However, worse attentional task performance is not reliably associated with subjective difficulty concentrating in daily life. Alternatively, anxiety could be framed as a source of attentional interference via its primary cognitive manifestation, worry. The present study examined concurrent and prospective associations between anxiety (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21), worry (Penn State Worry Questionnaire), and subjective difficulty concentrating (Attentional Control Scale) in an adult sample (N = 723, 70.86% female) aged 19-81 years (M = 34, SD = 14.70). Data were drawn from a larger study of psychopathology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online surveys were administered at three timepoints: April/May 2020, July/August 2020, and September/October 2020. Two linear mixed-effects models were constructed to examine within- and between-person effects of anxiety on worry, and worry on difficulty concentrating, while controlling for clustering within individuals over time. Anxiety was associated with worry both between (b = 1.81, SE = 0.13,  = 0.65, p < .001) and within (b = 0.84, SE = 0.11,  = 0.12, p < .001) participants. Difficulty concentrating was associated with both between-person differences in average worry (b = 0.19, SE = 0.03,  = 0.38, p < .001) and within-person variation in worry (b = 0.12, SE = 0.02,  = 0.09, p < .001). A path analysis using structural equation modeling found that worry was a partial mediator of the longitudinal association between anxiety and difficulty concentrating, though this effect did not survive the addition of covariates. These preliminary findings support theoretical accounts of worry as a cognitive mechanism linking anxiety with subjective attentional problems. Future research should continue to examine mechanistic pathways by which worry may interfere with attention, with the goal of developing more effective interventions for anxiety-related difficulty concentrating and associated functional impairment.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Blendermann, Maryblendermann@pitt.edumab6480000-0001-7933-9231
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHallion, Lauren
Committee MemberLadouceur,
Committee MemberJones, Neil
Date: 10 January 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 September 2023
Approval Date: 10 January 2024
Submission Date: 30 November 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 61
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: anxiety, worry, attention, longitudinal
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2024 14:28
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 14:28


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item