Publication Details

Carrigan, N. & Barkus, E. (2016). A systematic review of the relationship between psychological disorders or substance use and self-reported cognitive failures. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 21 (6), 539-564.


Cognitive failures are errors in normal everyday functioning. Individuals with psychological disorders may possess heightened vulnerability. We sought to review the literature on cognitive failures in psychological disorders to determine the nature of this association, and whether failures relate to neuropsychological performance. We also examine the relationship between cognitive failures and substance use since it is relevant to everyday cognition and co-occurs in many psychological disorders. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of self-reported cognitive failures in psychological disorders and substance use, identifying 21 papers in total. Results: Papers identified studied trauma, mood, and anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Substance use papers included nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and ecstasy use. Cognitive failures were increased in some but not all papers; the most consistent findings were for depression, PTSD, and daily smokers of nicotine. Subjective failures did not correlate closely with neuropsychological outcomes in any disorders. We were unable to discern distinct profiles of failures for each disorder; rather they may reflect emotional dysregulation more broadly. Conclusions: The real world cognitive experiences of people with psychological disorders may differ to their performance in the clinic or lab. It is important that self-reports of minor cognitive issues are considered as both a potential risk and a maintaining factor of illness. Substance use also needs to be considered in assessing cognitive failures.



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