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Keywords:

  • Complicated grief;
  • grief;
  • bereavement;
  • anxiety;
  • comorbidity;
  • quality of life

Background

Previous research has identified high rates of comorbid anxiety disorders among individuals presenting with primary CG. In the present study, we examined the prevalence of comorbid CG in bereaved primary anxiety disorder (AD) patients compared to bereaved healthy controls. We also examined the impairment associated with comorbid CG in AD.

Methods

Participants were 242 bereaved adults (mean (SD) age = 41.5 (13.1), 44.2% women) with a primary AD diagnosis, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; n = 57), panic disorder (PD; n = 49), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; n = 29), and generalized social anxiety disorder (GSAD; n = 107), as well as 155 bereaved healthy controls with no current DSM-IV Axis I diagnosis (mean (SD) age = 43.0 (13.6), 51.0% women). CG symptoms were measured using the 19-item inventory of complicated grief (ICG), with threshold CG defined as an ICG score of ≥30. Quality of life and functional impairment were assessed with the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire (Q-LES-Q) and the Range of Impaired Functioning Tool (LIFE-RIFT), respectively.

Results

Participants with primary ADs had significantly higher rates of threshold CG symptoms than bereaved controls (12.0% vs. 0.65%; Fisher's Exact P < 0.001). Rates of threshold CG were significantly elevated for each AD when compared to bereaved controls. After adjustment for age, sex, education, and comorbid major depressive disorder, threshold CG was associated with lower quality of life (β = 0.140, P = 0.023) and greater impairment (β = 0.141, P = 0.035) among individuals with AD.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that threshold CG is of clinical relevance in bereaved individuals with a primary anxiety disorder. Screening for CG in patients with ADs may be warranted.