Background:This investigation examines differences in cognitive profiles in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).Methods:Data were used from subjects with current MDD (n = 655), GAD (n = 107) and comorbid MDD/GAD (n = 266) diagnosis from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). The Composite Interview Diagnostic Instrument was used to diagnose MDD and GAD. Cognitive profiles were measured using the Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity, the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, and the Penn State Worry Questionnaire.Results:Results showed that differences in cognitive profiles between single MDD and single GAD subjects were present:scores on hopelessness/suicidality and rumination were significantly higher in MDD than GAD, whereas anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns and pathological worry were higher in GAD than MDD. The cognitive profile of comorbid MDD/GAD showed more extreme depression cognitions compared to single disorders, and a similar anxiety profile compared to single GAD subjects.Conclusions:Despite the commonalities in cognitive profiles in MDD and GAD, there are differences suggesting that MDD and GAD have disorder-specific cognitive profiles. Findings of this investigation give support for models like the cognitive content-specificity model and the tripartite model and could provide useful handles for treatment focus. © 2014 Hendriks et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.