In cognitive theory it is hypothesized that panic attacks are provoked by catastrophic misinterpretations of bodily
sensations. The aim of the present study was to investigate the ability of associated word pairs referring to catastrophic thinking (e.g. palpitations-heart attack) in producing panic attacks. Patients with PD (n = 20),patients with mixed anxiety disorders (n = 20), and a healthy control group (n = 30) participated in the present study. To enhance ecological validity we first conducted a stimulus validation experiment. Subsequently, nine suitable panic and neutral word pairs were presented in block to the participants. Anxiety levels were assessed before and after the presentation. PD patients were more anxious when reading these word pairs, compared to neutral word pairs. However, none of the participants experienced a panic attack upon reading the word pairs. From the present results it seems that catastrophic thinking is rather related to the anticipatory anxiety for panic attacks, but not necessarily with the occurrence of the panic attacks themselves.