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The cognitive theory of panic disorder proposes that panic attacks occur as a result of an enduring tendency to misinterpret bodily sensations as a sign of imminent catastrophe such as a heart attack. The persistence of such catastrophic cognitions is in part due to the tendency of patients to avoid and/or escape situations where panic occurs. It is proposed that within-situation safety seeking behaviours also have the effect of maintaining catastrophic cognitions in the face of repeated panics during which the feared catastrophe does not occur. The association between catastrophic cognitions and within-situation safety behaviours matched the pattern predicted from the cognitive theory in 147 panic disorder patients. The implications of these findings for the way in which therapy is conducted are discussed.


Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





453 - 458


Agoraphobia, Arousal, Behavior Therapy, Cognition Disorders, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Fear, Humans, Internal-External Control, Panic Disorder, Personality Inventory