Forty-three patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and 44 patients with panic disorder (PD) were given a standardized interview about thoughts and images during times of anxiety. The two groups differed significantly regarding the ideational content of anxiety. GAD patients experienced more thoughts focusing on themes of mental catastrophes and other catastrophes when suffering from anxiety or anxiety attacks, while PD patients mostly described the theme of physical catastrophes. Only 34% (n = 30) of the total sample reported experiencing images when feeling anxious/having panic. For PD patients (70%) onset of anxiety or panic attacks was precipitated by somatic symptoms (a physical feeling). GAD patients reported that onset of anxiety was precipitated by all three alternatives given: a physical feeling (42%), anxious thoughts (37%), or “it all came at once” (21%). The implications of these results are discussed.
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