The main characteristic of asthma is sudden and unexpected attacks of impaired breathing. Both the attacks themselves and the prospect of attacks generate much anxiety amongst patients. Several different forms of anxiety can be identified which vary in intensity and the situations in which they appear. Anxiety disorders are more common in asthmatics and have a considerable influence on asthma management because they influence symptom perception. Excessive anxiety about asthma symptoms can affect the patient's response to an asthma attack; anxiety related to asthma triggers can reduce the patient's quality of life and anxiety related to medical treatment can influence compliance. The extent of this influence depends upon an individual's ability to cope. Behavioural therapeutic programmes for patient education offer an opportunity to reduce anxiety and to improve asthma self-management. Physicians should look carefully for anxiety when taking the patient's history, and should support the patient's participation in asthma education programs.