Subjective symptoms and experiences were explored within a group of 146 severe, chronic bronchitis and emphysema patients. Eighty-nine symptoms and experiences, derived from initial interviews with 29 patients, were rated according to the frequency of occurrence during breathing difficulties. Key cluster analyses were used to derive a Bronchitis-Emphysema Symptom Checklist (BESC) measuring 11 symptom categories: Helplessness-Hopelessness, Decathexis, Fatigue, Poor Memory, Peripheral-Sensory Complaints, Dyspnea, Congestion, Sleep Difficulties, Irritability, Anxiety, and Alienation. The BESC symptom categories are highly reliable and the relationships among categories are stable across two subgroups of patients. The BESC provides one way to describe how patients cope with and experience chronic bronchitis and emphysema.