This study explored the changes in complaint-related cognitions and anxiety of 110 consecutive out-patients with functional abdominal complaints (irritable bowel syndrome), during a series of consultations. Patients' anxiety, fear of cancer, somatic attribution concerning intestines or stomach and catastrophizing cognitions appeared to diminish significantly during the consulting period. Positive changes in patients' psychological attribution and somatic attribution appeared to be related to doctors' correct perceptions of these attributions. Catastrophizing cognitions diminished significantly more when patients saw the same doctor throughout the consultations. As changes in attributions and catastrophizing cognitions appeared to be related to doctor-patient interaction, it is conceivable that doctors could learn to influence cognitions even more.