Little is known about how women with a BRCA1/2 mutation develop an individual understanding of their breast and ovarian cancer risk and how this affects their psychological distress. In this study, we investigated associations between illness representations, coping strategies and psychological distress. N = 101 BRCA1/2 mutation carriers answered self-report questionnaires on illness representations, coping strategies, cancer worry and depressive symptoms. Women without cancer were compared to women with a previous cancer diagnosis. Illness representations explained 50% and 45% of the variability in cancer worry and depressive symptoms, respectively. Woman perceiving severe consequences (β = 0.29, p < 0.01) and having more concerns (β = 0.37, p < 0.01) were found to report more cancer worry. Perceiving information about the mutation as less coherent (β = -0.17, p < 0.05) and experiencing negative emotional responses (β = 0.60, p < 0.01) were both associated with more depressive symptoms. Women with a previous cancer diagnosis show patterns of illness representations that are potentially more distressing than women without a cancer diagnosis. Findings suggest that physicians involved in counseling should pay attention to illness representations of distressed women. Thereby, it would be possible to detect maladaptive thoughts associated with the mutation, address negative emotions and encourage adaptive coping strategies.