Chronic refractory cough patients have persistent, unexplained, treatment-resistant symptoms. Very little is known about non-physiological processes underlying chronic refractory cough or patients’ experience of the condition. In all, 14 patients participated in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were based on the comprehensive cognitive behavioural model and analysed thematically. Eight key themes emerged illustrating that the experience of the onset and persistence of chronic refractory cough is complex, often involving multiple interlinking factors. Themes highlighted the involvement of biological and psychological factors, and the prominent role of the social dimension in how the cough is experienced, perceived and managed. Implications for intervention development are discussed.