The study examined a circumscribed class of cognitions (i.e., dispositional optimism and perceived consequences) in connection to the emotional distress experienced in anticipation of a major seismic event (i.e., pre-hazard emotional distress). Grounded on cognitive-behavioral theory, it was argued that dispositional optimism exerts distal influence on distress, while the perceived consequences of a major seismic event are proximal to distress and, therefore, interpose the optimism-distress relationship. The hypothesis was tested via a cross-sectional study on a sample of 189 volunteers located in areas of high seismic hazard. Participants reported their level of pre-hazard emotional distress, their dispositional optimism, and their perceived consequences of a major seismic hazard. The results showed that there was a partial indirect effect from dispositional optimism to emotional distress via perceived consequences, indirect effect = −0.190, SE = 0.114, 95 % CI [−0.487; −0.021], k2 = 0.051. These findings could inform future prevention programs targeting emotional distress in anticipation of a natural hazard with impact on post-disaster recovery.