What Is the Difference Between Trait Anxiety And State Anxiety?

Last Update on April 28, 2022 : Published on April 28, 2022
What-Is-the-Difference-Between-Trait-Anxiety-And-State-Anxiety

Anxiety is an umbrella term and this umbrella is quite huge. There are various mental health conditions and natural human responses that come under the term ‘anxiety’. State anxiety and trait anxiety are also subdivisions of anxiety.

State anxiety is considered as an emotional state of mind which is often cognitive and somatic in nature. Trait anxiety on the other hand is considered as a personality characteristic, it is assumed to be stable over time but if you experience high trait anxiety you are most likely to have frequent anxious bursts irrespective of what situation you are in.

In this blog we will be discussing the difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety. We can say that state anxiety is a type of automatic human response and trait anxiety is like a part of your own personality and can occur even in the absence of any trigger.

Let’s understand the difference between trait anxiety and state anxiety in detail…

What Is Trait Anxiety And State Anxiety?

What-Is-Trait-Anxiety-And-State-Anxiety

State Anxiety Definition:

State anxiety is the type of anxiety which is induced by a stressful situation or trigger. State anxiety is the anxious response to certain situations that are perceived to be life threatening or dangerous in nature.

State anxiety doesn’t remain to be of the same intensity, it tends to increase or decrease in intensity and frequency over time.  State anxiety is a temporary response (fear) which is caused because of a real threat, for example, while crossing a busy lane or performing a stunt, etc.

Trait Anxiety Definition:

Trait anxiety becomes a part of your personality as it is based on your personal experiences, opinions and thoughts. It is often referred to as someone’s proneness to experience anxiety. If you have high trait anxiety you are most likely to perceive the world more terrifying and dangerous than others.

Trait anxiety is triggered by various situations and thoughts depending on how your life experiences have been. Those who easily get anxious on various occasions have high trait anxiety.

Also read: Fear vs Anxiety: The Differences You Need To Know

What Is The Difference Between Trait Anxiety And State Anxiety?

State anxiety and trait anxiety differ in various aspects. State anxiety is a natural automatic anxious response in real dangerous events whereas trait anxiety occurs not just during actual threatening situations but otherwise as well.

Let’s look at the difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety together;

State anxiety:

  • Induced by a situation
  • Fades in the absence of danger
  • Appears only in the presence of real or perceived danger
  • Similar in different people (all are afraid of a car crash in a similar fashion)

State-anxiety

Trait anxiety:

  • Occurs on a daily basis
  • It is aroused by thoughts so when anxiety out one thought fades, another pops up
  • Appears as a permanent part of your personality
  • Differs from person to person (depends completely on one’s thought process)

On the whole, trait anxiety is very personalized whereas state anxiety can be generalized. State anxiety is caused by actually (general) dangerous triggers and trait anxiety can be caused by almost anything (personal).

Trait anxiety is mostly caused by the threat of social evaluations, judgment, physical danger, general unexplainable worry and a daily basis fear of normal things like meeting new people or missing the bus, etc.

State anxiety on the other hand is caused by triggers that actually point towards danger. It is situational in nature, for example, your partner says, “we need to talk” or you have 10 missed calls from your mother or your boss sends you an email mentioning a personal meeting, etc.

Also read: The Power Of Mantra Healing For Anxiety (With 7 Positive Mantras For Anxiety)

Let’s understand state anxiety v/s state anxiety with the help of some examples…

State Anxiety Vs Trait Anxiety Examples

Here are some examples of state anxiety v/s trait anxiety to make it even easier for you to understand the difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety.

  1. Trait anxiety: you worry about your health constantly even when you have a perfectly healthy body with no symptoms of any disease
    State anxiety: you worry about your health upon identifying some symptoms of a certain disorder in you.
  1. Trait anxiety: you feel stressed and anxious about losing a competition even before it has started
    State anxiety: you feel stressed and anxious about losing a competition in the middle when you see things aren’t in your  favor.
  1. Trait anxiety: you feel stress, fear and tension while driving.
    State anxiety: you feel stress, fear and tension while driving only during a rough patch.

Also read: Positive Affirmations For Anxiety: Here’s How To Create Affirmations For Anxiety (And Use Them)

That’s All Folks!

I hope you understood the difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety. If you have any doubt about state anxiety v/s trait anxiety put them down in the comment section. Have you been experiencing anxiety a lot these days? Do Visit a mental health professional or book an appointment now!

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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