Difference between State and Trait Anxiety
By Theydiffer - October 4, 2015

Anxiety is an acute emotion characterized by an unpleasant agitation and restlessness as a result of an overreaction to a stimulus subjectively seen as potentially dangerous. Anxiety is often accompanied by such symptoms as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscle tension, excessive sweating and rapid breathing. Anxiety can manifest itself in two recognizable ways, state or trait. State anxiety is a short-term condition. Patients suffering from trait anxiety usually experience it as a permanent psychological trait. There is a frequently used scale for assessing the anxiety called State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. There are differences between the two types of anxiety and we will take a closer look at them.


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State anxiety can be defined as a temporary disturbing emotional arousal as a result of recognition of a disturbing stimulus. A person usually recognizes that there is an unpleasant event of a certain kind and experiences symptoms of state anxiety as a result of facing such an event.

People with trait anxiety tend to regularly experience excessive worry and other anxiety symptoms in anticipation of future events. Trait anxiety can be defined as a long-lasting arousal in the face of potential threat. The symptoms of trait anxiety are similar to symptoms of neuroticism.

Comparison chart

State anxietyTrait anxiety
Unrelated to healthRelated to health
Short-termLonger duration
Is rather a temporary feelingIs a personal characteristic
Unrelated to  social statusHigher among lower class individuals

State anxiety vs Trait anxiety

What is the difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety? Let’s compare them by their relation to the health of the individual, the relation to the characteristics of the personality, the duration and the relation to the social status of the individual.

  • State anxiety is usually unrelated to the health of the person experiencing it. On the other hand, trait anxiety is related to health. If the individual has poor health, the risk of experiencing trait anxiety is higher. Trait anxiety is often assessed as a reason for some illnesses, as well as a  consequence of some illnesses.
  • State anxiety shows itself when an individual is facing an approaching unpleasant event. As soon as the event passes, the state anxiety is no longer present. On the other hand, trait anxiety is rather a tendency than a short-term event. Individuals tend to experience trait anxiety for a significantly longer duration than state anxiety.
  • State anxiety can be seen as a temporary feeling or emotion, while trait anxiety is often seen as a personal characteristic of the individual.
  • State anxiety is unrelated to the social status of the individual experiencing it. Trait anxiety on average is higher among lower class individuals and lower among middle and upper class individuals.