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What Is Trait Anxiety, and How Does It Compare to State Anxiety?



Fear is used as a (very broad) umbrella term that describes a wide range of emotional and mental health experiences.

At the more clinical end, several mental illnesses fall under the umbrella of fear:

In everyday usage, “anxiety” can refer to symptoms of these disorders, but you will also use the term casually to refer to temporary feelings of discomfort, nervousness, worry, or fear.

The fear doesn’t end there, however. Some experts – in particular the psychologist Charles Spielberger – have made another distinction by separating state anxiety from characteristic anxiety:

  • National fear. This is a natural human response. You don’t have to have an underlying anxiety state to be afraid when faced with some type of danger.
  • Property fear. This refers to anxiety showing up as part of your personality, not just in stressful situations.

In the following, we will break down the differences between characteristic and state anxiety and provide some pointers on how to get help in the event of persistent anxiety of any kind.

Everyone has some level of fear from time to time – it’s a natural response to feeling threatened or fearful.

Still, the anxiety you experience will likely depend on a number of factors, including the specific circumstances of the situation as well as your own unique personality.

This is how you can tell the difference between fear of states and fear of characteristics.

National fear

This form of fear tends to occur when you are faced with a potential threat or other frightening situation. Usually it is a mixture of mental and physical symptoms.

Mental symptoms can be:

  • feelings of concern
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • irritability

Current physical symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • fast heartbeat
  • stomach problems
  • Muscle tension and pain

Of course, you can also experience state anxiety when there is no actual physical threat. You just have to believe that there is one.

For example, suppose you just received a brief email from your manager: “I need to see you in my office as soon as possible.”

No details, no explanation.

You know you are in no danger and you can’t think of anything you’ve done that might require reprimand. Still, you walk down the hallway to her office on slightly unsteady legs. You are trying to sift through your memories from the past few days to find what they want, but your head is completely blank.

As soon as you sit in their office and they explain that they just wanted to alert you of a potential software security problem, the wave of relief that descends on you wears those feelings of worry and fear away.

Property anxiety

Experts who differentiate between fear of characteristics and fear of states consider characteristic fear as a fixed component of your personality – that is, as a personality trait.

Higher levels of trait anxiety generally means that you are more likely to feel threatened by certain situations, or even the world in general, than someone with lower levels of trait anxiety.

You tend to feel more anxious and stressed in everyday circumstances – even those that do not create fear or concern in others. For example:

  • Does your partner seem a little aloof? They start to worry that they want to break up.
  • You have not yet received any feedback on your thesis idea? Your professor must hate it. In fact, they are probably trying to come up with a way to explain that, after all, you are not eligible for a college degree.
  • Never heard from your boyfriend after your last text message? You must have done something to upset her.

Older research found four dimensions of trait anxiety:

  • Threat to social valuation. This can include criticism or conflict.
  • Threat from physical danger. This can include things like illness or car accidents.
  • Ambiguous threat. This may include a more general sense of doom or unexplainable worry.
  • Threat in everyday life or harmless situations. This can include fears of meeting new people or making mistakes in your job.

In other words, you could Think of feature anxiety as a predisposition to experience these feelings of worry and fear.

Chronic anxiety and worry can put your nervous system on near constant alert for potential threats. As a result, you may notice longer-lasting symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • Mood changes such as irritability and discomfort
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Tendency to avoid the source of your fear
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Appetite changes
  • fatigue
  • Body aches and pains that have no clear cause

The underlying causes of anxiety, including feature anxiety, are still a mystery. But trait anxiety is likely related to a specific dimension of personality: a big five trait known as neuroticism.

A higher neuroticism score can mean that, on average, you feel tense and notice more changes in your moods and emotions.

You may also spend more time sitting with your thoughts and sorting them out than people with lower neuroticism scores. This tendency to examine (and review) your thoughts can lead to patterns of worry and brooding.

Not all experts and anxiety researchers agree on the distinction between characteristic and state anxiety.

Some believe the two work together as a single construct. In other words, the higher your property anxiety, the more anxious you become when faced with a danger or other threat.

Spielberger, who originally introduced the idea of ​​fear of state and characteristics, belonged to this school of thought.

Other experts draw a clear line between the two, suggesting that while fear of the conditions can be aggravated and aggravated, it also has unique characteristics that can develop and fluctuate independently.

A small study from 2020 offers some support for this idea. The research indicated some differences in the way the brain maps attribute and state anxiety, suggesting that attribute and state anxiety may in fact be separate constructs. However, the study authors agree that future research may provide more insight.

In any case, experts often use the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to assess anxiety symptoms. This scale measures both state and characteristic anxiety – but also reflects Spielberger’s single construct approach to state and characteristic anxiety.

Again, experts do not yet have to determine exactly what causes fear. Still, they know that both environmental and genetic factors can play a key role in personal development:

  • If one of your parents lives with an anxiety disorder, you have a higher chance of developing a similar condition yourself.
  • Experiencing trauma and other stressful or frightening events during childhood and adolescence can affect how your body and brain react to real or perceived threats.

As researchers learn more about the specific causes that contribute to anxiety, they may also find support in making a clearer distinction between state and characteristic anxiety – not to mention which individual functions they may have.

If you’re scared during stressful times, that’s pretty typical.

But even mild or temporary anxiety can overwhelm you, and it is not always easy to reach for helpful coping strategies in a moment of need. This can become even more difficult if the source of your stress remains a permanent part of your life (such as a global pandemic or climate change).

If persistent feelings of worry – and all of the physical symptoms that come with driving – make everyday life difficult, therapy can be helpful, regardless of whether you think you have condition or feature anxiety.

Remember that you also don’t have to meet any criteria for an anxiety diagnosis to find therapy helpful.

A therapist can:

  • help you identify potential anxiety triggers
  • teach helpful coping techniques, such as meditation or grounding exercises, to relieve tension in the moment
  • provide a safe space to share feelings of worry and fear
  • help you make changes in your life to reduce stress and cope better with it

When a therapist diagnoses a particular type of anxiety, they may recommend different treatment approaches based on your symptoms.

Many therapists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety. An older study from 2009 even found that CBT may have particular benefits for fear of traits.

Still, CBT is far from the only helpful approach. Other approaches that can help people include:

Learn about other strategies for coping with anxiety.

Some evidence suggests that anxiety may play a role in the risk of depression. So it is always worth reaching out to a therapist for more guidance when fear becomes a more permanent presence in your life.

At the end of the day, characteristic anxiety may simply be part of your personality. However, that doesn’t mean you have to come to terms with worry and uncertainty.

Changing important aspects of your personality may not always be easy for you, but it is always possible to learn new ways to respond to stress.

When anxiety seems hard on the heels of even the slightest threat, a therapist can provide more support to help overcome anxiety and find longer-lasting peace of mind.

Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her areas of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, science, sex positivity, and mental health, as well as books, books, and more. In particular, she works to reduce the stigmatization of mental health problems. She lives in Washington with her son and a lovable, unruly cat.

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Communication disorders can have lifelong health impacts – where is the commensurate response? – Croakey Health Media



According to Tricia McCabe, professor of speech pathology at Sydney University, communication disorders have far-reaching health implications and greater efforts are required to help children, families and others.

“Imagine paying for more and better services for children and young people with communication disabilities,” said McCabe when he recently ran Croakey’s rotating Twitter account @WePublicHealth. Below is a summary of their tweets, including links to many helpful resources.

Tricia McCabe writes:

I’m going to cover the interface between communication disorder and public health using the hashtag #CommSDoH, starting with sharing some information about what we mean by a communication disorder and jumping from there.

Communication disorders (impairments, limitations) occur when people have difficulty receiving a message from others. This may be due to a sensory impairment (hearing loss, deafness, visual impairment) as they have difficulty interpreting the message.

The difficulty in interpreting someone else’s message can arise for a number of reasons including illness, injury, development, or the environment. Understanding what you are being told depends on understanding the content, structure, and purpose of the message.

To understand content, you need to know the vocabulary and sounds of the language. We also need to understand the order of words and the structure (grammar) of what is being said.

Finally, we need to understand the tone, pitch, tempo, and volume of speech that give us the emotion and purpose of what is being said (or written). This is a simple explanation of the understanding as we shall see.

Human communication involves not only understanding, but also the ability to construct a message that others can easily interpret. This may require an effective use of voice, language, language (vocabulary, grammar, etc.), facial expressions, gestures, signs or writing.

To be an effective communicator, we also need to understand how others interpret our message. These skills of understanding and expression develop over the course of our lives and are an integral part of our social and economic success (more on this later).

After all, a person’s environment must enable them to communicate and interpret their communication as meaningful and important.

Thought experiment

So let’s do a thought experiment: what happens in your life when you cannot communicate effectively?

Children with speech and language delay (for whatever reason) hear fewer words spoken to them; hear more instructions and have fewer opportunities to start conversations. The words and phrases they hear are simpler, often “dumbfounded”.

If you start out in life with a communication delay or disorder, you are often at a higher risk of lower literacy and are therefore more likely to drop out of school.

The combination of not understanding instructions in the classroom or being teased or bullied for not understanding them or not communicating in the same way as their classmates can cause it to have an impact in class and lead to exclusion from school.

Children and adolescents with communication disabilities are more often involved in juvenile justice than their peers.

Children and adolescents with communication disabilities are also at higher risk for mental health problems than their peers.

In recent years, health economists like Dr. Paula Cronin from UTS showed that mothers of children with speech delay earn less than parents of children with typical development. I should note that this is the case when all other variables are taken into account.

Back to our thought experiment: what happens in your life when you have a communication disability?

In my own work with people with severe language disabilities, they report as adults:

  • Earn less than their friends
  • They are less educated and less literate than their siblings
  • Adults with a history of lifelong language disorder are more likely to have clinical anxiety, and the worse their language is than adults, the worse the anxiety they report.


Above I described a communication disability that has many faces. One of these is the difficulty of understanding the intent of a person’s communication and drawing conclusions from their choice of words, tone of voice, and facial expressions. This is a kind of pragmatic obstruction to communication.

And pragmatic communication disabilities do not interact well with the legal system.

For people with communication disabilities, there are a number of additional factors that make their ability to participate in society even more difficult.

  1. Self-advocacy can be a challenge. If you have difficulty communicating, understanding how to present your case can be problematic.
  2. People with communication disabilities find it difficult to interpret forms, bureaucratic language, or the language of the legal system.
  3. If you are a parent with a communication disability, you may find it difficult to stand up for your children. This can be a double blow when dealing with organizations like the NDIS.
  4. Unfortunately, services for people with communication disabilities, such as speech pathology, are unevenly distributed with a well-known “zip code lottery”.
  5. This is where the Matthew effect comes into play. Families in more affluent areas have better access to services and there the effects of communication disabilities can be mitigated compared to families in poorer areas who share fewer resources and benefit less from limited services.
  6. Speech pathologists use service rationing as a strategy to handle large numbers of cases. The effect in richer communities is a migration to private services, the effect in poorer communities is a long delay before aid is provided.
  7. The cumulative effect is delayed access to services in the early years, resulting in lower academic success and a lifelong increased risk of socio-economic precariousness.
  8. Hearing health is affected by overcrowded or unstable housing, access to clean water and sanitation. Poverty causes ear diseases. Ear diseases cause poor understanding, attention, and participation in school.
  9. And like a language disorder, poor ear health leads to decreased literacy, early school leaving, and greater interaction with the justice system. #CommSDoH not understand = disadvantage.

  1. It is estimated that one in three people in the justice system has a communication disability (see:
  2. Imagine paying for more and better services for children and young people with communication disabilities.

Another useful resource is the @ orygen_aus Guide to Mental Health and Communication Disorders.

And @SpeechPathAus has a number of fact sheets on these topics for download.

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Anne Hailes: We need to talk about our mental health



I have encountered suicide several times DURING my life. The first time was when I was a teenager and involved the lady across the street.

Then I remember the day, years later, when I went to Banbridge to meet a mother who had called me in distress; her son had committed suicide.

We met in a quiet corner of a roadside hotel. Her son was 19 and happened to be mine, and we were two mothers who shared something unfathomable.

On another occasion, one evening after my TV show, the security guard stopped me at the door: “There’s a woman who wants to talk to you, she sounds very upset.”

That’s how she was, she told me she felt that there was nothing to live with. We talked for almost two hours. At the end of our conversation, she assured me that she would not do anything.

That was over 20 years ago when suicide was less common and even recognized. Today there are a number of end-of-the-phone or even online supports and services including Samaritans, Lifeline, and Pips.

September 10th was World Suicide Day – did you notice? – but that is a topic that one should be aware of every day.

In a research paper from the NI Assembly Research and Information Service dated April 14, 2021, Dr. Lesley-Ann Black on the complex subject of suicide.

For example: “Research shows that one in eight children in Northern Ireland has suicidal ideation or attempted suicide. Men are more likely to die from suicide than women, although more women attempt suicide. The suicide rate in the most deprived areas is three times “higher than in the least deprived areas.”

Northern Ireland is also believed to have particular problems: “The strong link between suicide and mental illness is well established. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Northern Ireland.

“In addition, research suggests that Northern Ireland, a post-conflict society, is 20-25 percent more likely to be mentally ill than the rest of the UK, with approximately one in five adults having a diagnosable mental illness at any given time.

“Northern Ireland also has significantly higher rates of depression than the rest of the UK, higher antidepressant prescribing rates, higher incidences and presentations of self-harm (although, in many cases, people who harm themselves do not see a doctor) attention and are for healthcare professionals not visible) and high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. “

Elsewhere, the report notes that alcohol and drug abuse may be a factor: “A significantly higher percentage of young people who have died of suicide in Northern Ireland had a history of alcohol and / or alcohol compared to the rest of the UK Substance abuse. “

The Department of Health’s suicide strategy, Protect Life 2, aims to reduce the suicide rate in Northern Ireland by 10 percent by 2024 and to “ensure that adequate suicide prevention services and support are provided in deprived areas where suicide and self-harm rates occur will”. are the highest “.

Online publication

Author Declan Henry published his online brochure Suicide: Reasons To Live earlier this month. He interviewed people from the UK and Ireland, including survivors, suicide attempt survivors and those who had strong suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives.

He discovered that there is one suicide death roughly every 40 seconds in the world, while there is an average of 19 people a day in the UK and Ireland – likely a conservative figure given the effects of Covid-19 and the effects of lockdown on the psychological People’s wellbeing has yet to be calculated.

His research highlights the complexities that lead to suicide or attempted suicide.

He writes of young people who talk more openly than previous generations.

“Children need to be educated about emotional health and given vocabulary that will enable them to describe their feelings,” he says.

“Society often wrongly feels that the life of the current generation of young people is much simpler compared to their predecessors. Young people have many things, so it’s easy to see why their mental health is being affected.

“They are constantly fed negativity by the media and confronted with graphic and violent images through online games. Many young people hardly speak at home anymore because they are busy with their ‘virtual life’ on their cell phones.

“Is it therefore surprising that some of them develop a sense of hopelessness for the future?”

Where is the help?

In general, Declan underlines the fact that the mental health system is in a state of disorder.

“Patients often feel like they are being pushed aside. GPs have limited time and the patient is usually given an antidepressant prescription and says to come back in a few weeks. Physical needs are met, but psychological needs are not.”

One interviewee named Frank says to Declan, “If someone tells you they feel suicidal, they ask for help. Some people post on Facebook saying they intend to kill themselves because they have no other place to talk.

“Many such people wear masks in public, including at home – where there is no sign that anything is wrong.”

Covering a wide range of suicide prevention strategies, Declan emphasizes the importance of speaking out loud and starting a discussion in general but specific and empathetic with the person you suspect is having suicidal thoughts.

You can download Declan’s brochure for free from

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day and night, 365 days a year. You can call them on 028 9066 4422 or 116 123, email, or visit to find your nearest branch and local support groups.

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Over 90% surveyed with depressive disorders in China fail to seek treatment: study



Depressive Disorders Photo: VCG

More than 90 percent of people with depressive disorder surveyed in China are untreatable, and only 0.5 percent have received adequate treatment, according to a new mental health survey of Chinese citizens.

The results of the study on Mental Disorder Exposure and Health Service Use in China, also known as the China Mental Health Survey, were announced at a conference and expert forum in Beijing on Sunday. The study, which lasted three years, examined the prevalence of mental disorders and their distribution characteristics among adults in the Chinese community, highlighting the current situation of low use of health services and poor access to adequate treatment for people with depressive disorders in China.

The study found that in China, the prevalence of depressive disorder is higher in women than in men; higher among housewives, pensioners and the unemployed than among the employed; higher for separated, widowed or divorced persons than for married or cohabiting persons; and more common in older age groups, in a cross-sectional epidemiological study of mental disorders in Chinese adults of 28,140 respondents (12,537 men and 15,603 women) completed at 157 nationally representative disease surveillance centers in 31 provincial-level regions in China.

The lifetime prevalence of depressive disorder in Chinese adults was 6.8 percent below that of the world, including 3.4 percent for depression, 1.4 percent for dysphoric disorders, and 3.2 percent for unspecified depressive disorders. The 12-month prevalence of depressive disorder was 3.6 percent, including 2.1 percent for depression, 1.0 percent for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and 1.4 percent for unspecified depressive disorder, the research shows.

The study provided the first nationwide representative epidemiological data on depressive disorders in China and is expected to play an important role in formulating and adapting national mental health policies and in advancing the treatment of patients with depressive disorders. The results were published in the leading international medical journal The Lancet.

This study is groundbreaking research as it provides the first national data on the epidemiological prevalence, distribution characteristics, and access to treatment status of depressive disorder in adults in China, which is an important reference for determining mental health strategies from clinical health service use is perspective, Wang Yu, former director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the forum.

Lu Jin, lead author of the paper, told the Global Times during the forum that the prevalence of depressive disorder in China is low by global standards, due to many factors.

“The fact that many Chinese people have difficulty expressing emotions (alexithymia) could be one of the causes of this status,” said Lu. “There is also a link between socio-economic development and depressive disorders, a condition associated with psychosocial disorders.”

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