State-Trait Anxiety Scale: What It Is and How It Is Used

Anxiety is a part of human existence and we have all felt this emotion at some point. Although this is an adaptive response, its excess can signify psychopathology.

It should be noted that in common parlance a more or less explicit distinction is made between what it means to be anxious and to be an anxious person. In the first case it is about feeling anxiety temporarily, while in the second it is about a characteristic of the person.

This nuance is something the Spielberger group took into account when writing. State-Trait Anxiety Scale, A tool used in clinical psychology that we will explain below.

    What is the State-Trait Anxiety Scale?

    The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) is a questionnaire initially prepared by Charles Spielberger, RL Gorsuch and RE Lushene in the second half of the last century.

    This tool consists of a questionnaire to which the patient must answer, answer 40 Likert-type questions in which he will indicate his anxiety in various situations.

    The main objective of this scale is to find out how much anxiety the patient is suffering from, but taking into account whether this anxiety is a characteristic of it or if it is momentary, in response to a stressful event. High scores on this questionnaire are associated with higher anxiety levels.

    The questionnaire has two scales, each with 20 items. On the one hand, it has the Anxiety Traits Scale, which allows us to know to what extent the person has a personality that predisposes them to suffer from anxiety symptoms (high levels of neuroticism), while on the other is the scale. -state, which assesses how anxiety arises in specific situations.

    History of this inventory

    Charles Spielberger, along with his colleagues RL Gorsuch and RE Lushene, developed this questionnaire, starting in 1964 and finishing its final version in 1983. It was developed as a method to assess both types of anxietyUnderstand this emotion as a trait and as a condition, both clinically and in research. At the start of the construction of this questionnaire, university samples composed of approximately 3000 people were used.

    Initially, this questionnaire was to be administered only to adults without undiagnosed psychopathology or belonging to risk groups. However, as it is useful as a diagnostic tool, especially for anxiety disorders and very easy to administer, by passing the card to the patient and for him to fill it out, its use in clinical psychology came to be widespread.

    Currently, the State Risk Anxiety Scale is among the ten most widely used in clinical psychology and research, and is often widely used in psychological assessment subjects for psychology faculties given its ease of correction. .

    Anxiety state and anxiety trait: how are they different?

    Anxiety, in general terms, is defined as an emotional activation in the face of an element perceived as dangerous, which causes the person to initiate a series of responses to deal with it, flee and avoid the implications and possible risks of this threat. However, as we have seen previously, the concept of anxiety can be defined according to whether it occurs temporarily, i.e. in the form of a state, or if it is about something which belongs to the personality of the individual, that is to say, it is a trait.

    Anxiety is defined as a condition in which feelings of fear, nervousness, and discomfort, as well as the associated physiological response, in the form of increased activation of the autonomic nervous system, arise in the face of a stimulus or stress. situation perceived as potentially dangerous. In other words, the person feels anxious not because he necessarily has a predisposition to feel this, but because the characteristics of the environment contribute to him reacting in this way. The anxiety state is usually an adaptive response and eventually goes away after leaving the threat behind.

    The anxiety trait is a concept that, in terms of symptoms, does not differ too much from its state of anxiety counterpart.Only that the origin of this emotional reaction is different. There are feelings of worry, stress and discomfort, but they are not due to the fact that there is a dangerous stimulus in the environment, but because the person has a personality predisposition to himself. feeling anxious, to a greater or lesser extent and more or less adaptive. The person is generally in tension, it is his daily life.

      Composition of the questionnaire

      The questionnaire consists of two scales, one measuring the state of anxiety and the other the anxiety trait, each having 20 items and making a total of 40. The questions are answered on a Likert scale, from 0 to 3. The final scores can vary from 20 to 80, and the higher they are, the more the individual will show anxiety.

      On both stairs there are items that are formulated both with reference to the absence of anxiety and the presence. For example, an item designed on the basis of freedom from anxiety would be “I feel safe,” indicating that the higher the score for that particular item, the lower the anxiety for the individual. Other items, like “I feel worried”, are done in such a way that the higher the score, the higher the anxiety.

      What disorders is it used for?

      The State-Trait Anxiety Scale is primarily used to detect people who have a genetic and environmental predisposition to an anxiety disorder. Some of the most characteristic anxiety disorders in which the use of this scale can help to better understand how the patient lives are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia …

      However, anxiety is not just something that is found in people with anxiety disorders. As we have seen, anxiety is an emotional reaction in which they can arise symptoms of worry, tension, stress and discomfort.

      For this reason, this reaction is also detectable in other psychological conditions, such as eating disorders (ADD), especially anorexia and bulimia nervosa. In these disorders, patients are very concerned about their body image, which causes them significant discomfort. Anyone touching them or referring to parts of the body they feel disgusted with can trigger a whole host of anxious responses also associated with phobias and other anxiety disorders.

      For that, Both in research and in therapies for people with ADD, the use of the State-Trait Anxiety Scale is quite common., Allowing to know more precisely to what extent the patient feels anxiety with regard to the different parts of her body and to focus the therapy on their acceptance.

      For these cases, another questionnaire is also used, called PASTES (Physical Appearance State and Trait Anxiety Scale) which specializes in the trait of anxiety and the state of anxiety but in different parts of the body (for example, study of Ferrer). García et al., 2017).

      How is it used?

      The main advantage of the Risk-State Anxiety Scale is that it is self-administered, i.e. the researcher or therapist gives the questionnaire to the patient and it is the patient who is responsible for fill it. It can be administered both individually and in a group, and there is no time limit.

      Typically, people without psychopathology and good humor take six minutes to complete each of the two questionnaire scales separately and ten if done together. In people with altered mood or intellectual difficulties, the questionnaire may take more than twenty minutes to complete.

      During administration, the word “anxiety” should be avoid.. If the purpose of the questionnaire is to measure this feeling, in order to prevent the patient from becoming nervous and thus affecting his answers, it should be limited to calling it a “self-assessment questionnaire”.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Tilton, SR (2008). “State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) Review”. News Notes. 48 (2): 1-3.
      • Spielberger, CD; Gorssuch, RL; Lushene, PR; Vagg, PR; Jacobs, GA (1983). Manual for the National Treatment Anxiety Inventory. Press of counseling psychologists.
      • Ferrer-García, M., Porras-Garcia, B., González-Ibáñez, C., Gràcia-Blanes, M., Vilalta-Abella, F., Pla-Sanjuanelo, J., … and Gutiérrez-Maldonado, J. (2017). Does owning a “bigger” virtual body increase bodily anxiety in students? Annual review of cybertherapy and telemedicine, 15, 147-153.

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