State Trait Anxiety Inventory (Everything you need to know)

In this brief guide, we will discuss the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and some other things related to this diagnostic measure.

State Trait Anxiety Inventory

State Trait Anxiety Inventory is a very good measure to assess the severity of a person’s anxiety and check if it is in response to the situation they are in alone or if their anxiety is a part of their personality, either of which scenario would cause a change in the intervention strategy employed.

State trait anxiety inventory was created by Charles Spielberger, R.L. Gorsuch, and R.E. Lushene, although the concept of state and trait anxiety is older, and was proposed by the famous psychologist Raymond Cattell, who saw the need to recognise the different types of anxiety that people usually experience.

Even though it was Cattell who first described state and trait anxiety, it was actually Freud who saw the need for the distinction in the first place, between the variants of anxiety felt by an individual, as he thought that the role of anxiety in the personality was far too important to not be analysed more and more.

Freud thought that the differences in the types of anxiety experienced by individuals played a crucial role in the etiology of psychoneurotic and psychosomatic disorders and he defined anxiety as the “fundamental phenomenon and the central problem of neurosis”.

According to Freud, anxiety was “something felt”, and he considered it as being a specific unpleasant emotional state or condition of the human organism that included experiential, physiological, and behavioral components.

State Trait Anxiety inventory seeks to measure this difference in a calculable and observable manner, and the idea of this scale is to differentiate between what the person is feeling as a result of their experiences or their environment and what is actually a part of their personality.

The State trait anxiety inventory consists of 40 statements, 20 of which measure state anxiety and 20 measure trait anxiety, and there are short forms available with just 20 questions as well, though they may not give the most accurate measure of this scale.

There are also separate state trait anxiety measures for children, and the age ranges for these are 9-12, after which the State Trait Anxiety Inventory may be employed for the person.

The most frequently used version of the state trait anxiety inventory is the Form Y, which consists of 20 items for assessing trait anxiety and 20 for state anxiety. 

The State anxiety items in this form include: “I am tense; I am worried” and “I feel calm; I feel secure.”, while the Trait anxiety items include: “I worry too much over something that really doesn’t matter” and “I am content; I am a steady person.” 

All items on the scale are rated on a 4-point scale (e.g., from “Almost Never” to “Almost Always”). Higher scores indicate greater anxiety. The STAI is appropriate for those who have at least a sixth-grade reading level.

Similar to the strait trait anxiety inventory, there is also the Beth anxiety inventory which you may find interesting.

State and Trait Anxiety 

State and trait anxiety refer to two very different constructs in the human experience of anxiety, and where state anxiety may be far more short lived, the trait anxiety may exist for longer periods of time.

As mentioned before, the concept of State and Trait anxiety was given by Cattell, although it was suggested long ago in the writings of Freud himself, as he was always of the opinion that anxiety was at the crux of most problems that individuals face.

In general, personality states are usually viewed as time limited and time specific cross sections in the dynamic life of a person and emotional reactions are usually considered to be expressions of personality states.

Therefore, an emotional state may be said to exist at a given moment in time and at a particular level of intensity, which is what applies to anxiety as well.

Anxiety states are characterized by subjective feelings of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry, and by activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system.

Even though personality is considered to be an enduring pattern of behavior, there are other definitions that define it as being dynamic as well, which means that while some aspects of personality do stay the same, some personality states are often transitory, and can recur when evoked by appropriate stimuli, rather than stay the same always.

When the evoking conditions persist, these are the same personality traits that may stay the same even if they cause significant distress to the individual.

However, even compared to the somewhat changing and dynamic personality states, the transitory nature of emotional states, is still much more significant, and transitory and emotional personality traits can be conceptualized as relatively enduring differences among people in specifiable tendencies, to perceive the world in a certain way and in dispositions to react or behave in a specified manner with predictable regularity.

Based on these definitions of emotional and personality states, state and trait anxiety become a little easier to define.

Trait anxiety, also known as T-Anxiety, refers to relatively stable individual differences in anxiety proneness, that is, to differences between people in the tendency to perceive stressful situation as dangerous or threatening and to respond to such situations with elevations in the intensity of their state anxiety, or S-Anxiety, reactions. 

Trait Anxiety may also sometimes reflect individual differences in the frequency and intensity of the anxiety states that have been manifested in the past, and the probability State Anxiety conditions in the future are also related to trait anxiety conditions.

It has been seen that the stronger the condition of trait Anxiety, the more probable that the individual will experience more intense state anxiety in a threatening situation that they experience.

State and trait anxiety may also be compared to kinetic and potential energy for the sake of understanding them. 

State Anxiety may be considered to be like kinetic energy, and to understand how it works, it may help to compare it to a palpable reaction or process taking place at a given time and level of intensity. 

On the other hand trait anxiety is like potential energy, and it refers to individual differences in reactions.

Potential energy refers to differences in the amount of kinetic energy associated with a particular physical object, which may be released if triggered by an appropriate force, and similarly, it may be seen often that Trait Anxiety implies differences between people in the disposition to respond to stressful situations with varying amounts of state anxiety. 

However, despite this analogy, it is still notable that the true measure of how much trait anxiety will show corresponding differences in state anxiety depends on the extent to which each of them perceives a specific situation as psychologically dangerous or threatening, and this is greatly influenced by each individual’s past experience.

State Trait Anxiety Inventory Validity and Reliability

The validity of state trait anxiety inventory was measured by Cronbach’s alpha, which is a commonly used statistical measure of validity of psychological instruments, and the reliability has been measured by test retest reliability and internal consistency measures.

Internal consistency coefficients for the scale have ranged from .86 to .95 while the test-retest reliability coefficients have ranged from .65 to .75 over a 2-month interval.

Test-retest coefficients for this measure in the present study ranged from .69 to .89, which is a very good score that implies that the scale gives good results across different occasions when the scale was administered.

Based on the validity and reliability scores, it can be said with certainty that there is more than considerable evidence that the construct and concurrent validity of the scale is good and it measures what it is supposed to reliably and surely.

State Trait Anxiety Inventory Cutoffs

State trait anxiety inventory score cutoffs are necessary to understand the scores achieved on this scale, and these are given as follows.

Range of scores for each subtest is 20–80, and higher scores indicate greater anxiety, whether that is state anxiety or trait anxiety. 

The cutoff point of 39–40 has been suggested as being indicative of clinically significant symptoms for the state anxiety scale, but it is notable that other studies have suggested a higher cut score of 54–55 for older adults.

It is also worth mentioning that one needs to be careful when scoring the state trait anxiety inventory, as some of the scores need to be reversed, for instance, for some items on the scale, the score of 3 should correspond with 0 and vice versa, and the information about which item is which is given in the manual.


In this brief guide, we will discuss the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and some other things related to this diagnostic measure.

State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Beck’s Anxiety Inventory and the Hamilton Anxiety scale form the  key trifecta of anxiety measurement in clinical settings, as these are the best anxiety measures for individuals suffering from any kind of anxiety.

State trait anxiety inventory is different from the other two types because it measures anxiety in different ways, and it recognizes the possibility of anxiety being a trait rather than just a state.

If you have any questions or comments about the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): State Trait Anxiety Inventory

What does the State Trait Anxiety Inventory measure?

The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) measures two types of anxiety – state anxiety, which may be defined as anxiety about an event, and trait anxiety, or anxiety level as a personal characteristic and may even be understood to be a part of the personality.

How do you score state trait anxiety inventory?

To score the state trait anxiety inventory, one needs to compare the scores attained by the person to the cut-offs given in the manual, which are 20–80, the higher score indicating greater anxiety. A cut point of 39–40 has been suggested to detect clinically significant symptoms for the state Anxiety scale but some other studies have also suggested a higher cut score of 54–55 for older adults.

What is the difference between state and trait anxiety?

The key difference between state anxiety and trait anxiety is that while state anxiety may be related to the environmental factors of the individual and may have specific causes or events at the crux of it, trait anxiety may be a part of the personality, and it may refer to the tendency of the person to be anxious even in situations that probably don’t warrant it.

State anxiety may be indicative of the psychological and physiological transient reactions which are directly and explicitly related to adverse situations in a specific moment while trait anxiety may be used to indicate a trait of personality, and it may be used to define individual differences related to a tendency to present state anxiety.

What is an example of trait anxiety?

An example of trait anxiety may be the tendency of an individual to be worried about new conditions before something bad has even happened, and the personality trait of neuroticism often corresponds with this construct.


State trait anxiety inventory manual published by MindGarden

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