Anxiety does not occur as a single phenomenon: its various forms of manifestation can be categorised under the two different headings of trait anxiety and state anxiety.

Trait anxiety:
This form of anxiety is a relatively stable aspect of the personality. In their behaviour, individuals who present an anxiety trait will tend to have an attitude reflecting their perception of certain environmental stimuli and situations as dangerous or threatening. In practice, the anxious perceptive style of these persons will eventually become pervasive, extending to and influencing other areas of experience, and in effect finally becoming a characteristic of the personality.

Those who show a more developed anxiety trait are much more prone to reacting to a large number of stimuli and will tend to worry also in situations which for most individuals would not represent a source of threat. These individuals are more likely to present state anxiety in circumstances with low anxiety-generating potential, such as normal day-to-day activities, and will probably experience higher levels of state anxiety in the presence of anxiety-generating stimuli.

State anxiety:
State anxiety manifests itself as an interruption of an individual’s emotional state, leading to a sudden subversion of one’s emotional equilibrium. A person experiencing ‘state’ anxiety will feel tension or worry or might enter a state of restlessness. In such moments, the individual may feel very tense and easily react or over-react to external stimuli. State anxiety involves activation of the autonomous nervous system and the consequent triggering of a series of physiological reactions and conditions. High levels of state anxiety are particularly unpleasant, disturbing and can even be painful to the point of inducing the person to engage in adaptive behaviour aimed at ending these sensations. However, these adaptive reactions may not be successful in attaining their goal and other behaviour patterns may become manifest - this time of the maladaptive type - which can result in the opposite effect: a further increase of anxiety, which can trigger a pathological vicious circle.

>>> (Anxiety components)


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