New Study Identifies Two Important Aspects of Anxiety

The Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T) is one of the most widely used instruments to measure trait anxiety. Using this tool, experts can assess how long someone experiences symptoms related to anxiety, thus allowing them to evaluate whether they meet the criteria for clinical anxiety. However, two aspects of anxiety that are referenced on the STAI-T could give researchers more insight into the multiple dimensions and levels of anxiety. Daniel Rudaizky of the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia believes anxiety reactivity and anxiety preservation are two aspects that should be explored further.

Anxiety reactivity refers to the state anxiety that someone experiences when exposed to stressors. Preservation of anxiety is the duration of these experiences. Because experiencing either of these conditions would result in a positive response to the general questions on the STAI-T, Rudaizky thought it would be prudent to examine these two unique states independently. In a recent study, Rudaizky interviewed 39 college students and asked them questions on the STAI-T. He then asked the students about their stress response level and how long it lasted. He found that although reactivity and preservation did indeed increase overall STAI-T scores, they had individual influences on trait anxiety. This suggests that the causes and effects of anxiety reactivity may be quite different from the causes and effects of anxiety preservation.

Rudaizky points out that the findings of his study were quite strong and evident across the entire sample, even those who had very low or very high levels of trait anxiety. He believes the results of this research demonstrate the need for a detailed examination of the subtle nuances of anxiety, such as reactivity and preservation. “Future psychometric research could usefully refine the questionnaire measurement of anxiety reactivity and perseveration, to yield instruments that optimize their differentiation,” Rudaizky said. This type of exploration could provide clinicians with information necessary to assess and treat clients experiencing a range of anxiety-related symptoms.

Rudaizky, Daniel, Andrew C. Page, and Colin MacLeod. Anxiety reactivity and anxiety preservation represent dissociable dimensions of trait anxiety. Emotion 12.5 (2012): 903-07. Print.

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  • Caroline


    November 28th, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Overall it appears that the findings could be quite useful for therapists who are in the business of helping those who suffer with chronic anxiety, helping them not only identify triggers, but also helping them with modification of their symptoms as well.



    November 28th, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    I can definitely relate when it comes to anxiety preservation.although I do feel the anxiety jitters from time to time,I can shake those thoughts off fairly quickly.some of my friends cannot do that and end up having to deal with the affect-effects of anxiety for far longer.

    different people could have different levels of anxiety preservation and hence that requires different approaches to tackle each of the I think this is good work that will definitely help all the anxious souls out there in the future.

  • geoff


    November 29th, 2012 at 12:51 AM

    well I’ve seen people wallow for a long time and people that jump back from a low quite easily.I think it depends on the attitude and outlook of an individual.

    never have I seen a positive and optimistic individual remain anxious about something for a long time because they are often the same individuals who will seek ways of fixing the issue rather than hurting themselves with even more anxiety.

  • Jilly Jones

    Jilly Jones

    November 29th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    Important to remember that preservation of anxiety and looking at what causes us to hang onto our anxiety is just as important as what could be causing it.

    I would love to see more training in helping those who have to live with this have the chance to let go of so much of the anxiety and fear that they have to carry around with them. It is being in this constant state of worry that leads many people to experience so many of the other health problems that accompany long term anxiety.

  • rachel


    November 29th, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    anxiety – something that menaces me so often and sticks to me like super glue. its not about a single thing, but when it does arrive due to issue 1, my mind automatically brings in more of it, attributing it to issue 2 and 3 and so on.

    have no clue what I should do about this but I envy the people that can shake off anxiety so easily.

  • Lana


    November 29th, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    The two are actually related To each other..reaction to anxiety often determines the preservation too.

    What you do once you are wounded determines how quickly the wound heals. You ignore it and it stays for much longer. You medicate and it heals quick. Simple isn’t it?!

  • Gisselle


    November 30th, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    I can handle some anxiety but when multiple sources contribute to it in quick succession I tend to lose it. There is absolutely nothing I can do and it just sends me into a mad rush when there are multiple things driving my anxiety.

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