By Charles H. Elliott, Laura L. Smith, W. Doyle Gentry

Anger specialists have described the difference between what’s known as state and trait anger. Trait anger refers to a chronic, long-standing personality characteristic that shows up as an almost constant tendency to become angry at the slightest provocation. State anger refers to temporary, short-lasting outbursts of anger.

  • People with high trait anger have very low boiling points. People with high trait anger run into lots of interpersonal conflicts, problems at work, and health problems.

  • IEpisodes of state anger are considered appropriate in many situations and often call for problem solving. The appearance of occasional state anger responses is a normal part of life unless the intensity, frequency, and duration are way out of proportion to the triggering event.

The relationship of state and trait anger is much like the connection between weather and climate. Climate and trait anger both represent long-standing patterns, such as the climate in Alaska tends to be rather cold. State anger is like weather, which can change quickly from one day to another. Thus, in New Mexico, the climate is quite dry, but major thunderstorms can pop up from time to time, causing floods and mayhem. Those occasional storms don’t mean that the climate has changed in the state.