For neurotic people, the best action may be no action at all.
A new study in the Journal of Personality shows an association between neuroticism and having more negative attitudes toward action and more positive attitudes toward inaction.
Neuroticism is considered one of the "Big 5" personality traits; others include conscientiousness, openness, extraversion and agreeableness. People who are neurotic tend to be anxious, moody and irritable, and not confident or optimistic. Neurotic people also tend to be more impulsive, angry and higher in self-consciousness.
The new study was conducted by researchers from Texas Tech University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Battelle Center for Analytics and Public Health. It included data from 3,827 people from 19 different countries. The study participants were surveyed on their neuroticism levels, depression, anxiety, thoughts on individualism vs. collectivism, and thoughts on action vs. inaction.
The researchers found that anxiety seemed to be the biggest factor responsible for neurotic people's negative feelings toward action. And more collectivistic (versus individualistic) people also tended to favor inaction over action. (Collectivistic people typically consider "the social consequences of one's behavior before acting," according to a press release on the new study.)
While neuroticism is generally associated with negative characteristics (research has linked the personality trait with negative physical health), it is possible to be a healthy neurotic. Studies have shown that people who are high in both conscientiousness and neuroticism can actually experience benefits in both mental and physical health.