Neurosis or neuroticism, what is it and how does it affect us?

David Holt
Neurosis or neuroticism, what is it and how does it affect us?

Neuroticism is a long-term tendency to be in a negative emotional state.

People with neuroticism tend to have more depressed moods. They suffer feelings of guilt, envy, anger, and anxiety more frequently and severely than other individuals. What is hidden behind the neurosis?


  • How are neurotic people
  • Origin of the term "neurosis"
  • Categories of neurotic disorders
  • General signs of neurosis
    • Other symptoms
  • Treatment

What are neurotic people like?

People with a tendency to neuroticism are particularly sensitive to changes in the environment, suffer from higher levels of stress, and respond poorly to these symptoms. These people are easier to perceive situations as threatening and more negative than they really are, for them frustrations at first trivial are highly problematic and can lead to despair. An individual with neuroticism is normally shy and anxious. There is a tendency to internalize phobias and other neuroses, such as panic disorders, aggressiveness, anxiety, and depression.

Neurosis refers to a mental disorder that involves suffering, but there are no hallucinations or delusions. The individual is still in contact with reality. People with low neuroticism scores are emotionally stable and manage to deal with stress more successfully than those with higher scores. They are also usually level-headed, calm, and less likely to be stressed or tense in the face of daily difficulties, quite the opposite of people with high scores..

Origin of the term "neurosis"

The word neurosis means "nervous disorder" and was first coined in the late 18th century by William Cullen, a Scottish physician. Cullen's concept of neurosis encompassed those nervous disorders and symptoms that have no clear organic cause. Later, Sigmund Freud used the term "anxiety neurosis" to describe mental illness or distress with extreme anxiety as the defining characteristic..

There is a difference of opinion about the clinical use of the term neurosis today. It is generally no longer used as a diagnostic category by psychologists and psychiatrists, and was in fact removed from the Diagnostic Manual of the Psychiatric Association in 1980 with the publication of the third edition (it last appeared as a diagnostic category in the DSM-II).

Some professionals still use this term to describe anxiety symptoms and associated behavior, or to name the range of mental illnesses other than psychotic disorders (eg, Schizophrenia, delusional disorder). Others, particularly psychoanalysts, use the term to describe the internal process itself (unconscious conflict) that triggers the anxiety characteristic of neurosis..

Categories of neurotic disorders

Neurotic disorders are different from psychotic disorders, in the former the individual with neurotic symptoms has a firm control of reality, and the psychotic patient does not. There are several main traditional categories of psychological neuroses. These include:

  • Anxiety neurosis. Mental illness defined by excessive anxiety and worry, sometimes with panic attacks and manifested in physical symptoms such as tremors, chest pain, sweating, and nausea.
  • Depressive neurosis. A mental illness characterized by a deep feeling of sadness or despair and a lack of interest in things that were once pleasant.
  • Obsessive-compulsive neurosis. The persistent and distressing recurrence of intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions).
  • Conversion disorder (formerly called hysterical neurosis). The presence of real and significant physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical condition, but are a manifestation of anxiety or other mental distress.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (also called war or combat neurosis). The stress severe and the disability functional caused by witnessing a traumatic event, such as war combat or any other event involving death or serious injury.
  • Compensatory neurosis. It is not a true neurosis, but a form of simulation, or of simulating psychological symptoms for monetary or other personal gain.

General signs of neurosis

People with neurosis have the following symptoms:

  • They feel sad most of the time, with a lack of interest in pursuing hobbies or amusements.
  • They have interpersonal problems derived from their low tolerance for others.
  • They are usually quite irritable people.
  • They easily explode and become frustrated with everyday problems.
  • They are very sensitive and show signs of emotional distress frequently.

Another characteristic that may appear is that in their daily life their symptoms can cause difficulties at work, frequent friction with their relatives or with other people, inability to make adequate decisions, and even mistreatment (usually psychological) from others. If this progresses, the will to live may decrease and it reaches deep levels of depression.

There are also people who gradually develop constant and catastrophic worries without external cause to justify them, and they are anxious to find ways to prevent them from becoming reality. This can include the practice of mental rituals or repetitive behaviors typical of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Not infrequently these characteristics cause social dysfunction of the person, since others see it strange. Some find it difficult to even leave their home to carry out their normal activities, preferring to recline.

In cases where anxiety rises very intensely and thus prevails over weeks and months, it leads to an almost unbearable state of distress. They are people who are very easily startled and constantly have the feeling that something bad can happen to them at any time, but they do not know what it is..

They often complain of difficulty resting at night, as they have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, and in the morning they feel as tired as if they had been up all night.

Other symptoms

They may also experience excessive sweating of the hands, a pounding heartbeat, a fleeting feeling of going crazy, shortness of breath, or a fear of dying suddenly. All of this is compatible with an anxiety disorder (anxiety neurosis). We can conclude that the formerly known "neuroses" currently constitute true mental illnesses that deteriorate the quality of life of those who suffer from them..

An adequate diagnosis and treatment can help to regain peace of mind and personal well-being, so that if someone presents some of these symptoms, it is convenient that they go to a specialist, to make an assessment of their case and establish the appropriate treatment for their improvement..


Neurosis must be treated by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. Treatment for a neurotic disorder depends on the presenting symptoms and the level of discomfort they are causing the patient..

The type of treatment is similar to those for other mental disorders, and may include psychotherapy, usually cognitive-behavioral therapy, creative therapies (for example, art therapy or music therapy), psychoactive drugs, exercise, and relaxation.

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