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Neuroticism VS Neurosis 




The term ‘neuroticism’ is often used to describe a mental illness of some description, but this isn’t accurate. There are no specific neurotic disorders because neuroticism refers to specific personality traits rather than a clinical diagnosis, although some of these traits can make a person more susceptible to certain mental health conditions.

In this article, we’re going to look in more detail at some of the neurotic behaviours that can give way or point to other types of mental health conditions, helping you to better your understanding of neuroticism and how to support people who are more neurotic.

What does ‘neurotic’ mean?

Firstly, let’s drill down into what is meant by the term ‘neurotic’ disorders. There is a widely accepted psychological theory

  • Openness (curious vs cautious) 

  • Conscientiousness (organised vs disorganised) 

  • Extroversion (outgoing vs reserved) 

  • Agreeableness (friendly vs critical)

  • Neuroticism (emotionally sensitive vs resilient)

A person with a neurotic personality trait tends to react negatively to certain situations and may be seen as emotionally unstable. They often experience emotions like anxiety, anger, guilt, jealousy, depression, apprehension, excessive worry, fear, and loneliness more intensely than those who do not score highly on the neurotic trait scale. Intrusive thoughts and emotional instability are the main indicators of neuroticism.


Neurotic individuals may become easily overwhelmed and stressed by seemingly minor situations, and they might exhibit negative behaviors such as road rage. They are often shy, have low self-esteem, and may frequently complain about trivial matters. For a neurotic person, even a small setback, such as getting stuck in traffic on the way to work, can significantly affect their mood for the entire day because they struggle to regulate their response to stressful situations.


It's important to note that there is no specific neurotic disorder; many neurotic individuals are capable of managing their emotions effectively and leading normal lives.

Is neurotic behaviour a mental health disorder?

Neuroticism is not a mental health disorder, though it is often painted as such, and therefore it is not able to be treated in the same way. However, neurotic people are often predisposed to mood disorders such as depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, but as mentioned above, neuroticism on its own is not a diagnosis. Not everyone who is neurotic will have an anxiety or depression diagnosis, and many people are able to live their lives normally and without medical intervention for their neurotic tendencies.

Neuroticism vs neurosis 

Neuroticism and neurosis are two terms which are routinely used interchangeably, but they are entirely different things. 

Neurosis

Neurosis is a term that isn’t widely used anymore, but that dates back to the 1700s and was used commonly until quite recently. It is an umbrella term for a number of associated symptoms of mental illnesses, including obsessive thoughts, worrying, and anxiety. Neurosis symptoms can have a significant negative impact on everyday life and make it difficult to carry out daily tasks and activities. 

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is, as mentioned, a personality trait that means a person is more likely to react negatively to external stressors and gravitate towards negative emotions. Unlike neurosis, neuroticism on its own does not have a significant negative impact on a person’s ability to go about their everyday life. It isn’t possible to have a neurotic disorder.

Are there types of neurotic disorders?

As a result of neurotic behaviour not being a mental health disorder, there aren’t specific neurotic disorders per se, but there are a number of mental health conditions that are commonly diagnosed in people with a neurotic personality, such as post-traumatic stress disorder if a stressful life event occurs. It’s unclear whether neurotic behaviours can trigger an underlying mental disorder, but there are some other mental disorders commonly diagnosed in neurotic people.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal part of life and is an emotion we all feel from time to time. For example, a person might feel anxious at the arrival of their first child, starting a new job, or sitting an exam. However, there are times when anxiety becomes severe enough to impact a person’s everyday life.


Continuous worrying, restlessness, sleep issues, and concentration problems can all indicate an anxiety disorder. These symptoms can cause a person to become withdrawn from social activities and become isolated. Anxiety disorders can also be distressing when not controlled and result in physical symptoms such as panic attacks and sleep problems.


Neurotic people often feel anxious and have a tendency to worry and overthink, making them more susceptible to being diagnosed with anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder. Anxiety symptoms can be frustrating and seem irrational, but having patience and trying to talk an anxious or neurotic person through the problem at hand and trying to calm them down is key.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by the frequent compulsion to repeat a behavior to alleviate obsessive or intrusive thoughts. These obsessive thoughts and feelings can vary, with most people experiencing images of things that disgust them or make them feel anxious, or feeling the need to perform a specific action to dispel the thought. Some common OCD behaviors include repeatedly checking windows and doors before going to bed or leaving the house due to a fear of someone breaking in, and having the compulsion to repetitively check that a newborn baby is breathing. OCD can be debilitating, and many individuals with OCD feel embarrassed and therefore do not seek help, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. Neurotic individuals often obsess over things and can exhibit compulsive thoughts, sometimes referred to as obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Poor impulse control is another symptom of a neurotic personality, as is feeling ashamed about an issue. Because neurotic individuals are often anxious and self-critical, they may be more inclined to develop OCD.

Depression 

Depression is a common mood disorder that affects thousands of people. It can be triggered by various factors, such as bereavement and loss, or it can occur without a recognizable cause. Depression is characterized by a persistent low mood, which includes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, irritability, lack of motivation, anxiety, or a general lack of enjoyment in life for weeks or months. While it's normal to feel down occasionally, if these feelings persist and become prolonged and intense, it could indicate clinical depression. Neurotic individuals may frequently experience irritability, anxiety, or guilt, and their tendency to react poorly to environmental stressors could make them more susceptible to depression and more likely to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Treating neurotic disorders and behaviours

The aforementioned conditions can significantly impact one's quality of life, but they are all manageable with the right treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) administered by a mental health professional can be beneficial. We provide a variety of supportive therapies for individuals dealing with anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic stress, and other mental health issues. Additionally, we offer assistance and guidance for individuals struggling with challenging aspects of their personality or those with a personality disorder. While there aren't specific neurotic disorders, nor a one-size-fits-all treatment, we can collaborate with you to develop a personalized care plan.

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