Neurosis, also called psychoneurosis is a mental disorder that causes a sense of distress and deficit in functioning.

Moreover, neuroses are characterized by anxiety, depression, or other feelings of unhappiness or distress that are out of proportion to the circumstances of a person’s life. They may impair a person’s functioning in virtually any area of his life, relationships, or external affairs, but they are not severe enough to incapacitate the person. Affected patients generally do not suffer from the loss of the sense of reality seen in persons with psychoses.


There is no single definition of neurosis. Neurosis was, until recently, a diagnosable psychological disorder that interferes with quality of life without disrupting an individual’s perception of reality.

However, some psychotherapists and psychiatrists use the term neurosis to refer to anxious symptoms and behaviours. Other doctors use the term to describe a spectrum of mental illnesses outside of psychotic disorders. Psychoanalysts, such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, described the thought process itself using the term neurosis.

Neurosis is characterized by obsessive thinking, anxiety, distress, and a certain level of dysfunction in everyday tasks. Neurotic behaviour is the result of neurosis or neuroticism.

Neurosis vs. Anxiety

Being neurotic is associated more with being a worrier or an overthinker rather than a mental disorder. Still, without some help, neuroticisms that are surrounded by unhealthy coping mechanisms and high-stress environments may lead to anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders may include:

Separation anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder

Specific phobia

Social anxiety disorder

Panic disorder or panic attack disorder

Substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder


If you’re wondering if you have neurosis, ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of the following symptoms or traits:

  • Anxiety and apprehension
  • Excessive worry and guilt
  • Tendency toward more negative emotions and reactions
  • Irritability and anger
  • Low self-esteem and self-consciousness
  • Poor response to stressors
  • An interpretation of everyday situations as threatening
  • Depression
  • Emotional instability
  • Difficulties with sleep

If you’re concerned that a friend or family member may have neurosis, here’s what to watch for:

  • Constantly needing reassurance (even on small matters and things you’ve previously validated)
  • Being overly dependent on others or codependent in relationships
  • Making their dissatisfaction or stress well known to you
  • Conflicts with others due to a lack of emotional resilience or ability to bounce back
  • Perfectionist tendencies or obsessing about getting things right
  • Flying off the handle whenever you try to have a serious conversation

Of course, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean your loved one is neurotic. But if it’s a pattern of behaviour over time and it’s causing them distress, you should encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional.


Left untreated, neurosis can grow into bigger health concerns for you and your relationships. This is because being neurotic takes a toll on your mental health and ability to function in everyday life.

Physical complications over time may include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Heart problems
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia

Neurosis can also lead to other health complications, including:

  • Perceived and actual marital issues (marital dissatisfaction)
  • Decreased work performance and occupational failure
  • Increased vulnerability to conditions like eating disorders, mood disorders, and use disorders to try to cope with the emotional instabilities of neuroticism


Researchers have identified an association between neuroticism and mental disorders and lower quality of life, but have not pinpointed its exact cause. Several factors are believed to be at play in the development of neuroticism.


People who have a family history of neuroticism may be more likely to have it.


Both shared environments (common to family members) and nonshared environments like a child’s individual classroom are associated with the likelihood of developing neurotic traits.


Traumatic experience, or unexpected life changes that is causing lots of stress eg. the loss of a loved one, can cause neurosis.



Various forms of talk therapy, including the psychodynamic approach and cognitive behavioural therapy, can help address negative thought patterns and help a person work to change unhealthy ways of coping. Moreover, It can also be useful for helping a person identify their neurotic behaviours and how those behaviours are contributing to other problems they’re facing.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Coping with your own neurotic behavior can be tiring. Practicing self-awareness and recognizing what can trigger these behaviors are critical and ongoing steps in managing neurosis. Once you know what makes your neuroticism worse, you can make some or all of the following positive lifestyle changes to support your mental health:
  • Create a “no” list: Lists can help you set boundaries throughout the day when things come up that are stressful. If you’re unsure how to proceed and are obsessing about what to do, check the list.
  • Be proactive about triggers: For example, if you know staying up later than usual too many times a week is almost always followed by an increase in symptoms or neurotic behaviors, make routine sleep times a top priority.
  • Practice breathing exercises: They help counter anxiety-related shallow breathing that deprives your body and brain of oxygen, which can then progress to full-blown anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Download a meditation or sleep story app: These can help guide you through stressful times and promote better sleep. Use apps that let you track mindfulness, write notes, or document mood so you can see your progress over time.


Your family doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe the appropriate medications to help reduce symptoms associated with disorders like anxiety, depression, and others. However, medications work to help change the brain chemistry behind neurotic behaviour.

Common medications prescribed for mental disorders associated with neuroticism include:

  • Anti-anxiety medications work to reduce anxiety and associated symptoms like nervousness or restlessness. One commonly prescribed example is benzodiazepine, which is fast-acting, but people can build up a tolerance to it.
  • Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors can be used for managing the symptoms of depression.
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