Neurosis (neuroticism): causes, symptoms and characteristics

the neurosis or neuroticism is a psychological tendency to maintain certain difficulties of control and emotional management.

People who suffer from high levels of neuroticism often have a low mood, close to depression or dysthymia, and show negative feelings such as envy, anger, anxiety, guilt … have this symptomatology of much more frequent and severe form than people who do not have this condition.

What is neurosis?

Neurosis is a concept which encompasses a number of psychological disorders related to problems reacting to reality in an emotionally consistent way. For example, in people with a tendency to neuroticism, there may be cases of overreacting to criticism from others, even if they are made jokingly or in a very indirect way.

In any case, unlike what happens in psychosis, in neurosis reality is technically perceived correctly (or at least, what happens there objectively without entering into the analysis of intentions, desires or plans which surrounding us).

On the other hand, neurosis is a complex phenomenon whose causes are not yet clearly established, which is why there are several explanatory theories on the factors that lead to its appearance in humans.

Neurotics: how to identify

there are some signs and various symptoms with which to identify a person prone to neurosis. Neurotic people are particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment, suffer more stress and are less able to cope.

On the other hand, neuroticism refers to problems with emotional management in virtually every area of ​​a person’s life, not just a few. People who score high on tests that measure neuroticism are more likely to experience negative affectivity, that is, anxiety and depressive-like symptoms. They tend to have emotional ups and downs more often than othersAs they are more sensitive to potential sources of frustration or concern for their environment.

On the other hand, people who suffer from neurosis (as a clinical entity and which is associated with a certain level of psychopathology) tend to exhibit greater fear in situations that other people tolerate and deal with effectively. They tend to perceive reality more negatively than it really is, and they easily despair of small frustrations that others don’t think really matter.

Neurotic personality and its comorbidity

People with neurosis also tend to have other relevant characteristics, such as anxiety, an increased presence of depressive symptoms, or a tendency to be shy. People prone to neurosis also often have phobias and panic disorders.

Neurosis is a psychological disorder that makes people suffer from it, but it is a relatively manageable condition because there are no serious conditions often associated with psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations.

In neurosis, the individual remains in touch with reality; there is no depersonalization. Patients who score high on the Neuroticism Scale are emotionally unstable and are less able to cope with their discomfort and stress compared to those who score low for Neuroticism.

People who don’t have neurosis tend to be relaxed, are more able to cope with high levels of stress, and are more willing to deal with the challenges of everyday life.

Signs and symptoms

The most common symptoms and signs in people with neurosis are:

  • Permanent feeling of sadness
  • Apathy and lack of interest in doing enjoyable activities
  • Problems in their personal relationships due to their low tolerance towards others
  • High sensitivity and susceptibility
  • They are irritable, aggressive and frustrated
  • emotionally unstable

Neuroticism and difficulties in relationship and communication

In addition to the symptoms and characteristics already described, neurotics often have problems in the workplace, as well as in all areas where there is coexistence with other peopleInsofar as, in severe cases, they can act as psychological aggressors.

In addition, they often have in common a poorer ability to make good decisions. All of these symptoms, if left untreated and grounded in the neurotic’s personal life, can lead to severe cases of depression and isolation.

Neuroticism and its resemblance to obsessive-compulsive disorder

Another style of dealing with neurosis is that of some people who they gradually develop recurring thoughts and worries about catastrophic events that could occur, Although there is no rational element to justify them. In other words, it is very easy for their attention to focus on unrealistic concerns, without too much empirical grounding or simply on the basis of something that objectively has the power to affect their very limited quality of life.

Faced with these negative thoughts, some neurotic individuals may try to counter the chances of the disaster actually happening, by using certain mental rituals or repeated behaviors that may be mistaken for those of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Social isolation: a problem linked to neurosis?

The set of symptoms and characteristics of individuals suffering from a certain degree of neurosis can lead people around them to shy away from it, to be seen as rare and eccentric. this this can lead to a certain seclusion and social isolation.

In other cases, anxiety and stress can increase over time, significantly affecting the daily life of these patients, who live under constant stress. Usually, these are people who feel easily hurt; they live in a state of constant anxiety and with the feeling that something bad can happen to them at any time.

Neurosis, insomnia and somatizations

There are other problems that neurotics refer to very often. One of them is difficulty falling asleep, which makes them tired during the day.

Other patients also allude to somatization and other problems: strange heart sensations, excessive sweating, suffocation or fear of dying at any time … These are symptoms that coincide with the classic anxiety disorder.


What we call neurosis includes a series of symptoms and conditions that negatively influence the quality of life of the person who suffers from it.

Of course, there is psychological treatment to minimize the effect of neurosis on the mental health of those who suffer from it. Psychotherapy helps restore emotional balance and reduce the incidence of many of the symptoms described above, although it usually does not make symptoms go away for life. Going to a specialist in these cases can help the person with neurosis improve in many ways, in addition to personalized diagnosis and treatment.

In contrast, the emotional type disorders typical of what is conventionally called neurosis can be so pronounced that psychological intervention must be combined with pharmacological treatments. This is especially relevant in cases where mood-related symptoms appear alongside other psychotic-type symptoms.

In all cases, drug treatment of the neurosis only serves to attenuate certain symptoms in a transient manner and does not allow progress towards improvement. This, added to the fact that psychotropic drugs always have side effects, it is recommended not to use these drugs only when needed.

Bibliographical references:

  • Fenichel, O. (1945) The psychoanalytic theory of neurosis. New York: Norton.
  • Flehmig, HC; Steinborn, M .; Langner, R. and Westhoff, K. (2007). “Neuroticism and the Mental Noise Hypothesis: Relations with Attention Slides and Action Slips in Daily Life.” Psychological sciences. 49 (4): pages 343 to 360.
  • Ladell, RM and TH Hargreaves (1947). “The scope of neurosis.” Br Med J. 2 (4526): pages 548-549.
  • Panksepp, JA (1992). A critical role for “Affective Neuroscience” in resolving the bases of emotions. Psychological Review, 99 (3): pages 554-560.
  • Russon, J. (2003). Human experience: philosophy, neurosis and elements of everyday life. New York State University Press.
  • Trnka, R .; Balcar, K .; Kuška, M .; Hnilica, K. (2012). Neuroticism and valence of negative emotional concepts. Behavior and social personality: international magazine. 40 (5): pages 843 to 844.
  • Vallès, A., and Vallès, C. (2000): Emotional intelligence: educational applications. Madrid, EOS Editorial.

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