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Neurosis (neuroticism): causes, symptoms and characteristics

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The neurosis or neuroticism it is a psychological tendency to maintain certain difficulties with emotional control and management.

People with high levels of neuroticism tend to have low moods, close to the depression or to dysthymia, and show negative feelings like envy, go to, anxiety, feeling of guilt... Neurotic people present this symptomatology much more frequently and severely than people who do not suffer from this condition.

What is neurosis?

Neurosis is a concept that encompasses a series of psychological disorders related to trouble reacting to reality in an emotionally coherent way. For example, in people with a tendency to neuroticism there may be cases of excessive reaction intense in the face of criticism from others, even if it is done jokingly or in a very hint.

In any case, unlike what happens in psychosis, in neurosis reality is technically perceived correctly (or at least, what happens objectively in it without going into analyzing the intentions, desires or plans of those who surround).

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

Neurotic people: how to identify them

There are some signs and various symptoms with which we can identify a person with a propensity for neurosis. Neurotic people are especially vulnerable to changes in the environment, suffer more stress and are less able to cope with it.

On the other hand, neuroticism refers to emotional management problems in practically all areas of a person's life, not just a few. Individuals who obtain high scores on tests that measure neuroticism are more likely to suffer negative affectivity, that is, anxiety and symptoms of depressive types. They tend to experience emotional swings more often than other people, since they are more sensitive to potential sources of frustration or concern in their environment.

On the other hand, people who suffer from neurosis (as a clinical entity and associated with a certain level of psychopathology) tend to be more fearful of situations that other people tolerate and handle effectively. They tend to perceive reality in a more negative way than it really is, and easily despair over small frustrations that, in the eyes of others, are not very important.

The neurotic personality and its comorbidity

Individuals with neurosis also tend to present other relevant characteristics, such as anxiety, a greater presence of depressive symptoms or tendency to shyness. People who are prone to neurosis also often have phobias Y panic disorders.

Neurosis is a psychological disorder that makes people suffering from it suffer, but it is a relatively manageable condition, since there is no presence of serious pictures that are usually associated with psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations

In neurosis, the individual remains in contact with reality; no depersonalization. Patients who score high on the neuroticism scale are emotionally unstable and are less able to manage their discomfort and stress with respect to those people who score low in neuroticism.

People who do not have neurosis tend to be relaxed, are better able to cope with high levels of stress and are more willing to face day-to-day challenges.

Signs and symptoms

The most common symptoms and signs among neurotic people are the following:

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

Neuroticism and difficulties in relating and communicating

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

In addition, they tend to have poorer decision-making skills in common. All of these symptoms, if left untreated and become encyst in the neurotic's personal life, can lead to severe symptoms of depression and isolation.

Neuroticism and its resemblance to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Another style of coping with neurosis is that of some people who gradually develop recurring thoughts and worries about catastrophic events that could happen, even when there is no rational element to justify them. That is, it is very easy for your attention to be focused on unrealistic concerns, without much foundation empirical or simply based on something that objectively has a power to affect your quality of life very limited.

Faced with these negative thoughts, some neurotic individuals may try to counteract the chances that the catastrophe will unfold. actually produced, using certain mental rituals or repeated behaviors that can be confused with those of the people who suffer obsessive compulsive disorder.

Social isolation: a problem associated with neurosis?

The set of symptoms and characteristics of individuals suffering from some degree of neurosis They can cause people in their environment to move away from them, because they are seen as strange and eccentric. This can lead to some seclusion and social isolation.

In other cases, anxiety and stress can rise over time, making daily life extremely difficult for these patients, who live in permanent tension. Usually, they are people who feel hurt easily; they live in a constant state of anxiety and with the feeling that something bad could happen to them from one moment to the next.

Neurosis, insomnia and somatizations

There are other problems that neurotic people report very frequently. One of them is the Difficulty getting to sleep, a fact that makes them feel tired during the day.

Other patients also refer to somatization problems and the like: strange heart sensations, excessive sweating, a feeling of suffocation or fear of dying at any moment... These are symptoms that coincide with the classic anxiety disorder.


Within what we know as neurosis, a series of symptoms and affectations are included that negatively influence the quality of life of the person who suffers them.

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 by itself it does not usually make the symptoms disappear for good lifetime. Going to a specialist in these cases can help the neurotic person to improve in many aspects, as well as a diagnosis and personalized treatment.

On the other hand, the emotional alterations typical of what has been classically known as neurosis can be so pronounced that it is necessary to combine psychological intervention with treatments pharmacological. This is especially relevant in cases where mood-related symptoms appear alongside others that are psychotic in nature.

In any case, drug-based treatment of neurosis only serves to mitigate some symptoms temporarily, and does not allow progress towards improvement. This, coupled with the fact that psychotropic drugs always have side effects, makes it recommended to use drugs of this type only when necessary.

Bibliographic references:

  • Fenichel, O. (1945) The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. New York: Norton.
  • Flehmig, H.C.; Steinborn, M.; Langner, R. & Westhoff, K. (2007). "Neuroticism and the mental noise hypothesis: Relationships to lapses of attention and slips of action in everyday life". Psychology Science. 49 (4): pp. 343 - 360.
  • Ladell, R.M. and T.H. Hargreaves (1947). "The Extent of Neurosis". Br Med J. 2 (4526): pp. 548 - 549.
  • Panksepp, J.A. (1992). A critical role for "Affective Neuroscience" in resolving what is basic about emotions. Psychological Review, 99 (3): pp. 554 - 560.
  • Russon, J. (2003). Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life. State University of New York Press.
  • Trnka, R.; Balcar, K.; Kuška, M.; Hnilica, K. (2012). Neuroticism and Valence of Negative Emotional Concepts. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal. 40 (5): pp. 843 - 844.
  • Vallès, A., and Vallès, C. (2000): Emotional intelligence: Educational applications. Madrid, Editorial EOS.

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