It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to themselves or another person as “neurotic.” This can conjure any number of different definitions or concepts depending on an individual’s understanding of the word. As it turns out, though, a neurotic personality or neurotic behavior is not the same thing as having a neurosis.
The definition of neurotic is: 1) one affected with a neurosis; 2) an emotionally unstable individual
The definition of neurosis or neuroses is: a mental and emotional disorder that…
- Affects only part of the personality
- Is accompanied by a less distorted perception of reality than in a psychosis
- Does not result in disturbance of the use of language
- Is accompanied by various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances
These physiological or mental disturbances can include things such as visceral symptoms, anxieties, or phobias, among other things.
To be clear, psychologists created the word neurosis in the 18th century as a way to describe various mental health conditions that could not be linked to a physical problem.
While a person can still be neurotic, the term neuroses has mostly been abandoned by modern psychiatrists and psychologists and replaced with specific diagnoses relating to anxiety or depressive disorders.
What is a Neurotic Personality?
Neuroticism is actually a personality trait and not a disorder. It is defined as a long-term inclination toward negativity and an anxious emotional state of mind.
A neurotic personality is much more likely to experience stress and anxiety based on their current environment, or feel intense frustration at what another person may consider a minor inconvenience.
It’s important to note that simply having a neurotic personality type is not a negative in and of itself. A person can be neurotic about their job or school performance and excel as a result.
They might constantly think about their overall health and maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, although sometimes to extremes.
Because a person with a neurotic personality cares about the feelings of others, they may be incredibly kind and giving.
In fact, if we take thorough stock of ourselves, we’re likely to find behaviors or aspects of our lives that could be defined as neurotic.
Neuroticism is so common that it’s one of the traits that make-up the Five-Factor Model of Personality, a personality evaluation widely used in psychiatry and psychology.
The Five-Factor Model of Personality Variation includes:
- Openness to experience
When personality quirks or neuroticism interfere with our day-to-day lives or quality of life, however, that’s when they can become problematic.
What are the Symptoms of a Neurotic Personality?
Understanding the symptoms of neuroticism or a neurotic personality can be the first step in working toward better mental health.
The Symptoms of a Neurotic Personality or Behavior can include:
- Being overly self-conscious or shy
- Fear of what others will think about you
- Struggle with phobias (fear of spiders, flying, heights)
- Increased bouts of depression
- Issues with anxiety or panic attacks
- Difficulty breaking negative patterns of thought
- Chronic feelings of guilt, shame, anger or envy
- Feeling overwhelmed in the face of minor challenges
- Mood swings
- Tendency to self-medicate feelings with alcohol or other drugs
What are Examples of Neurotic Behavior?
Because everyone deals with challenges unique to their lives, examples of neurotic behavior won’t look the same in everyone.
For example, one person with a neurotic personality may primarily struggle with anxiety and withdrawal from others, while someone else with anxiety may cling to toxic relationships because they fear being alone.
Some common examples of neurotic behavior can include:
- Being overly critical of one’s self or work (perfectionism that gets in the way of progress)
- An outsized reaction to a minor problem, such as “road rage” or crying because dinner was burned and couldn’t be eaten
- Intense anxiety or panic in non-threatening social situations like going out to eat, a work function, or friendly gathering
- Difficulty taking care of basic needs, such as shopping, hygiene, paying bills or keeping a job, as a result of depression or anxiety
- Jealousy of others to the point of distraction
- Inability to be grateful for your own achievements or possessions
- Troubles maintaining relationships due to being overly controlling, jealous, needy, angry or emotional
What is a Successful Treatment for Neurosis or Neurotic Personality Traits?
Neurosis treatment actually involves treating the specific condition for which a person has been diagnosed with, such as some type of depression or anxiety disorder.
Neurotic behavior is often linked to these same conditions, even though it is considered a personality trait instead of an actual disorder. But because there are similarities between the two, treatment for neurotic personality traits can likewise be similar.
Living a healthy, clean lifestyle can do wonders for a neurotic personality as well as anxiety or depression. A nutritious diet, consistent exercise and regular, restful sleep help keep our body and minds in a good balance.
Sometimes, though, taking the extra step to see a therapist or a counselor can help us identify problems and develop strategies to cope with neuroticism.
Antidepressant medications may be appropriate for patients battling depression or anxiety.
Addressing or seeking treatment for other factors, like the possibility of addiction to drugs or alcohol, will often lessen anxiety, depression, and neurotic symptoms. In this case, dual diagnosis treatment would be the most effective for recovery.
Developing new ways to manage fear and anxiety is also crucial.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy can teach people about the relationship between their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. These are excellent treatment modalities for adapting to new, more positive ways of thinking, feeling and acting.