Neurosis is a term that describes an underlying psychological problem. So are there neurosis symptoms and is it possible to detect these signs?

Before we explore neurosis symptoms and their causes, let’s look at how the term came about. The term neurosis was first coined by a Scottish doctor, Dr. William Kullen.

He used it to describe any ailment where there was no physical cause. This idea was revolutionary at the time. The widely accepted medical opinion was that diseases were cardio-vascular in origin.

Kullen was the first person to move away from this mechanical view of the human body and suggest that nerves play a bigger role in our overall health and wellbeing.

Neurosis Causes

You will get a different definition of neurosis symptoms depending on which scientist you research. However, they all share similar characteristics.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, formulated three causes for neurosis. The first is repressed emotional trauma. The second is a sexual trauma and the third repressed sexual libido. Freud stated that neurosis is a coping mechanism and used the example of a dog attack in earlier life leading to a phobia of dogs in adulthood.

Carl Jung, who founded analytical psychology, believed neurosis was the result of a conflict between the conscious and unconscious mind. He thought that a person suffered from neurosis when they experienced an existentialist crisis.

When a person failed to live up to their higher self, this would sit in their unconscious mind and eventually burst out as a neurosis. However, Jung stated that this was a good thing as it allowed people to realize their potential.

Hans Jürgen Eysenck was a German-British psychologist treating soldiers for neurotic disorders. He formulated that a person was more likely to suffer from a neurosis if they shared certain personality traits, such as introversion and extroversion.

Eysenck stated that these personality traits have a biological root. Moreover, they are all connected to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Those who have an ANS that reacts quickly to stress will be neurotic.

Neurosis Symptoms

Scientists may differ in their opinion of the causes of neurosis, but the symptoms share common traits. Neurosis is a mental disorder involving distress and anxiety but with no hallucinations or delusions.

A person suffering from neurosis may feel depressed, stressed, and anxious, have low self-esteem, or suffer from emotional instability.

American psychologist and professor emeritus at Shippensburg University, Dr. George Boeree, says that the symptoms of neurosis can include:



Anger, aggressiveness, anxiety, irritability, impulsiveness, disturbing thoughts, cynicism, dependency, compulsive acts, cognitive problems, habitual fantasizing, lethargy, low sense of self-worth, mental confusion, negativity, obsession, perfectionism, phobic avoidance, vigilance, unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts etc.

The most common trait is anxiety, but this can manifest in many different ways. For example, in phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hysteria, panic attacks etc. Neurosis is a:

poor ability to adapt to one’s environment, an inability to change one’s life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality.” Dr. George Boeree

Someone suffering from a neurosis will find it hard to live a full life, without restrictions.

Different Types of Neurosis

Different Types of Neurosis

There are many different types of neurosis, but here are a few of the more common examples:

  • Obsessive-compulsive neurosis – A person has intrusive thoughts, behaviors or acts that cause them to repeat certain behaviors. They have to repeat these behaviors, otherwise, they become extremely distressed.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – A person suffers a profoundly traumatic event and keeps reliving this event to the point where their everyday life is compromised.
  • Phobias – Someone experiences panic attacks and extreme anxiety which are attached to irrational fears.
  • Depressive neurosis – Clinical depression whereby a person is severely affected and often accompanied by a complete lack of interest in life and pleasurable activities.

How to spot the early signs of neurosis symptoms

  1. You are easily stressed

People that are more likely to be neurotic will be easily stressed by the smallest little thing. Those who are emotionally calm and stable will be able to ride out the storm and take life as it comes.



However, those with a ‘high emotional reactivity’ and low emotional stability will be more likely to get anxious. They will feel unable to deal with the slightest thing and will react with panic, anxiety, helplessness or even anger.

  1. You react with emotion

Those who are susceptible to neurosis tend to react with a lot of emotion. This is because they are unstable emotionally and will react to stressful situations with emotion. People who are emotionally stable will be calm, logical, and pragmatic and take a measured approach to their problems.

So if you find you are flaring up with irritation, anger, tearfulness or sadness, you could be experiencing your first neurosis symptoms.

  1. You dwell on things

Do you dwell on problems? Do you tend to worry about something and analyze it to death? If you do you might be a little neurotic. But there are some people that don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Isaac Newton was neurotic and had many mental breakdowns.

But this is because he pored over problems that he could not solve. And thank goodness he did.

I keep the subject constantly before me and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.” Isaac Newton.

Treatment of Neurosis

Treatment would depend on the specific neurosis of course. In general, however, recommended is a mixture of cognitive behavioral treatment to change the way a person thinks about their neurosis, and psychotherapy to get to the root of the problem. Relaxing breathing techniques are beneficial. As is some medication.

So, are you suffering from a neurosis? Don’t worry. In fact, many creative geniuses have had the honor of being labeled as neurotic. Just think about people like Charles Darwin, Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe, and Woody Allen.

The world would be a much less rich place without them and their neuroses.

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By Janey D.


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