A neurosis is any symptomatic disturbance which results from a mental struggle (intrapsychic conflict).
Neuroses generally interfere with what would be considered "normal" functioning but do not interfere with reality testing (an individual's perception of reality). If reality testing is disrupted and perception of reality is altered, we refer to it as "psychosis."
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What is neuroticism?
Psychologists and psychiatrists rarely use the terms neurotic and neurosis.
Neuroticism is a long-term tendency to be in a negative emotional state. People with neuroticism tend to have more depressed moods - they suffer from feelings of guilt, envy, anger, and anxiety more frequently and more severely than other individuals. Neuroticism is the state of being neurotic.
Those who score highly on neuroticism tend to be particularly sensitive to environmental stress and respond poorly to it. They may perceive every day, run-of-the-mill situations as menacing and major; trivial frustrations are problematic and may lead to despair.
An individual with neuroticism may be self-conscious and shy. They may have a tendency to internalize phobias and other neurotic manifestations, such as anxiety, panic, aggression, negativity, and depression.
When talking about neuroticism, it is common to read about high, medium, or low scores. People with low scores are more emotionally stable and manage to deal with stress more successfully than those with high scores.
Individuals with low scores are usually even-tempered, calm, and less likely to become upset and tense, compared with people who score highly.
What is the difference between neurosis and neuroticism?
In basic terms, neurosis is an actual disorder, such as obsessive thoughts or anxiety, while neuroticism is the state of having the disorder. In modern non-medical texts, the two are often used with the same meaning. For psychologists and psychiatrists today, these terms are rarely used, they are considered outdated.
Famous figures define neurosis
Emotional instability - according to Hans Jürgen Eysenck (1916-1997), a German-British psychologist, neurosis is a term for emotional instability.
A general affection of the nervous system - neurosis was first used by Dr. William Kullen, from Scotland, in 1769 - he said the term referred to "disorders of sense and motion" caused by "a general affection of the nervous system."
Does not interfere with rational thought or ability to function - more recently, neurosis, as well as neurotic disorder or psychoneurosis, refers to mental disorders which do not interfere with rational thought or the individual's ability to function, even though they do cause distress. Psychosis, on the other hand, does interfere with a person's ability to function in the real world.
Caused by an unpleasant past experience - according to Sigmund Freud (1956-1939), a famous Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis, neurosis is an ineffectual coping strategy caused by emotions from past experience which overwhelm or interfere with current experience. He once gave, as an example, an overwhelming fear of dogs, which may have resulted from a dog-attack earlier in life.
Conflict between two psychic events - Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) a Swiss psychiatrist, the founder of analytical psychology, believed that neurosis is the result of a conflict between two psychic contents; a conscious and unconscious content.
Health professionals no longer use the terms neurosis or neuroticism
As mentioned earlier, "neurosis" is not currently used by healthcare professionals. These days, neuroses-type references are placed under the areas of depressive disorders or anxiety. However, the term may still be used by some mental health professionals who still practice psychoanalysis.
According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, Neurosis is:
- A psychological or behavioral disorder in which anxiety is the primary characteristic; defense mechanisms or any phobias are the adjustive techniques that a person learns to cope with this underlying anxiety. In contrast to the psychoses, people with a neurosis do not exhibit gross distortion of reality or gross disorganization of personality, but in severe cases, those affected may be as disabled as those with a psychosis.
- A functional nervous disease, or one in which there is no evident lesion.
- A peculiar state of tension or irritability of the nervous system; any form of nervousness.
And Neuroticism is defined as:
"The condition or psychological trait of being neurotic."
In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (third publication) removed the term neurosis.
Neurosis and personality disorder are very different
A person who is neurotic is different from someone with a personality disorder.
A personality disorder refers to a more severe personality pathology. A person with neurosis is relatively well in touch with reality, has a solid sense of them self, and still uses defense mechanisms like other "mentally healthy" people do.
Neurotics (people with neurosis) are believed to benefit from psychoanalysis; those with personality disorders require more ego-supportive techniques.