The term neurosis is informally used by many to refer to a disorder whose symptoms include obsessive or negative thoughts and feelings. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) does not recognize neurosis as a mental health condition, behaviors classified as “neurotic” are often mentioned in association with disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, OCD and others.
In trying to identify behaviors that can be considered neurotic, the following list of common examples can be helpful:
1. Drinking or Using Substances
Alcohol and other substances are often used by people with neurosis as a bandage to help quickly numb their emotional issues. However, over time, this behavior can lead to more serious concerns such as addiction.
2. Excessive Spending or Shopping
This behavior may simply be used as a distraction. However, it can be a compulsion for people who feel highly anxious, and may lead to more stress in the long-term by causing financial issues.
3. Overly Obsessing Over a Hobby or Fun Activity
While engaging in hobbies can be relaxing, people with neurosis may obsess over them. This behavior can be detrimental to their relationships and distract them from other important responsibilities.
4. Being Overly Fearful of Germs or Diseases
People showing neurotic behavior may worry and obsess over perceived symptoms whether they are real or not. This can reach the level of hypochondria. They may also be “germaphobes” who are overly concerned with staying away from germs.
5. Obsessing Over Cleanliness
People with neurosis may obsess over cleanliness as a way to feel in control of their environment or because they’re fearful of germs or getting sick. But this behavior will only cause them more anxiety since achieving complete control is impossible.
6. Becoming Hyper-Controlling of One’s Schedule
People exhibiting neurotic behaviors tend to want to be on a tight schedule and have everything planned. When plans are changed or the schedule is altered, particularly at the last minute, they may feel overwhelmed.
7. Being Fidgety
People who fidget a lot by biting their nails, picking their skin, or cracking their knuckles may be feeling discomfort and anxiety. This neurotic behavior can cause them physical harm even if it is only minor.
8. Over-Communicating or Under-Communicating With One’s Partner
People who feel highly anxious may constantly feel the need to speak with their partner or otherwise shut them out and put up walls. Either way this can cause a strain on their relationship.
9. Attempting to Control One’s Partner
Highly anxious people may try to control their neurosis through nagging their partner, picking at their “flaws,” or trying to “fix” them. But this can cause major issues over time.
10. Becoming Overly or Excessively Blunt
Some people with neurosis become blunt to the point of almost brutal honesty. They think it will help their relationships, but again, over time it may only damage them.
11. Becoming Clingy or Overly Dependent on Close Friends and Family
People with neurosis may be overly dependent on others. This can lead to their loved ones eventually pushing away from them to avoid the persistent emotional drain.
12. Overreacting to Seemingly Small Issues
People exhibiting general emotional reactivity over little concerns are not managing stress well and can be showing emotional distress.
13. Becoming Deeply Sad Over Seemingly Small Issues
People exhibiting intense reactions to small concerns are showing anxious behavior. These exaggerated responses, compared to normal upset or disappointment, can become a problem.
14. Losing Interest Over Typically Enjoyable Activities
People with neurosis can lose interest in once enjoyable activities. This can again be their overreaction to emotional distress.
15. Getting Easily Stressed Out
People with neurosis find it hard to not “sweat the small stuff”. This can lead to them feeling chronically anxious and unable to get things done.
16. Creating Drama
Creating drama can be a negative way of taking something small and blowing into something bigger than it needs to be. Those showing such neurotic behavior are unable to let little stresses subside.
17. Extreme Worry or Even Panic
Highly anxious people who are extremely worried or have anxiety attacks can by giving themselves chronic physical and mental issues over time.
18. Obsessing Over Social Media
People who spend too much of their time on social media may be trying to escape their neurosis. However, such behavior can cause them to feel more anxiety and depression.
19. Excessive Displays of Anger
People with neurosis find it hard to regulate their emotions. If they tend to “explode” over small concerns, it can become a more serious problem.
20. Consistently Trying to One-up Others
Highly anxious people may have a deep insecurity of not feeling good enough. They will try to combat this by attempting to convince others that they matter through one-upping their achievements.
From the above list you may have identified yourself or someone close to you as showing neurotic behaviors. Don’t be alarmed, although these behaviors can potentially result in long-term damage to your physical health and relationships, they can definitely be avoided. By working with a trained mental health professional you can come to understand the underlying issues behind your behavior and learn skills to cope with your anxiety. In this way you can improve your quality of life and help yourself avoid many of the consequences of neurotic behaviors.
- Perkins, A.D, Arnone, D., Smallwood, J., Mobbs, D., (2015). Thinking too much: self-generated thought as the engine of neuroticism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(9), 492-498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.07.003
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
- Lahey B. B. (2009). Public health significance of neuroticism. The American psychologist, 64(4), 241–256. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015309