20 Examples of Neurotic Behavior

Michelle Overman, LMFT
June 1, 2020

Though it’s no longer considered a mental health condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), neurosis is still commonly used to refer to a disorder who’s symptoms include anxiety and obsessive thoughts. The following list is not exhaustive, but it is a great place to start when trying to identify neurotic behaviors:

Neurotic Behavior

1. Drinking or using substances.

These substances are used as a bandage to help quickly numb emotional issues. However, over time, they can lead to more serious concerns including addiction.

2. Excessive spending or shopping.

Sometimes it’s simply used as a distraction. However, it can even be a compulsion for people who feel highly anxious. These behaviors can lead to more stress long-term by causing financial issues.

3. Overly obsessing over a hobby or fun activity.

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While engaging in hobbies can be relaxing, obsessing over them can be detrimental to relationships. It can be used as a distraction from other important responsibilities and create barriers in relationships.

4. Constantly concerned with becoming sick or being overly fearful of germs.

It can come in the form of a “germophobe” or even reach the level of a hypochondriac. This person will worry and obsess over perceived symptoms whether they are really present or purely psychological. They also might be overly concerned with staying away from germs.

5. Obsessing over cleanliness.

It can come from fear of germs or getting sick. It can also be a way of controlling one’s environment. Trying to control one’s environment due to fear or the need to feel in control will cause more anxiety since achieving complete control is impossible.

6. Becoming hyper-controlling of one’s schedule.

Those 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, it can be overwhelming.

7. Being fidgety.

This can come in different forms, including nail-biting, skin-picking, or cracking knuckles. It can be a sign of discomfort and anxiety that can cause physical damage even if it is only minor.

8. Over-communicating or under-communicating with one’s partner.

It can look like constantly needing to speak with one’s partner due to excessive worry, or it can look like shutting them out and putting up walls. Either can cause a strain on the relationship.

9. Attempting to control one’s partner.

This can be through nagging, picking at their “flaws,” or trying to “fix” them. It is another way people try to calm anxiety through control but can cause major issues over time.

10. Becoming overly or excessively blunt.

Some people become blunt to the point of almost brutal honesty. They think it will help the relationship, but again, over time it can damage their relationships.

11. Becoming clingy or overly dependent on close friends and family.

Being overly dependent can leave others feeling emotionally drained and eventually push them away from you if it persists.

12. Overreacting to seemingly small issues.

General emotional reactivity over little concerns can be a sign of emotional distress and an example of not managing stress well.

13. Becoming deeply sad overly seemingly small issues.

It is another example of an intense of seemingly exaggerated reaction to a small concern. It is appropriate to be upset or disappointed. However, it is the degree of the emotion that can become a problem.

14. Losing interest over typically enjoyable activities.

It can be a symptom of the one above. Losing interest over enjoyable activities can be an overreaction to emotional distress.

15. Getting easily stressed out.

If one has the inability to not “sweat the small stuff,” it can cause issues like chronic anxiety or simply leaving you unable to get things done.

16. Creating drama.

It can be a way of illustrating the inability to let little stresses subside. Creating drama can be a negative way of taking something small and blowing into something bigger than it needs to be.

17. Extreme worry or even panic.

It may seem obvious, but anxiety attacks or extreme worry can cause chronic physical and mental issues over time.

18. Obsessing over social media.

Spending over-extended amounts of time on social media can result in more anxiety and depressive symptoms. It can also be an example of escaping behaviors.

19. Excessive displays of anger.

It is another display of a person’s inability to regulate emotions well. If one tends to “explode” over small concerns, it can become a more serious problem.

20. Consistently trying to one-up others.

If one has a deeper insecurity like not feeling good enough or feeling like they do not matter, trying to convince others through one-upping their achievements can be a way to combat that anxiety.

While these behaviors can potentially result in long-term damage to one’s physical health and relationships, it is avoidable. Working with a trained mental health professional to understand the underlying issues behind these behaviors and cope with feeling of anxiety can improve one’s quality of life and help avoid many of the accompanying consequences.

Michelle Overman, LMFT

Michelle is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families.