20 Common Examples of Neurotic Behavior

Michelle Overman, Author
Updated on May 12, 2024

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 an independent mental health condition, behaviors classified as “neurotic” are often categorized in association with generalized anxiety disorder.[1][2]

Neurotic Behavior

In trying to identify behaviors that can be considered neurotic, the following list of common examples can be helpful:

1. Heavy Drinking or Substance Abuse

People with neurosis often use alcohol and other substances 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 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. They may feel overwhelmed when plans are changed or the schedule is altered, particularly at the last minute.

7. Being Fidgety

People who fidget a lot by biting their nails, picking their skin, or cracking their knuckles may be experiencing 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. Their exaggerated responses 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 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 it up into something bigger than it needs to be. Those showing such neurotic behavior are unable to let little stresses subside.

17. Extreme Worry or Panic

Highly anxious people who are extremely worried or have anxiety attacks can give 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.

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 about not feeling good enough. They will try to combat this by trying to one-up other people and reminding others of their achievements.


When reviewing the above list, you may have identified yourself or someone close to you as presenting with many neurotic behaviors. Don’t be alarmed, although these behaviors can potentially result in long-term damage to your physical health and relationships, they can be avoided.[3]

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. This way, you can improve your quality of life and help yourself avoid many of the consequences of neurotic behaviors.


  1. 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
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
  3. Lahey B. B. (2009). Public health significance of neuroticismThe American psychologist64(4), 241–256. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015309
Michelle Overman, Author

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.

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