What Does It Mean to Be Neurotic?

What exactly does it mean when you have a neurotic personality? Many people have been accused of this at some point in their lives. Whether you are terrified of spiders or refuse to walk under ladders, neurotic behavior takes many forms. But common tics and quirks are all too often mistaken for true neuroticism. Neurotic behavior is actually a serious mental issue that can affect every aspect of a person's life.

What Does Neurotic Mean?

When someone is neurotic, they are in a negative emotional state for a long period of time. They might be depressed, might feel more guilt than the average person, could be consumed with envy or anger, overcome with anxiety, and feel these things more strongly than other individuals do.

Unfortunately, it is often used as an insult in today's world. That's because people who are neurotic are seen as being different, and sometimes people see "different" as "frightening." Being neurotic often means being overly emotional, and is often displayed by intense emotions. The emotions are so strong that the individual is often riddled with anxiety about them. For instance, someone who is truly neurotic might immediately call to make sure you received an email, or might get worried if they don't get an immediate response to their text message.

Still wondering if you are neurotic? This test can help explore your potential for neuroticism.

Neurosis vs. Neuroticism

The two words are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different states. Neurosis is the name of the actual disorder, while neuroticism is the state of having it. Interestingly, most psychologists and psychiatrists today don't use these terms at all, as they are considered outdated and incorrect in medical circles.

Categories of Neurosis

What does neurotic mean? Those who have neurosis understand exactly what they are doing and feeling – this differs from someone with psychosis, who often don't have self-awareness of those things. There are numerous categories of neurosis; the following are the most common.

  • Anxiety neurosis. This involves serious anxiety and worry, sometimes even manifesting itself with panic attacks, chest pain, sweating and the like.
  • Obsessive-compulsive neurosis. This involves intrusive thoughts and the need to repeat actions or words over and over – these are called compulsions.
  • Depressive neurosis. Depression that is worse than usual or a feeling of sadness and despair that crowds out all pleasurable things.
  • War or combat neurosis. Also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, this includes reliving terrible moments in war, leading to stress or even disability.
  • Compensation neurosis. This is often manifested by the desire to obtain money or other personal gain by feigning psychological symptoms.
  • Somatization neurosis. This presents with physical, real symptoms that are actually manifested in the mind, caused by anxiety and emotional distress.

How to Deal With a Neurotic Personality

Everyone has dealt with neurosis at one time or another. But the neurosis doesn't linger. For those who have a neurotic personality, they can't break free of the neurosis.

Dealing with the neurotic personality is not easy, but it is possible. It takes serious patience and a willingness to deal with them, and not become critical of the way they act. Understanding that they can't do anything about their condition is a big step in helping them. Keep in mind that most people are very aware that they are neurotic, but they don't have the proper coping skills to deal with it, and thus they aren't sure what to do. They can often control their neurotic behavior for a while, but it often comes out again when they are under serious stress.

When the neurosis does come out, people with neurotic personality tend to be very embarrassed and critical of themselves. Rather than argue with them or point out the behavior, it is important to listen to what they say and try not to react. If that means you must remove yourself from the situation until the neurotic behavior has calmed, do so.

How to Manage Anxiety Neurosis

Now that you understand the answer to "what does neurotic mean," it is important to figure out how to manage the symptoms. It is difficult to recommend natural or home treatments without knowing exactly what the anxiety is about and what triggered it; however, most anxiety can be reduced by focusing on the symptoms of the particular type of anxiety, then target those symptoms with the following techniques.

  • Exercise. Physical activity can help reduce the anxiety you feel. Anxiety is often made much worse by being immobile or sedentary, often because it gives you too much "time to think." Besides that, exercise releases hormones that help reduce anxiety naturally, so the healthier you are, the more likely you will be to keep your anxiety under control.
  • Research. Learning a great deal about your neurotic behavior can help you understand what is going on inside your brain. That means that you can keep yourself calmer when you seem to be feeling more anxious than usual. But keep in mind that too much research might trigger anxiety in some people; if this happens to you, steer clear of the research for a while.
  • Relaxation. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, mantras, and other relaxation techniques can go a long way toward alleviating anxiety, no matter what triggers it. Take your time in working through the various techniques until you find one that works for you. Keep in mind that it might not be an actual technique that works; for instance, you might find that knitting or working on a puzzle helps alleviate your anxiety.
  • Herbal supplements. If you do not want to depend upon medication, some herbal supplements might help you through the worst times of anxiety. Supplements like kava, valerian root or passionflower have been proven to help some who suffer from neurotic behavior.
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