Health,  mental health

Understanding Neuroticism + 15 Common Examples Of Neurotic Behavior

Presented by BetterHelp.

What do you picture when you hear that someone is acting ‘neurotic’? The term neuroticism is often used to describe the tendency to respond to stressful situations in an overly negative or anxious way. Together with the word ‘neurosis,’ these terms have been used since the late 1700s in psychology and psychiatry to classify behavior or physical reactions that are drastic or irrational. However, neither neurosis nor neuroticism are actually recognized as official mental health disorders. 

What is neurosis?

Neurosis, from the Greek word neuron (nerve) and the adjective -osis (abnormal condition), is a mental and emotional state characterized by anxiety, obsessive thinking, and excessive insecurity or self-consciousness. Therefore, being neurotic means that you’re afflicted by neurosis.

In personality theory, neurosis is one of the “Big Five” personality traits that every person features to some degree. Many experts believe that human personality can be broadly broken down into five core traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion (sometimes spelled extroversion), agreeableness, and neuroticism. Each trait represents a continuum between two extremes. For example, openness represents a range between extreme vulnerability (i.e., oversharing) and extreme closeness. 

Neurotic traits

As one of the Big 5 personality traits, neuroticism is characterized by moodiness, emotional instability, and depressive tendencies. Folks who are high in neuroticism tend to be anxious, irritable, and experience frequent mood swings. On the other hand, people with low neuroticism tend to be more level-headed, emotionally resilient, and have a more positive outlook on life. 

Common features of people with neurotic traits include:

  • Tendency towards negativity
  • Extremely shy or self-conscious
  • Constantly worrying about what other people might think of them
  • Very anxious
  • Poor emotional control
  • Frequent and dramatic mood swings
  • Low emotional resilience (struggles to bounce back after adverse events)
  • Easily upset
  • Feels envy about what others have or becomes jealous easily
  • Gets overwhelmed by minor problems
  • Tendency towards depression and moodiness
  • Usually interprets normal situations as threatening
  • Excessive fear or guilt over minor things
  • Easily frustrated

Examples of common neurotic behavior

It’s important to remember that the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) doesn’t recognize neurosis or neuroticism as a mental illness. Instead, mental health experts classify neurotic behavior as a personality trait that’s often seen in people with anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder. 

By the same token, you should keep in mind that, according to personality theory, everyone has some degree of neuroticism (as well as openness, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). 

Here are some examples of common behaviors that can help you identify neurotic traits in yourself and others:

  • You are constantly on edge or get irritated easily
  • You abuse alcohol or drugs
  • You are extremely critical of yourself and others
  • You are very controlling
  • You can’t seem to sit still
  • People always tell you how pessimistic you are
  • Even the smallest issues put you over the edge
  • You overthink everything
  • You engage in aggressive driving (road rage)
  • You tend to experience unexplained physical symptoms
  • You have trouble getting along with others
  • You complain about everything
  • You have trouble sleeping
  • You become extremely sad or upset over trivial situations
  • You’re hyper-aware of your actions and feel guilty all the time

Coping with neurotic behavior

While neurosis is not a mental health condition, seeing a therapist or counselor can help you manage irrational thought patterns and behaviors that may be interfering with your daily life or relationships. Click visit to learn more about neurotic behavior and its potential causes. 


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