It is normal to feel anxious from time to time. We can all get a little nervous before having a first date, worry about financial reasons or about our future work. Worry is a natural and frequent human emotion.
But, in some cases, this becomes excessive. Managing everyday life becomes extremely difficult when negative or obsessive thoughts constantly invade the mind. This excess of obsessive negativity is known as neurotic behavior.
There are many different circumstances that fall under the umbrella of neurosis. For this reason, it is common to speak of specific neuroses; this helps people understand which specific psychological condition is being referred to. In this article we describe the different types of neuroses that are collected in the medical literature .
What is neurosis?
Neurosis -or neuroticism- is defined as a psychological trait or behavior pattern presented by a person with a tendency to emotional instability and the development of maladaptive relationships with others , with himself and with the environment.
Neurosis is a complex topic and has been constantly discussed within the field of psychology. Depending on the context, this abstract concept can refer to multiple ideas. This occurs because over the years, different meanings of the behavioral pattern have been derived by mental health professionals and also from other fields outside the clinical setting. Therefore, the term lends itself to confusion.
It is common to refer to someone who cannot properly regulate their emotions as neurotic. However, this does not mean that you have any symptoms of psychological disorder. For example, we can describe someone who has difficulty making a decision as a neurotic person.
Neurosis is not a disease strictly speaking, but rather a psychological concept that refers to difficulties in relating to oneself and to the world . These existential difficulties are caused by the awareness of one's own limitations and imminent death.
Our species has the ability to use symbols and think abstractly. We are able to desire, to choose, and to perceive our own transcendence. In some cases, this search for meaning inherent to the human being is accompanied by some emotional discomfort and anxiety. When these symptoms make it difficult to adapt to the environment, maintain healthy relationships or lead a happy life. This is when we talk about neuroticism.
As we can see, this crisis of meaning accompanied by great anguish can encompass different psychological disorders . In this type of disorder, contact with reality is not lost and they differ from psychotic disorders.
What types of neuroses exist?
As we have seen, neurosis is a term with multiple meanings due to its broad definition. Neurotic behaviors and emotional responses to stress have historically been classified into three main categories: phobic, hysterical, or obsessional. Each of these terms refers to a different relationship with the stresses of existence, including decision making, uncertainty, bonds, and feelings of emptiness. These relationships can cause emotional pain in some people, which these behavioral classifications address in different ways.
Different specific mental disorders fall under the general umbrella of neuroses and their types . These types of disorders are related to feeling unbearable anxiety or experiencing reduced rational thinking due to emotional agitation. These conditions are sometimes classified as neuroses; however, the term is rarely used in modern scientific terminology due to loss of popularity. Instead, specific disorders called phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are commonly referred to by their clinical name.
1. Obsessive neurosis
A person suffering from this form of neurosis experiences constant mental anguish due to repetitive and intrusive thoughts . These thoughts cannot be suppressed and cause great frustration, and may cause the patient to engage in repetitive behaviors in the hope of relieving the discomfort.
People who experience this psychological phenomenon fear facing new feelings of anguish. This leads them to try to keep almost everything around them under control to avoid situations that can cause these crises.
2. Phobic neurosis
People with phobic neuroses often experience significant anxiety when exposed to certain specific stimuli , for example, riding in an airplane, speaking in public, certain animals… Consequently, the main symptom of these disorders is a pathological tendency to avoid triggering situations , which can create problems comparable to the symptoms themselves. That is, trying to avoid situations that cause stress and anxiety can actually cause more stress and anxiety.
From psychology, this type of neurosis is currently classified as a kind of phobia. These phobias are divided into specific phobias and social phobia.
3. Depressive neurosis
Depressive neurosis affects a person's mood drastically. Typically, this reaction stems from an experience that is seen as extremely negative and detrimental . Symptoms of depressive neurosis include frequent crying, general lack of motivation, loss of enjoyment, and strong thoughts that everything is useless and there is no way to recover.
4. Hysterical neurosis
The idea that repressed desires lead to psychological disorders is one of the oldest concepts in psychology. This conception was dominant in the psychiatric community of the Victorian era and in the theories of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. According to this thought, hysteria in neurotic patients was caused by unsatisfied desires that generated somatic alterations such as false deafness or blindness . Currently, this concept has become obsolete and its symptoms are attributed to different psychological disorders collected in the manuals.
Neurotic personality and mental illness
As we have seen, people classified as neurotic do not suffer from a psychological disorder in the strict term. Neuroticism is one of the five personality traits along with extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness. These refer to a specific set of common characteristics found in most people around the world.
Neuroticism is not a diagnosable medical problem; instead, it is simply a personality type where this trait predominates. This trait favors the appearance of different negative behaviors. Neurotics believe that different situations are much worse than they really are, which makes them more susceptible to stress. This makes them frequently feel irritated and angry.
Also certain mental health problems can cause people to display neurotic behaviors. In addition, a personality with a high degree of neuroticism can also favor the appearance of certain types of disorders such as internalization disorders.
Causes, diagnosis and treatment of neurosis
As we have seen, in the different types of neuroses, anxiety manifests itself in different ways, but they have similar causes and treatment. Emotional instability can be fostered by certain circumstances. The factors mentioned below help develop neurotic personalities; however, they do not always appear . These include:
- Family breakdown.
- Affective deprivation or emotional deficiencies.
- Overprotection or undercare in childhood.
- Genetic factors.
- Different distressing events during development (including abuse).
- Unfavorable social, environmental and cultural conditions.
In most cases, patients suffering from a neurosis greatly benefit from psychotherapeutic treatment. Various strategies are used in the psychological treatments of neuroses; however, each patient is treated individually due to differences specific to the condition. The therapy usually consists of the development of sessions , which has the objective of changing the way patients see themselves, the environment and the circumstances that surround them.
There are different approaches to treating neuroses. A well-known method is psychoanalytic therapy, which helps patients understand the underlying causes of their symptoms. Psychoanalysis allows patients to grow and develop a better understanding of themselves.
Alternatively, some professionals believe that neuroses arise from learned behaviors. In this case, patients can treat their symptoms through desensitization; Desensitization therapy exposes patients to their fears in small incremental doses over several weeks . Another approach to learning new behaviors is through modeling; a patient learns by observing more effective examples in other people.
Some neurotic patients may require combined pharmacological treatment in addition to psychotherapy. Generally, the use of drugs is necessary in patients who present severe symptoms such as depression or anxiety.
The main objective of psychotherapeutic intervention is to improve the patient's quality of life. This leads to a reduction in the frequency and severity of symptoms. It also allows the patient to adjust her mental patterns and behaviors to better cope with daily life.
Although no specific preventive measures against neurosis have been described. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating right, usually help prevent neurosis.