10 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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You can spot them from a mile away, like a nuclear bomb radiating angsty energy. That coworker, neighbour, or friend, who obsessively analyses every little feeling, thought, and action and then reanalyses their analysis. You know them, and you love-hate them. We are talking about the Woody Allens of the world, better known as neurotics in clinical terms.

With a natural propensity towards negativity, self-doubt, and anxiety, life for someone with a neurotic personality disorder can be extremely challenging. As they constantly rehearse the worst-case scenarios, the condition often leads to high levels of worry, guilt, and neurotic depression. Fortunately, as impossible as it may sound, getting over this psychiatric issue is possible.

Keep reading to learn more about this personality disorder and neuroticism treatment in detail.

Because everyone deals with challenges differently, the examples of neurotic behaviour may not look the same for everyone. For instance, a person with a neurotic personality may struggle with withdrawal and anxiety from others. On the contrary, another person with a similar disorder may cling to toxic relationships out of the fear of being alone.

Some common examples of high neuroticism include:

  • Experiencing an outsised reaction to a relatively minor problem; such as crying because your lunch was burnt or road rage
  • Being overly critical of yourself or your work, similar to perfectionism that hinders progress
  • Difficulty taking care of your basic needs, such as hygiene, shopping, paying bills, or continuing a job, due to anxiety or depression
  • Intense panic or anxiety even in non-threatening social situations, such as a friendly gathering or a work function
  • Facing troubles maintaining relationships due to jealousy, overly controlling behaviour, anger, or excessively needy behaviour

If you are worried about having neurosis, scrutinise yourself and your everyday life for the presence of the following symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Poor response to stressors
  • Anger and irritability
  • Excessive guilt and worry
  • Apprehension and anxiety
  • A tendency towards developing negative reactions and emotions
  • Emotional instability
  • Interpreting everyday situations as threatening
  • Low self-consciousness and self-esteem

If you are concerned about a family member having this issue, watch out for the following neurotic symptoms:

  • Making their stress or dissatisfaction well-known to you
  • Requiring constant reassurance, even on the smallest matters and things that you have already validated
  • Being codependent or overly dependent in relationships
  • Exhibiting perfectionist tendencies
  • Getting into frequent conflicts with others due to a lack of emotional resilience
  • Flying off the handle the minute you initiate a serious conversation

The presence of the symptoms mentioned above does not necessary means that you or a loved one have a neurotic personality disorder. But if you can spot a pattern of behaviour over time that’s causing extreme distress, it is important to seek help from a professional as soon as possible.

It is normal to encounter stress that overwhelms your current capacity to cope, but when it becomes too much or gets out of control, help is warranted. Excessive stress can lead to multiple negative impacts that spill over into different areas of life. Eventually, your physical or mental health takes a toll, and your ability to function at home, work, or any other area of life may significantly decrease. In such a crisis, contacting a licensed mental health professional might be helpful.

Some other indications of seeking professional help to commence neuroticism treatment include:

  • An inability to develop positive emotions
  • Difficulty eating, sleeping or completing basic everyday tasks due to the sheer volume of negative emotions
  • Having thoughts of suicide and death or urges of self-harm
  • Intense negative emotions that impair judgments
  • Over-reliance on alcohol or drugs to cope with a difficult time
  • Facing frequent conflicts in important relationships
  • Experiencing persistent negative emotions lasting for weeks

If your neurosis seems to stem from an underlying mental issue, a healthcare team can discuss the best treatment for that diagnosis. Other treatment modalities commonly used for managing neurosis include:


A psychiatrist can prescribe appropriate medications to reduce the symptoms of neurosis and associated mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. These medications work by changing the brain chemistry generating neurotic behaviour. Some common medicines used for this purpose include:

  • Anti-anxiety medication targets and prevents anxiety symptoms such as restlessness and nervousness. One common example of such medications is benzodiazepines.
  • Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, target and manage the symptoms of depression and their effects on life.


Different types of talk therapy can help manage the negative thought patterns associated with neurosis and help individuals change their unhealthy ways of coping. Such treatments are also beneficial for helping the patients recognise their neurotic behaviours and understand how these behaviours are contributing to their current problems.

Some commonly used forms of psychotherapy to address neurotic personality disorder symptoms include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- focuses on changing unhelpful thought patterns feeding into difficult emotions and replacing them with healthier ones.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)- in which a therapist helps clients accept their difficult emotions and learn how to express them without getting stuck with them. ACT also helps them learn how to prevent emotion-driven responses and gradually replace them with value-driven responses.
  • Exposure Therapy– particularly helps people with neurosis-related anxiety and those who use avoidance techniques to avoid facing difficult emotions.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)- coaches individuals to find moderate ways of thinking and responding to difficult feelings and thoughts through interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.

The key to managing neuroticism is to develop effective emotional coping methods by interrupting the internal processes feeding these difficult emotions. To achieve this, the following five strategies may work.

Challenge your thinking

Challenge yourself to think differently about yourself, your circumstances and your life. Negative appraisals, a common trait of neurosis, tend to focus more on things that generate feelings of anger, anxiety, and sadness. On the other hand, positive appraisals counteract these negative emotions. You can indulge in positive appraisal by:

  • Practising gratitude every day as you identify little things to be thankful for. This trains your mind to notice the positives instead of the negatives
  • Use the word “at least” while analysing difficult situations in an attempt to identify any positives of the case that you may have missed

Pay attention to the present moment

Mindfulness can be extremely beneficial for unhooking you from unhelpful behaviours and thoughts and diverting your attention to some aspect in the present moment. Practising it can reduce stress and counteract neuroticism in the best way possible. To apply mindfulness in your daily life:

  • Focus your attention on your breathing and track it as you inhale and exhale
  • Focus on your surrounding using one or more of your five senses to become more aware of the present moment

Do the opposite of what you feel

Sometimes, doing the exact opposite of what you feel triggers a positive emotional shift. It helps you understand that you are always in control of your emotions, no matter how strong or intense they are. To practice this, follow the tips below:

  • When your depression does not let you get out of bed, push yourself to get up and follow through with your plans
  • Be honest and open with a loved one when you feel the urge to become defensive
  • Show kindness to someone you are upset with by offering them help

Focus on the problem instead of the emotion

Use a problem-solving approach to get through a difficult situation instead of focusing on its emotion. Some ways to practice problem-solving include the following:

  • When you are overwhelmed, upset, or stressed out, pull back and identify where your stress is stemming from
  • Once you identify the source, come up with responses that can help address the root problem
  • If you cannot address the issue, identify a response that does not make it worse

Connect with others

Individuals with neurotic tendencies face issues forming and maintaining relationships with others. Focus on building new relationships and strengthening the existing ones, as this is the key to a happy and emotionally-balanced life. Some tips for practising this include the following:

  • Do not assume things about people’s intentions, thoughts, or feelings. Ask them openly about whatever is on your mind
  • Practice active listening and be attentive to the needs, wants, and feelings of people you love



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