Signs Of Neurotic Behavior

Everyone exhibits neurotic behavior from time to time. During periods of high stress, the mind can kick into overdrive with worry, fear, and obsessive thinking. While it’s natural to fret about circumstances that are important to you, it’s not normal when these preoccupations cause enough distress to interfere with your day-to-day life.

Learn about the differences between a neurotic personality and neurosis caused by mental illness, signs of neurotic behavior, what causes neurotic behavior, and more.

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What Is Neurotic Behavior?

Neurotic behavior, also known as neurosis, refers to irrational behavior. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the official text used by U.S. health care professionals to diagnose and treat mental health issues, neurosis is not considered a standalone illness, but it is associated with anxiety disorders.

Thoughts and behaviors that are considered neurotic are extreme, particularly in response to seemingly innocuous situations. A small bout of stress can send a person with neurotic tendencies into a mental tailspin. A neurotic person preoccupies themselves with pessimistic thoughts, ruminating on the worst possible outcomes and their own shortcomings or failures, both real and imagined.

This rabbit hole of negative thinking is a subconscious, maladaptive way of coping with fear of the unknown and deep anxiety. By assuming the worst, a neurotic person subconsciously prepares for misfortune and the coinciding emotions. This pattern of thinking can significantly interfere with a person’s personal and professional life. Because neurotic behavior stems from internal conflict, it can be difficult for loved ones to understand and impossible for them to address.

In life, disappointing, difficult, and even heartbreaking scenarios can and do happen, but not everyone responds neurotically. Consider, for example, a person who experienced infidelity in a prior relationship. In a new relationship, this person may have trust issues, which may affect the new relationship to an extent. A neurotic person, however, may constantly question their new partner’s faithfulness, frequently accuse them of infidelity, and subsequently blame themselves when their actions push the partner away. Though the neurotic person doesn’t intend for their actions to ruin the relationship, their fear of reliving past emotions is so great that it becomes all-consuming.

Neurotic Personality Type

A person may exhibit signs of neurotic behavior as a symptom of a mental illness, which will be explained in the following section, or because they have a neurotic personality.

A neurotic personality is not a diagnosable mental health condition. Personalities that are high in neuroticism naturally respond with intense negative emotions when faced with threat, frustration, or loss, according to a report in American Psychologist.

In psychology, the five-factor model (FFM) of personality variation, also known as the Big Five, considers personality across five dimensions: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion. FFM supports that all personalities can be defined on a spectrum based on these categories.

According to the Big Five, someone with a personality that is low in neuroticism is:

  • generally calm and composed
  • less reactive
  • more emotionally stable and secure
  • not easily rattled

On the contrary, a personality that ranks high on the scale of neuroticism exhibits the opposite traits.

According to the Big Five, someone with a personality that is high in neuroticism is:

  • anxious and nervous
  • emotionally unstable
  • quick to experience distress and dissatisfaction
  • self-conscious

Neuroticism As A Mental Health Issue

People who do not naturally have neurotic personalities but still display signs of neurotic behavior may have an underlying mental health condition. Neurosis is mainly associated with anxiety disorders, followed by depressive disorders, according to a study in Clinical Psychology Review.

Some of the most common mental illnesses of which neurotic behavior is a symptom include:

The only way to confirm that neurotic behaviors are a sign of mental illness is to speak with a licensed mental health care provider, such as a practicing psychologist or psychiatrist. It may be possible to reduce the severity of neurotic behaviors with necessary treatment, such as through a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Common Signs Of Neurotic Behavior

It’s part of the normal human experience to sometimes fixate on upsetting events from the past or obsess over the possible outcomes of a future scenario. It’s also normal to experience negative emotions from time to time. However, it’s abnormal when these signs, and those listed below, occur on a daily or near-daily basis.

Signs of neurotic behavior include:

  • excessive worry
  • explosive anger
  • habitual negative thinking
  • having an intense need for control
  • hypochondria
  • irritability
  • frequent rumination
  • panicking in response to harmless situations
  • perfectionism
  • poor emotional regulation
  • self-consciousness
  • recurrent feelings of guilt, e.g., excessive apologizing
  • restlessness
  • strong reactions to minor aggravations, e.g., road rage

Causes Of Neurotic Behavior

Neurotic behavior is believed to result from genetics, social experiences, environmental factors, and/or a chemical imbalance in the brain. Family history, in particular, may influence neurotic behaviors, because patterns like extreme worry, fear, and anxiety can be passed down generationally.

Childhood experiences and life events, especially trauma, can also influence neurosis. Other life-changing circumstances can also trigger anxiety and segue into neurotic behaviors, such as the loss of a loved one, a medical prognosis, or a difficult divorce.

Addressing Neurotic Behavior

It can be difficult to live with neurosis. However, with the necessary treatments and support, it is possible to reduce the severity of symptoms.

The safest and most effective way to work toward reducing or controlling neurotic behaviors is to go to therapy. Many types of therapy are available, with cognitive behavioral therapy among the most common. CBT helps people understand themselves better so they can successfully manage their lives independently. CBT can help with identifying the root causes of neurotic behavior and behavioral triggers.

Other ways to help manage neurotic behavior include:

  • abstaining from drugs and alcohol
  • finding an outlet for expression, e.g., writing, painting, singing, dancing, playing sports, cooking, etc.
  • maintaining a healthy diet, sleep schedule, and exercise regimen
  • meditating
  • participating in self-esteem-building activities, e.g., writing a daily gratitude list
  • practicing positive thinking

Mental Health Programs At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you’re ready to take the next step in your healing journey, the professionals at Bedrock Recovery Center (BRC) can help.

BRC manages a residential mental health treatment program for conditions including anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), of which neurotic behaviors are a common sign. During residential treatment, clients will undergo psychosocial treatments such as individual and group therapies, peer support, and participation in wellness activities, along with medication management. An assessment and evaluation prior to treatment will help determine the right care for each person.

Take Care Of Your Mental Health

Neurotic thinking and behaviors can cause disruption to a person’s day-to-day life. Fortunately, you don’t have to attempt to address these behaviors alone. Call Bedrock Recovery Center today to learn more about the treatment programs available.

  1. American Psychologist — Public Health Significance Of Neuroticism
  2. Clinical Psychology Review — Neuroticism And Common Mental Health Disorders: Meaning And Utility Of A Complex Relationship
  3. World Psychiatry — The Five Factor Model Of Personality Structure: An Update

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: June 26, 2024

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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