20 Examples of Neurotic Behavior
By: William Drake
Updated July 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
Neurotic people find themselves overthinking, overworrying, unable to let things go, or preoccupied with their health, their job, or the opinions of their friends and loved ones. Everyone has quirks, but neuroses interfere with work, relationships, and your overall state of mind. "You're neurotic!" is often used as an insult, but it's actually a mental health descriptor. Being neurotic is not easy, but there is plenty of hope. There are ways to manage neuroses, and one of the most important is seeing a therapist to gain emotional insight. Before we get there, let's explore what it means to have neuroses.
Neuroticism as a Descriptor
Neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis. It's a descriptor used for parts of many different disorders, and neurotic behavior can indicate bigger issues. Some examples of neurotic behavior include, obsessing over what others think or having a more anxious temperament than others. Someone who struggles with neuroses may have difficulty when they make mistakes at school or work. They might be critical of themselves and others as well.
"Did I do something wrong? Is everything okay?"
A hallmark sign of neuroses is chronic worrying. Worrying can be a sign of anxiety, but it also indicates neuroses. A neurotic person worries about their behavior and how others see them. They are fearful that others dislike them, so they might ask for reassurance a lot. It can be distressing to those around them when they are constantly asking, "Did I do something wrong? Is everything okay." It's normal to worry, but when your work or relationships suffer from worry, it can be a sign of neuroticism.
The Positivity behind Neuroticism
Researcher Richard Zinbarg discovered that neurotic people are also highly sensitive and empathetic. They might be vulnerable to anxiety and depression, but they also pick up on their friend's feelings and want to help. Being anxious or neurotic doesn't make you "bad;" it's a way of operating. You worry about the feelings of others, and you want to help them feel better. From one perspective, this sensitivity is a positive trait.
Many people do not recognize their neurotic behavior or temperament. Furthermore, each person might have a particular neurosis, but some people behave more neurotically than others. Being neurotic is best defined by behavior. A few of the examples can be harmless when mild, but others can be dangerous. Take a look at the twenty examples of neurotic behavior below. Maybe you exhibit some of these behaviors, and you didn't even know it. But don't sweat it. After all, recognizing a problem is the first step toward solving it.
Examples of Neurotic Behavior
Whether you exhibit these behaviors or not, you probably see them often in your day-to-day life.
- General Irritability
The proverbial crabby neighbor is displaying neurotic behavior when they routinely complain about minor issues. When they're constantly nagging you to be quiet, to stay away from their property line, or to keep your kids off their sidewalk, they may be showing you their neurotic side.
- Complaining About Physical Symptoms Without A Medical Cause
Plenty of neurotic behavior comes in the form of mysterious complaints about physical symptoms that have no medical cause. When someone with no diagnosable illness talks a lot about their bodily symptoms, they annoy others. Their relationships may suffer from their neuroticism.
- Road Rage
People with road rage are displaying neurotic behavior. After all, people make mistakes while driving. Some of them end in wrecks, but more often than not, they correct themselves and get back to driving well enough. Over the top anger at minor mistakes is a clear sign of neurotic behavior.
- Anxiety About Your Child's Safety
Parental neuroses over the common risks children take can result in "helicopter parenting." Though they may be well intentioned, these parents do not create the conditions for a normal childhood. The parents' obsession with safety results in miserable, anxious, and self-conscious children.
- Being Overly Aware of Psychological Problems
Ironically, people can know full well that they're displaying neurotic symptoms, but they still behave that way anyway. Being obsessed with their mental health can make their problems even worse. Of course, if you are troubled by serious symptoms, it's important to seek help. Even then, you don't have to analyze yourself at every turn.
- Emotional Distress Over Everyday Events
It's perfectly normal to be upset when bad things happen, but it's unreasonable to get upset over something minor. Breaking a fingernail, spilling your breakfast cereal, or being ten minutes late to meet a friend are all examples of common problems. There's no need for something minor to ruin your day.
- Guilty Behavior
People who are prone to neurotic behavior often show signs that they're feeling excessively guilty over things that aren't their fault. Or they behave guiltily when what they've done is so minor that no one even noticed it. They may apologize profusely or avoid eye contact because of this guilt.
- Obsessive Thinking or Ruminating
Obsessive thinking is not only neurotic behavior, but it can also lead to depression. When you often ruminate about things you should have done differently or about minor problems in your life, other types of neurotic behavior can follow.
Most people want to do well in whatever they do. There's a difference between that and feeling you must do everything perfectly. People who are perfectionists usually spend more time than necessary completing tasks because they're determined to avoid making a mistake.
Being too dependent on others to meet your daily needs can cause a variety of neurotic behaviors. For example, rather than doing something for yourself, you whine about your problems hoping someone else will solve them. You wait for others to do things for you when you could be taking care of your own needs. You become clingy and, at the same time, irresponsible.
- Trouble Getting Along at Work
People who behave in neurotic ways typically have trouble getting along with others at work. Social neurotic behaviors like being needy, whiny, dependent, or argumentative can take a toll on your business relationships and keep you from succeeding at work.
- Difficulty Taking Care of Basic Needs
Neuroticism can even keep you from taking care of your basic needs. If you feel unwarranted sadness or anxiousness, you may find it difficult to complete routine personal care tasks like bathing and grooming. You may also have trouble sticking to a healthy eating plan or getting enough sleep because every little disturbance makes you feel anxious and overwhelmed.
- Relationship Problems
Relationship problems are common for people who behave in neurotic ways. They might nag, whine, and expect their partner to do things they could do for themselves. They may try to control their partner, or they may accuse them of being unfaithful without any evidence of cheating.
- Being a "Drama Queen."
The term "drama queen" is very popular, especially on social media. A drama queen can be anyone, male or female, who stirs up controversy among their friends or makes a big show of emotion about minor incidents. When you make everything a big, dramatic production, you not only make yourself miserable, but you also disrupt others' ability to have a peaceful day.
- Excessive Sadness Over Minor Events
There's nothing mentally unhealthy about being sad over a major loss. However, sadness, crying, or staying in bed over small setbacks can indicate neurotic behavior. Maybe you lost the pen you used to sign the mortgage on your first house. Maybe your child showed a new sign of maturity. A moment of sadness might come, but when you foster it and let it grow until it affects your functioning or temperament, that's neurotic behavior.
- Envious Behavior
People who display neuroticism are often very envious of others. You want to have the possessions that others have. You want to have their opportunities or advantages. You want to be them. You express these desires with neurotic behaviors like sabotaging, begging others to give you what they have, or even stealing.
- Reacting Negatively to Neutral Events
Sometimes, the event that upsets you is neutral, but you react with a habitual negative response. For instance, your mail carrier might place a package on your doorstep rather than knocking first to get your attention. If you get upset anyway, even though you heard the carrier, saw the carrier, and received the package without a hiccup, then this a clear sign of neurotic behavior
- Panicking in Relatively Non-Threatening Situations
It's natural to panic in threatening situations. It's part of your ingrained fight-or-flight response. However, if that response system kicks in when nothing is threatening in your environment, neuroticism is likely prompting your unnecessary panic.
- Displaying Emotional Instability
Because you're so easily thrown off balance by even the smallest events and circumstances, you behave in unstable ways. You may seem to be doing fine one minute and then get angry the next; this might be followed by sadness a few minutes later. No one can count on you, and all of your relationships suffer.
- Inability to Function in Everyday Life After an Unrelated Trauma
PTSD could be considered a type of neurotic behavior. You may have had terrifying experiences in a war, and if the sound of fireworks going off triggers a relapse, then you have experienced a neurotic episode. Similarly, you may have been abused by a parent when you were a child, and if you feel scared when you are alone around another adult, then you might be experiencing neuroticism.
What Does Neurotic Behavior Indicate?
Again, neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis; it is a type of behavior that requires further analysis. If you habitually behave in neurotic ways, then you might have a serious mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or rage disorder, to name a few. Doctors no longer talk much about neuroses, but they can help you if your neurotic behavior is habitual and extreme.
How BetterHelp Can Help You Calm Your Neurotic Behavior
Some ways to stop your neurotic behavior include:
- Building your self-esteem
- Making an effort to do things for yourself
- Having clear responsibilities
- Learning to be satisfied with what you have
- Taking good care of yourself (even when you don't feel like it)
- Reminding yourself that it's not worth getting upset over minor negative events
Neurotic behaviors are difficult to change by yourself, and you may need to get help to overcome them. This is especially important because, according to a 2002 study, people who engage in neurotic behaviors are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms.
Treatment for neurotic behaviors might include anything from meditation to cognitive behavior therapy. Behavior therapy that includes instruction and reinforcement has been shown to change neurotic behavior as well.
You can talk to a licensed counselor for help with neurotic behavior and other mental health issues by contacting BetterHelp.com for online therapy. Counseling happens at your convenience, when and where it works best for you. Check out some review of BetterHelp counselors below, from people experiencing similar issues.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is neurotic behavior?
Neurotic behavior is characterized by neuroses, which are things that can’t be easily explained physically and may pertain to anxiety. The term neurosis was taken out of the DSM-3, or diagnostic and statistical manual in 1980. Nowadays, neurotic behavior is thought to be due to a type of personality trait. Neuroticism is actually one of the big five personality traits.
What are the signs of a neurotic person?
Signs that are a person is neurotic include that they get upset easily, and it often is a result of things that happen in everyday life. They are likely to experience a lot of stress, worry frequently, and often feel anxious. Neurotic tendencies may also cause someone to be unable to just recover after they experience stress. You can look at other symptoms in the manual of mental disorders.
What makes someone neurotic?
Someone is considered to be neurotic because of a personality trait, which means that they are either born a certain way or their personality has developed over the course of their lifetime. Someone may exhibit neurotic behaviors they experience mental disorders or anxiety disorders as well. If you feel like you may be neurotic, you can look at medically reviewed journals to see how this is treated and visit with your doctor for advice and treatment options.
Is it bad to be neurotic?
Since being neurotic is considered to be one of the major personality traits, it is thought that everyone experiences a bit of it within their personality. However, considering it includes feeling worried, anxious, and stressed, being neurotic is not likely to be something that would be considered positive for everyone. Constant stress and worrying can lead to developing mental disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or other conditions that would need to be treated through a psychologist. There are options available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which can limit these symptoms though, but you will need to enlist the help of a professional.
How do you deal with a neurotic person?
When you need to deal with someone that is neurotic, you should be as gentle as possible with them. Talk to them in a friendly manner and support in any way you can. Keep in mind that their neuroticism likely impacts everyday life for them, and they might need therapy to help alleviate this. Talking to them about the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health, what it says, as well as behavioral therapy and medically reviewed research that backs the fact that other people are experiencing the same things they are, may help you communicate with a neurotic person.
What are the 5 main personality traits?
The 5 main personality trait model, or the big five, includes openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The first person to have a major theory about personality was Sigmund Freud, whose research was published out of New York and you can still read about it now. Check out medically reviewed sites for more information on Sigmund Freud and how personality works.
Can a neurotic person change?
If someone has a personality trait that includes neuroticism, they can change when they seek treatment. There are ways to lessen the symptoms they are experiencing, including a technique known as cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy can help people that simply experience neuroticism or are suffering from a type of personality disorder, like compulsive disorder, emotional instability, or something else.
Is neurosis a mental illness?
Neurosis is not considered to be a mental illness or mental disorders, but neurotic personality is. Neurosis is a term that was taken out of the DSM-3, or diagnostic and statistical manual, years ago. Instead, this personality trait is now treated through therapy. Look at medically reviewed articles to learn more about this change.
What is neurosis called today?
Neurosis is generally thought of as certain personality disorders, such as anxiety disorder, instead of something that is more complex and harder to understand. Obsessive compulsive disorder is related to this type of anxiety disorder. You can check medically reviewed articles to learn about the connections or view the statistical manual of mental disorders.
What are neurotic people good at?
Is neurotic an insult?
If someone calls you neurotic, they may be trying to insult you. However, this is simply a type of personality trait, and not a sign of emotional instability. You can refer to the manual of mental disorders to learn more about it. You can also look at related mental issues.
How do you treat neurosis naturally?
You should not try to treat your neurosis by yourself. If you feel that you have a neurotic personality trait, you should enlist treatment for it, especially if it has affected you long term. Moreover, if you are also experiencing symptoms that are obsessive compulsive, you may need a professional’s help to alleviate some of the issues you are facing. They will be able to work with you on different treatment strategies, so you can lessen your anxiety and come to terms with other things that bother you.
Is neuroticism inherited?
According to medically reviewed research, there is evidence to suggest that neuroticism is inherited. This means there may be a genetic link to the development of things like compulsive disorder and other mental disorders. Check out the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for more information about this topic.
Does neuroticism decrease with age?
Neuroticism may decrease as you age, but as you start to get older, it may increase as well. There are no easy short- or long-term fixes for neuroticism, which is why you should seek treatment for it instead, if it is causing changes in your life that affect your routine. You can look at symptoms of different disorders associated with neuroticism by checking out the manual of mental disorders.
Is OCD a neurosis?
OCD, or obsessive compulsive, is considered to be a neurosis type of disorder, which you can check out in the statistical manual of psychological disorders. It will tell you about specific criteria and symptoms that are brought about by this disorder.
What is an example of neurotic anxiety?
Neurotic anxiety is a term to describe worrying about consequences that may nor may not happen and also about moral implications. Consider someone not going out at night by themselves because they are afraid of what someone may think about them and what may happen to them because of it.
Is PTSD a neurosis?
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is not considered to be a neurosis, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. This is because it is considered to be a psychotic disorder, since many develop this disorder because of trauma they have had to endure.
Does being neurotic come from mental health problems?
There are many mental health issues that can come from a neurotic personality. As someone with neuroticism tends to overthink, obsessive compulsive disorder could stem from neuroticism. Someone with neuroticism may be extra anxious, which means that they may have some form of generalized anxiety disorder.
Sometimes, the neurotic personality can lead to mental illnesses, but some illnesses can make you more neurotic.
Can you have good mental health as a neurotic person?
When you're neurotic, you could be at risk for more mental problems, but many people can keep their mental health strong with enough techniques. Some of these techniques include:
- Exercising. Working out can make you feel better and help you relieve some of your pent-up emotions. Your brain releases endorphins, which improve mood.
- Get plenty of rest. Practice good sleep hygiene before bed and don't go to sleep while you're too wound-up.
- Seek help from a therapist or counselor if you feel like your neurotic personality needs an intervention.
You don't need to let your neurotic behavior get in the way of a healthy and fulfilling life. With the right tools, you can begin your journey to balance. Take the first step today.