Neurotic Behavior Explored: 20 Examples of Neurotic Behavior

By William Drake|Updated July 11, 2022

Neurotic people may find themselves overthinking, over-worrying, 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 neurotic tendencies 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. Having a neurotic personality is not easy, but there is plenty of hope. There are ways to manage neurotic personality traits, 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 – What Does This Mean?

Neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis. It’s a descriptor used for parts of many different disorders (including depressive or anxiety 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 overly critical of themselves and others as well.

“Did I do something wrong? Is everything okay?”

A hallmark sign of a neurotic personality is chronic worrying. Worrying can be a sign of anxiety, but it also indicates neuroses. A neurotic person has anxiety 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 the negative impacts of neuroticism.

The Positivity behind Neuroticism

American psychologist and researcher Richard Zinbarg discovered that neurotic people are also highly sensitive and empathetic. They might be vulnerable to anxiety and depression, but they also exhibit more emotional depth,easily picking up on their friend’s feelings and wanting to help. Being anxious or neurotic doesn’t make you “bad;” it’s a way of operating. You tend to have a stronger reaction to things and worry about the feelings of others, and you want to help them feel better. From one perspective, this sensitivity and emotional depth is a positive trait, and it shows that even if you are the neurotic one in your friend group, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Neurotic Behavior

Many people do not recognize their own neurotic personality or behaviors. 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

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Identifying Examples Of Neurotic Behavior Can Help You Learn How To Cope

Whether you exhibit these behaviorsor not, you probably see them often in your daily life.

  1. Consistently Feeling Irritable

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 personality.

  1. Complaining About Physical Symptoms Without A Medical Reason

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 without having an actual medical condition, they annoy others. Although they can’t change their anxiety-prone personality, their relationships may suffer from their neuroticism.

  1. 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 a neurotic personality type.

  1. Constant Anxiety About Your Child’s Safety And Health

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’ neuroticism increases anxiety and negative emotions in their own children, resulting in miserable, worried, and self-conscious children.

  1. Being Overly Aware of Psychological Symptoms

Ironically, people can know full well that they’re displaying neurotic symptoms, but they still behave that way anyway. Being obsessed with potential mental illnesses can make their problems even worse. Of course, if you are troubled by serious symptoms or anxiety disorders, it’s important to seek help. Even then, you don’t have to analyze yourself at every turn.

  1. Feeling Distressed Over Everyday Events

It’s perfectly normal to be upset when bad things happen, but it’s unreasonable to become consumed with negative emotions 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.

  1. Guilty Behavior

People who haveneurotic personality traits 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.

  1. Obsessive Thinking or Ruminating

Obsessive thinking is not only neurotic behavior, but it can also lead to psychological disorders like depression. When you often ruminate about things you should have done differently or about minor problems in your life, other types of neurotic behavior, depressive disorders, and mood disorders can follow.

  1. Perfectionism

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, and this veers on the edge of anxiety disorders.

  1. Dependency

Being too dependent on others to meet your daily needs can cause a variety of neurotic behaviors and negative personality traits. 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.

  1. Trouble Getting Along at Work

People with neurotic personalities 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.

  1. Difficulty Taking Care of Basic Needs

Neuroticism can even keep you from taking care of your basic needs, which can also indicate mental illness. If you feel unwarranted sadness, anxiousness, or other negative feelings, 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 gives you anxiety and makes you feel overwhelmed.

  1. 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 also struggle with self-doubt, low self-esteem, and other personality or mental health issues. They may try to control their partner, or they may accuse them of being unfaithful without any evidence of cheating.

  1. 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 seems easily disturbed and 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 put others in the same situation, disrupting their ability to have a peaceful day.

  1. 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 indicates some level of neuroticism.

  1. Envious Behavior

People who display neuroticism may have feelings ofjealousy toward others. You want to have the possessions that others have. You want to have their opportunities or advantages. You want to be them. You may have obsessive thoughts about what thers have that you don’t. You may express these desires with neurotic behaviors like sabotaging, begging others to give you what they have, or even stealing.

  1. Reacting Negatively to Neutral Events

Sometimes, the event that upsets you is neutral, but you react with a habitual negative spin on the event. 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 tendencies.

  1. 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 panic attacks happen when nothing is threatening in your environment, neuroticism could be prompting your unnecessary panic. However, it is important to rule out mental disorders, like anxiety or panic disorder, before blaming this personality trait on neuroticism.

  1. Displaying Emotional Instability

Because you’re so easily thrown off balance by even the smallest events and circumstances, you behave in unstable ways and demonstrate emotional volatility. 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.

  1. Inability to Function in Everyday Life After an Unrelated Trauma
Identifying Examples Of Neurotic Behavior Can Help You Learn How To Cope

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. While neuroticism is a personality trait, PTSD causes very real mental disturbances that deserve attention and treatment. Don’t forget to facilitate empathy for yourself, even if you find yourself becoming neurotic in everyday situations.

What Does Neurotic Behavior Indicate?

Again, neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis; it is a type of behavior that requires further analysis. Neuroticism exists on a spectrum, and some people will show higher ratings of neuroticism, while others naturally exhibit low neuroticism. Individual differences and personality traits as well as a person’s experience handling negative emotions can determine their level of neuroticism. You can be emotionally stable and still have days where you show some neurotic behaviors, and this is normal to an extent.

If you habitually behave in neurotic ways, then you might have a serious mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, rage disorder, or other mood disorders. Doctors no longer talk much about neuroses, but they can help you if your neurotic behavior is habitual and extreme.

How BetterHelp Can Help Calm 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 stay calm in everyday situations
  • 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 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.

Counselor Reviews

“I love that Dr. Bermudez is a neuropsychology researcher. Having studied a variety of philosophies and techniques, her recommendations are based on evidence and studied practices. I trust that I will always get the greatest and latest, the tested and true.”

“Working with Patrice has been a joy for me. I’ve begun the long journey during a rough patch getting myself back. And better. She has helped me to be stronger and more able mentally than I was previously, to combat the negative thoughts and emotions and begin to think with gratitude. Big thanks to her for all her work!”


You don’t need to let your neurotic traits 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.

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