Exploring Neuroticism And Comorbid Disorders: What Is The Link?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Neuroticism is generally a term used to describe a personality trait in which a person tends to have a lot of emotional ups and downs. Someone with neuroticism may often feel worried and experience uncomfortable feelings like anger, frustration, or sadness. This trait is often linked to an increased risk of mental health conditions and challenges. Comorbid disorders might include major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders, all of which may be effectively treated with the help of a licensed therapist and in-person or online therapy sessions.

Getty/Sarah Waiswa
Are strong emotions making your life challenging?

Neuroticism: A personality trait

In general, neuroticism is a personality trait that involves a long-term tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. It's usually considered to be one of the Big Five personality traits, which are broad categories that many psychologists use to describe human personality. 

People who are highly neurotic may be more likely to experience mental health challenges. They may not confront stress or challenging situations in healthy, constructive ways.

Studies have often shown a strong connection between neuroticism and mental health conditions. This personality trait may be one reason why people often experience multiple mental health disorders at once.

Neuroticism can be considered both a normal and abnormal personality feature depending on its intensity. According to studies, high levels of neuroticism can negatively affect a person's mental health. People with lower levels of neuroticism tend to be more emotionally stable and can often bounce back from stress more easily.

There are a few factors that may increase a person's neuroticism, such as their genes, their environment, and challenging experiences in their life. Because of how common neuroticism can be and how it may affect overall mental health, mental health professionals often provide appropriate treatments and teach people constructive ways to live with their emotions.

The connection between neuroticism and comorbid disorders

Neuroticism has frequently been connected to various comorbid mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance use disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders. Let's take a closer look at these connections.

Anxiety disorders

High levels of neuroticism may be a risk factor for anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. People with neuroticism may be more sensitive to stress, which may make them feel worried, scared, or panicked more often than others. A more intense response to perceived threats could cause frequent bouts of severe anxiety, which may contribute to anxiety attacks.

Mood disorders

Neuroticism may also be linked to an increased risk for mood disorders like major depression. People who are highly neurotic may have a strong reaction to negative emotions and react more intensely to stressful events. As a result, they might experience symptoms of depression. Neuroticism is usually considered an important predictor for the start of major depressive disorder.

Substance use disorders

There is evidence suggesting a relationship between neuroticism and substance use disorders. High levels of neuroticism can be a risk factor for developing unhealthy relationships with substances or alcohol. Individuals may turn to these substances to grapple with the negative emotions they frequently experience.

Personality disorders

Neuroticism may also play a part in the development of certain personality disorders. For example, borderline personality disorder often involves emotional instability, which may be closely linked to high neuroticism. Other personality disorders, such as avoidant and dependent personality disorders, may be more likely to develop in people with high levels of neuroticism.

Eating disorders

Research has also shown that neuroticism may contribute to the development of eating disorders. If a person scores high in neuroticism, they might use unhealthy eating behaviors to try to control their emotional instability, which might lead to disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

The connections between neuroticism and various mental health disorders can show why it may be important to understand and manage neuroticism when trying to prevent and treat mental health conditions. More research may be needed to fully understand these links and develop improved ways to help people who are at risk.


How neuroticism and other mental health conditions can affect daily life

Someone who lives with neuroticism and other mental health challenges may experience various impacts on their everyday life. They might find it challenging to handle stress and maintain their relationships with others.

A person with high neuroticism and a comorbid anxiety disorder may experience severe anxiety in daily situations. They might find routine tasks, such as grocery shopping or attending work meetings, extremely challenging. As a result, the affected person may withdraw from social situations, which might further increase feelings of isolation and other negative emotions.

Neuroticism, combined with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or major depression, may create a cycle in which the person's emotions and how well they function in daily life are constantly affected by their mental health. Therefore, it may be important to spot these feelings early to get the right treatment. A mental health professional may teach individuals how to manage these mental health challenges.

Finding help for neuroticism and other disorders

If you or someone you know is living with neuroticism or other related mental health challenges, seeking professional support and therapy may be beneficial. A mental health professional can often identify and diagnose mental health conditions that may develop alongside neuroticism. After a proper diagnosis, they can then recommend the right treatment options to manage symptoms.

Several treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapies, have been shown to be effective for mental health conditions. These treatments might involve helping a person be more aware of themselves and how they feel when negative emotions arise.

In therapy, an individual may learn how to reframe their thoughts or develop other strategies to manage ongoing mental health challenges. Getting help might make living with mental health conditions easier. 

Are strong emotions making your life challenging?

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy may have numerous benefits, including increased accessibility, convenience, and flexibility. People in remote areas or those with mobility issues may be able to connect more easily with a therapist through online platforms than in-person methods. Those experiencing neuroticism and comorbid disorders may feel anxious about opening up to a therapist, but seeking professional guidance from the comfort of their homes may help them feel more comfortable.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Online therapy may be a useful way to access mental health support. One of the most common forms of online therapy is internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT), which may effectively manage common psychiatric conditions that can be associated with neuroticism, such as major depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder.


People with neuroticism may experience negative emotions like anxiety, sadness, and irritation on a regular basis. This trait may be found in people with more than one mental health disorder, especially mood and anxiety disorders. High levels of neuroticism can also make a person more likely to develop different mental health challenges. However, neuroticism and comorbid mental health disorders can be effectively addressed through online or in-person therapy with a licensed mental health professional.

Navigate powerful emotions with a professional
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started