What Are Neurotic Disorders, And How Can I Get Help?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you’ve ever heard someone described as “neurotic,” you may have a negative connotation with neurotic disorders. The term neuroticism, or a neurotic personality, may be associated with several concepts, including the Big Five Personality Traits. However, in psychiatry, it typically refers to a specific personality trait associated with high levels of moodiness and frustration.

Neurotic disorders, on the other hand, are a particular category of common mental conditions that include anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, depressive disorders like major depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Due to the inward focus of their symptoms, some of these may also be considered “internalizing disorders.”  While the term “neurotic disorders” may no longer be commonly used, these conditions were originally placed in this category by the American Psychiatric Association in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). 

If you are living with one or more neurotic disorders, online therapy may help. Connecting with a therapist online, using psychological approaches, may help you learn to manage your mental health symptoms, reduce distress, and improve your quality of life. Treatment may focus on the emotional and physical aspects of the disorders, the impact on the nervous system, and how they affect relationships or cause individuals to lose touch with reality.

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What are neurotic disorders?

Neurotic disorders are a subset of mental health disorders characterized by an inability to manage everyday life. According to research in the field of psychiatric epidemiology, the total lifetime prevalence of neurotic disorders was 10.8% (among study participants.) Unlike some psychiatric conditions, people living with neurosis are firmly established in reality, but they may have difficulty coping with stressful situations or certain emotions.

Neurotic behaviors may be an impediment that could prevent a person from properly adapting to their environment. Some people living with a neurotic disorder may have low self-esteem or struggle to cope with change. Neurotic behavior may make it difficult to get help since getting treatment requires making changes in their daily life.

According to the International Review of Psychiatry, at least 25 percent of people living with a neurotic disorder choose not to get help.

Treating a neurotic disorder

If you’re living with a neurotic disorder, there are many different treatment options that can help you move forward from your symptoms. In most cases, treatments can be obtained from a medical provider, like a psychiatrist, or from a licensed psychologist or counselor. Treatment options may include:

  • Medication
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy— a specific type of therapy that trains your brain to respond differently in stressful situations
  • Relaxation exercises

Other types of therapy, including talk therapy, art therapy, or music therapy, can help individuals with neurotic disorders learn to combat intrusive or negative thoughts. Changing your lifestyle may also help you take control of your symptoms. Certain lifestyle modifications may help, including:

  • Exercising consistently. Exercise increases your body’s production of brain chemicals like dopamine, which may improve your happiness level.
  • Finding social support. Attending support groups or talking to friends and family about what you’re going through may improve your mental health symptoms.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, and meditation can help reduce stress and improve your mental health challenges.

Types of neurotic disorders

Neurotic disorders are some of the most common mental health challenges. They include:


Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and trouble controlling feelings of worry. About 3.1% of people in the U.S. are living with anxiety. People with anxiety may experience symptoms for months or years, and their symptoms may interfere with daily functioning.


Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S.; around 8.4% of adults have experienced a major depressive episode. Depressed people may experience energy changes, loneliness, difficulty concentrating, or persistent sadness, regardless of their life circumstances.


Phobias are extreme fears that may be rational or irrational. Each phobia has a different name; for instance, someone who is afraid of vomiting is said to be “emetophobic,” while someone who is afraid of leaving the house is said to be “agoraphobic.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 12.5% of adults in the U.S. will experience a specific phobia at some time throughout their lifetime.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

People living with OCD may frequently experience negative, involuntary, intrusive, and obsessive thoughts that impact their behavior. For example, a person with OCD may experience a sudden and involuntary thought that they left the stove on, leaving their home at risk of burning down. To make sure their home is safe, they may be compelled to check to see whether their stove is off. Even after confirming it’s turned off, they may keep turning the stove on and off to ease their feelings of anxiety. These behaviors may impact their daily life by making it difficult to leave home or to be on time for commitments like work or appointments. About 1.2% of adults in the U.S. have experienced OCD symptoms in the last year.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

PTSD is a specific type of anxiety disorder that may be experienced by people who have lived through a traumatic event. About 6% of adults will experience PTSD at some point throughout their lifetime. PTSD may cause flashbacks or nightmares related to the traumatic experience as well as symptoms of depression like loneliness and fear. While PTSD is most commonly associated with veterans, it may affect anyone who has experienced some sort of trauma in their life.

Getty/Vadym Pastuk

Neurosis vs. psychosis 

Some people may confuse the term neurosis with the term psychosis. Although these terms sound similar, they are ultimately very different mental health symptoms. Neurosis is a condition where an individual reacts to life’s challenges with an unusually strong response— usually fear, anxiety, or sadness. Although people with neurotic disorders may have a tendency to experience intrusive thoughts, their thinking remains grounded in reality.

Those experiencing psychosis have difficulty separating what’s real from what’s not. They may experience delusions or hallucinations or hear voices that aren’t there. During a psychotic episode, individuals may be unable to distinguish reality from their intrusive thoughts. 

Psychosis may have several different origins. For instance, it can be the product of a person’s environment, a result of certain risk factors like brain injury, or the sign of other mental illnesses like schizophrenia. It can even be caused by things like sleep deprivation or the use of drugs and alcohol. In some cases, people in the postpartum period can experience a form of psychosis known as “postpartum psychosis” which occurs a few weeks after giving birth to a child.

If an individual is experiencing psychosis, it’s important for them to get treatment as soon as possible. A delay in treatment may increase the risk that they will harm themselves or others. Early signs of psychosis can include:

  • A lack of care for personal hygiene
  • Preferring to be alone
  • Emotions that are either too strong or nonexistent
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A decline in school or work performance

If early psychotic symptoms are not recognized, a psychotic episode may occur. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may want to report them to a medical provider, as they may indicate a psychotic episode is occurring:

  • Experiencing a taste, sound, or vision that others don't
  • Having strong emotions, no emotions at all, or emotions that are inappropriate for the situation 
  • Being plagued by persistent beliefs that are denied by family or friends
  • Avoiding loved ones
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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Online therapy with Betterhelp

Whether you’re experiencing a neurotic disorder, psychosis, or another mental health condition, online therapy may help you learn how to manage your symptoms and cope with challenges in your daily life. Online therapy is a supportive treatment modality for people who have trouble coping with change since treatment can be obtained from a safe, comfortable space, like your home. You can start the process of getting support by connecting with a professional through BetterHelp, an online therapy platform. Since treatment is obtained from the safety of your home, you may feel more comfortable opening up and discussing personal details about your life. 

The efficacy of online therapy

Many people with mental health challenges use online therapy to help them overcome their symptoms and change their thought patterns. In one study of 1,500 patients experiencing neurotic disorders such as depression, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped individuals achieve large short-term reductions in symptoms for up to a year post-treatment. In another unrelated study published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin (Oxford University Press) 93% of participants found an online mode of service delivery to be at least somewhat useful in helping them manage their symptoms of psychosis.

With a proven track record to show for it, online therapy could be a viable option for the mental health challenges you’re facing.

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Life is already difficult enough for those who don’t have a mental illness. However, living with a neurotic disorder may cause some people to have trouble coping with the ups and downs of daily life. Neurotic disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD are common, but treatment is available to help. Online CBT therapy can help you learn how to manage your symptoms and cope with the obstacles in your path. With the support of a therapist, you can move forward productively.
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