Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/27/2022
Whether you’re new to the world of mental health topics or are already pretty familiar with the concepts, you may still have a common question you’ve never quite answered: what is neuroticism?
Frasier reruns aside, most of us have very little familiarity with what neuroticism actually is, save a catchall term for the mental health “quirks” exhibited by our favorite fictional characters.
But fictional characters are fictional, and you’re real. So if you’ve struggled with your mental health, your mood or your emotions before and someone has called you neurotic in the past, it’s a good idea to explore what that means and whether it’s something you should seek help for.
The good news is that neuroticism isn’t life-threatening or dangerous within reason — it may, however, lead to more serious issues if not managed well.
We can help you understand where the line between “fine” and “needs help” is, but before we do that, it’s important to understand what neuroticism actually is, so let’s start with the basics.
It’s a little hard to talk about neurotic behavior without talking about how your mental health is something you could potentially inherit from your parents, either genetically and biologically or as a result of the environmental impact of growing up in their home.
You can think of it as the OG way of talking about mental health — neurotic personality has been a concept for as long as we’ve talked about mental health in modern terms, and the substantial body of work exploring the impact has only grown over the years, even as some other terminology in the field has been rethought or replaced.
But its age really isn’t what’s important here. What’s important about neuroticism is that it’s linked with a lot of issues.
So, if you’ve been described as neurotic, you may have a higher risk of certain mental health and physical health conditions.
Neuroticism can be caused by a variety of factors. There’s no certain science linking neurotic traits to one particular origin, but instead, the following have been supported by some research:
Mental health over time.
That’s a wide array of potential sources.
Let’s start with what neurotic personality traits can do to your physical health.
The medical community knows a lot about what people who are considered “neurotic” will experience in life.
Some research indicates that a person with neuroticism experiences a reduced quality of life and disrupted immune system function, and can be at a higher risk of seemingly unrelated issues like asthma.
Neuroticism can be a source of things like marital troubles and generally feeling unsatisfied, even when there’s no clear reason to feel that way.
It can make you worse at your job and, above all, anxious about all these things and more.
Neurosis can be a mild or serious condition depending on your symptoms and their severity. If you’re experiencing some or any of the things on this list, it might be a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional to determine if you need treatment.
Talk to a professional if you experience any of the following:
Distressing emotional symptoms
Neuroticism is often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and medication or pharmacotherapy.
Depending on the particular symptoms you’re experiencing, that may mean an association with one or several psychological disorders, like depressive disorders or bipolar disorder.
General anxiety disorder, panic disorder and the negative emotions associated with mood disorders may respond well to antidepressants.
In the 1950s, neurosis was called a “minor psychiatry,” likely to indicate some level of mildness.
Professionals back then recommended that lesser or minor neurosis could be treated by a general practitioner and did not require a specialist like a psychiatrist.
In this case, neurotic behavior was typically associated with emotional instability that reduced life satisfaction, but was not associated with severe mental illnesses.
Today, that’s arguably still good advice: you should absolutely start with your primary healthcare provider. Any health care professional will be able to help you assess your neurosis and determine whether another professional might better help you with your needs.
All of that depends on your symptoms, the problems those symptoms are causing and other factors related to your quality of life. This is why talking to a professional is so important — and your next step.
Neuroticism treatment may take one of many forms depending on your individual needs. The uniquely tailored treatment you need for your mental health isn’t something we can explain from here — you’ll need to talk to a mental health professional to get there.
The most important part of any mental health treatment is finding the right therapist or professional for your needs, and knowing where to start that search can make people a little neurotic.
We offer online therapy resources to help you get in touch with a board-certified, licensed mental health professional.
Telehealth is a simple and convenient way to get the support you need from your own home, remotely. It’s great for people who feel more comfortable without a commute or struggle finding the time to get things done day to day.
Whether it’s with us or somewhere else, though, there’s no reason to be neurotic about how you started with treatment. Take the next step today.