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What are Neurotic Disorders?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Neurotic disorders are mental or psychological problems that tend to revolve around anxiety and distress over certain circumstances. They stand apart from other mental health conditions because they don’t usually have outward manifestations like hallucinations or delusions. This can make them harder to diagnose at first, and also easier for people to suffer unnoticed. The most common neurotic-type disorders include anxiety, intense phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder is usually included, too. Somatization, which is a stress-related condition, and dissociation, which can cause people to display multiple personalities, are less common but no less serious. Most of these are highly treatable with medication and counseling, though success often depends a lot on the individual and his or her specific circumstances.


Anxiety is a component of some of the most common neurotic disorders. Experts including the American Psychiatric Association estimate that as high as 5% of the general population is affected by some form of anxiety-related disorder. Common symptoms include tremors, muscle tension, sweating, and hyperventilation, often in response to situations that aren’t objectively stressful or difficult. Psychological treatment and medications, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, can help many individuals with anxiety disorders to manage their symptoms.


Individuals with phobias experience intense and irrational fears of objects or situations that usually lead them to avoid that particular thing or scenario. While many fears do not interfere with daily life, excessive phobias that dominate a person’s thoughts or consciousness usually require psychological treatment. Treatment usually centers on gradually exposing the patient to the source of the fear and reducing anxiety over time.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects people who have witnessed or have been exposed to traumatizing experiences. This neurotic disorder is commonly seen in soldiers who return from war situations and witnesses to violent crimes. PTSD patients often relive the trauma through flashbacks and dreams, which can lead to insomnia, paranoia, and social withdrawal.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common neurotic disorder that causes repetitive behaviors and thoughts to preoccupy an individual’s life. Many people diagnosed with this create daily rituals in which they must do things a certain amount of times or a particular way. For example, a sufferer with a fear of germs or illness may wash his hands many times each day, even to the point of making them bleed. Medications and psychological treatment, including behavior modification, are generally successful methods for many obsessive-compulsive patients.


Somatization disorder causes individuals to display psychological stress as physical symptoms. Somatic symptoms are physical symptoms that a patient feels, but that cannot be medically validated through testing and other diagnostic procedures. Psychological treatment is the best course of action for people suffering from this, though many patients resist psychiatric intervention because they believe their symptoms to be truly physical in nature.


Dissociation disorders cause individuals to display different personalities. These sorts of disorders are less common, but a significant percentage of people hospitalized for psychiatric problems display symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, according to foremost experts. These patients often suffer from memory problems as well. Dissociation disorders can be difficult to treat. A combination of individual and group psychotherapy is usually the best method, but many people never recover completely, and may struggle with multiple identities for life.

Treatment and General Management

There’s usually a wide spectrum when it comes to how sufferers manage their conditions, and how the conditions directly impact their lives. People often live for years with anxiety or PTSD without ever being treated, for instance, though treatment almost always improves their quality of life. Diagnosis is often the first step, and this is usually made after a series of examinations and conversations with a health care provider.

In some cases that provider might recommend certain stabilizing pharmaceutical drugs. Cognitive therapy is also frequently part of the treatment plan. Most people who suffer from neurological disorders benefit from one-on-one counseling where they can explore the roots of the problem with a trained therapist. Most people who seek treatment are able to live full lives despite their diagnosis, and many are able to overcome the condition entirely.

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