Which Is Worse: Neurosis or Psychosis?

Reviewed on 2/17/2021

How are neurotic disorders and psychotic disorders different?

Neurotic behavior is rooted in reality. Someone with psychosis has lost touch with reality. Psychosis is worse than neurosis because with psychosis you are detached from reality and may be unable to care for yourself.
Neurotic behavior is rooted in reality. Someone with psychosis has lost touch with reality. Psychosis is worse than neurosis because with psychosis you are detached from reality and may be unable to care for yourself.

Neurotic disorders and psychotic disorders are different in the fact that neurotic behavior is rooted in reality. Psychosis occurs when you have lost touch with what’s real and what’s fake or imagined. If you have neurosis, your symptoms may be linked to an underlying mental disorder, but you are able to take care of yourself. If you are experiencing psychosis, your behavior is erratic and detached from reality making it difficult to care for yourself. 

What is neurosis vs. psychosis?

Knowing the difference between neurosis and psychosis will help you identify the treatment that you’ll need to overcome the disorder. 

What is neurosis?

Neuroses are mental disorders that are generally characterized by anxiety, depression, and feelings of unhappiness or stress. If you have neurosis, you may feel like you’re unable to manage life and other’s expectations. Neurosis is also known as neuroticism or neurotic behavior. Medical professionals have long debated if neurosis is a disorder or a personality trait

If you have neurosis, you may notice that it affects your relationships, work life, and general well being. But you do not lose your touch with reality. It has been classified as one the big five personality traits. And it determines how well you cope with negative emotions and stress. 

What is psychosis?

Psychosis is a medical symptom that affects your mind. Typically, if you have had a psychotic episode you have lost some contact with reality. During psychosis, your thoughts and perceptions become distrustful and disturbed. You may have trouble knowing what’s real and what’s not. 

Psychosis is more common than you might think. About 100,000 young people in the United States experience psychosis each year. Psychosis itself is not an illness, rather it is linked to underlying mental conditions.

Those with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, are more likely to have psychotic episodes (psychosis), especially on a regular basis. Drugs, including cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, LSD, and more, can also trigger psychosis. Despite these risk factors, anyone can have a psychotic episode.

What are symptoms and signs of neurosis vs. psychosis?

Neurosis and psychosis are both symptoms of mental illness. Neurosis is more of a personality trait and psychosis is a break from reality. There are different symptoms for each, but they may have some similarities.  

Symptoms of neurosis

Neurosis is not classified as a medical condition, but there are signs of neurotic behavior that you can look for. Those signs include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Persistent emotional disturbance
  • Doubt 
  • Egoistic disturbance
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Emotional strain

Symptoms of psychosis

The main two symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations or delusions. Psychosis can have symptoms before you experience your first psychotic episode. Other early signs to look for can be gradual or sudden onset and include: 

  • Changes in thinking 
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in feeling and perception

If your psychosis becomes more intense and you have more psychotic episodes you may experience the following: 

  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Decline in self care
  • Incoherent or nonsensical speech

If you are in a psychotic episode you may experience: 

What are causes of neurosis vs. psychosis?

There has been debate about whether neurosis or neurotic behavior is genetic or developed over time. Psychosis can be brought on by environmental factors, but it can also run in your family. While you may not be able to prevent either condition, there are ways you can identify it and seek treatment.  

Causes of neurosis

The exact cause of neurosis has been debated by scientists and researchers. Neurosis is typically a symptom of a mental condition. However, there are different types of neuroses that have different causes. The types of neurosis include: 

Causes of psychosis

Psychosis isn’t caused by one single thing. There can be many contributing factors leading up to your psychotic episode. Those factors include:

How to diagnose neurosis vs. psychosis

Diagnosing neurosis

Neurosis is a sign that you may be experiencing an underlying mental illness. If you are showing symptoms of neurosis you or your family may recommend seeing a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. A psychologist or psychiatrist will do an interview with you and a clinical assessment to evaluate your mental status. To assess neurosis you may have to take the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF). 

Diagnosing psychosis

Psychosis can be identified early. Early intervention of psychosis is crucial to preventing it from worsening and affecting your quality of life. If you are experiencing the symptoms or a loved one has shown concern, you should seek out a mental health professional. A psychotherapist can diagnose you and start you on the right treatment plan. 

Diagnosing psychosis and psychotic disorders always involves some kind of psychological or mental evaluation. It can often include medical history, physical exam, and various lab tests to rule out underlying physical causes.


 

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Treatments of neurosis vs. psychosis

Both neurosis and psychosis can be treated by a counselor or psychotherapist. Treatment will depend on the underlying condition that is causing your symptoms. Most treatments include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, creative therapies and relaxation exercises.

There are methods that you can practice to help you cope if you have neurosis. These methods revolve around mindfulness and include:

  • Being mindful and non-judgmental of your thoughts and reactions
  • Taking deep breaths when you’re overwhelmed
  • Practice self-acceptance to overcome negative self-worth feelings

These approaches to mindfulness and meditation have been shown to:

  • Improve psychological well-being
  • Reduce distress 
  • Reduce psychological symptoms of neurosis
  • Reduce emotional reactivity

Medications for psychological disorders, especially psychotic disorders, are most effective in combination with talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Talk to your doctor about combining alternative treatment methods, such as mindfulness, meditation, or CBT, with your medication.

Neurosis, or anxiety disorder, is often treated with antidepressants. The four main classes of antidepressants are:

Psychosis, or psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, are usually immediately treated with antipsychotic medications, such as clozapine. These aim to eliminate hallucinations and delusions so that long-term care can be established, usually still involving some antipsychotic medication.

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References
SOURCES:

American Family Physician: "Recognition and Differential Diagnosis of Psychosis in Primary Care."

The American Journal of Psychiatry: "Neuroses and Neuropsychoses."

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: "Medication."

Clinical Psychology Review: "Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies."

Haddock, G.; Slade, P.D. Cognitive Behavioral Interventions With Psychotic Disorders, Brunner-Routledge, 1996.

Medical Clinics of North America: "Differential Diagnosis of Neuroses and Psychoses."

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Psychosis."

National Health Service: "Psychosis."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Fact Sheet: Early Warning Signs of Psychosis."

National Institute of Mental Health: "What is Psychosis?"

Psychology Encyclopedia: "Neurosis."

University of Oregon: "Measuring the Big Five Personality Domains."

Washington State Health Care Authority: "Early signs of psychosis."

World Health Organization: "Medicines used in psychotic disorders."

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