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What Is Neuroticism In Psychology

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The Positives Of Being Neurotic

Neuroticism – Addressing the 10 Neurotic Needs

It can all seem very negative if you read the above and recognise yourself.

But like all things, there are also positives to being emotionally sensitive.

You are more likely to be creative if you are neurotic. Remember all that escaping to your head when reality feels too much? It can lead to a well developed imagination.

You might know yourself better than your less sensitive friends. Neurotic types are introspective, often analysing their thoughts and feelings, or wanting to understand their experiences.

Yes, you might experience more sadness, but you might also experience a greater sense of joy. Stable sorts who rank very low on the scale dont experience as much upset, but are also less likely to have emotional highs.

Research has also suggested people with neuroticism take better care of their health, as they are more worried about health symptoms and more likely to seek a doctor.

Boundary With Personality Disorder

Neurosis is differentiated from personality disorder by having a definite onset and by meeting symptom-defined criteria. However, it has long been known that there is an association between neurosis and personality disorder. Chronic neurosis with an onset in early life may âmergeâ into the concept of personality disorder. Some neuroses may appear to be an exaggeration of personality traits, as may seem to be the case with social phobia and avoidant personality disorder. The term âgeneral neurotic syndromeâ has been suggested for a condition in which various symptoms are present simultaneously or successively, and which is associated with certain kinds of personality disorder .

J.S. Hyde, in, 2001

When To Seek Help For Neuroticism

Everyone encounters stress that overwhelms their current capacity to cope and when this happens, the negative impacts can begin to spill over into different areas of their lives. This can happen during times of high stress, even when people are responding effectively to their emotions.

This might lead to a worsening of their physical or mental health or an impaired ability to function at work, home, or some other area of life. When stress and negative emotions begin to have these consequences, a licensed mental health professional may be helpful.

Other indications that a person might need to seek professional help include:

  • Frequent conflict in important relationships
  • An inability to experience positive emotions
  • Persistent negative emotions that last for weeks on end
  • Intense negative emotions or mood swings that impair judgment
  • Over-reliance on drugs, alcohol or other destructive forms of coping
  • Thoughts of death, suicide, or urges to self-harm
  • Difficulty sleeping, eating, or completing basic tasks because of negative emotions
  • Inability to concentrate or focus because of persistent negative thoughts
  • Frequent impulsive choices that lead to consequences or problems

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Common Traits Of Neuroticism

People with a high level of neuroticism have a broad range of negative characteristics. The following are some of the common neurotic traits that can be observed in a neurotic person:

  • Personal dissatisfaction and insecurities 8
  • Pessimistic nature about circumstances 9
  • Self-doubt and low self-esteem 10
  • Poor emotional stability 11
  • Unable to handle stress 12
  • Extreme worry or anxiety 13
  • Tendency of ruminating things 15
  • Lack of resilience
  • Tendency of seeing minor issues as overwhelming
  • Feeling of guilt 17
  • Depression or chronic sadness 18
  • Tendency of perceiving neutral situations as threatening
  • Social anxiety and discomfort 21
  • Withdrawal when suffering from anxiety 22
  • Volatile emotions

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How Neuroticism Affects Relationships


A 2019 study 30 has shown that neuroticism is associated with a diminished quality of life that negatively impacts the personal relationships of those who have a higher level of this personality trait. The following are some of the negative effects of neuroticism that can even break a healthy relationship:

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Big Five Personality Factor

Neuroticism is considered by many to be one of the most significant dimensions of personality. Alongside four other traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness – it is cited as one of the Big Five personality factors.

Psychologists Robert McCrae and Paul Costa included neuroticism in their five-factor model of personality, whilst Lewis Goldberg recognized the significance of such factors, describing them as the Big Five. Further personality theories also recognize traits relating to neuroticism, such as emotionality, which features in Michael Ashton and Kibeom Lees HEXACO model .

Self-report measures such as questionnaires remain a favored method of assessing personality traits such as neuroticism.

Using question inventories such as the Revised NEO Personality Inventory , psychologists invite a subject to assess how accurately a series of adjectives or statements describe his or her own personality .

What Factors Influence The Big Five Traits

Research suggests that both biological and environmental influences play a role in shaping our personalities. Twin studies suggest that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of each of the five personality factors.

One study of the genetic and environmental underpinnings of the five traits looked at 123 pairs of identical twins and 127 pairs of fraternal twins. The findings suggested that the heritability of each trait was 53 percent for extraversion, 41 percent for agreeableness, 44 percent for conscientiousness, 41 percent for neuroticism, and 61 for openness.

Longitudinal studies also suggest that these big five personality traits tend to be relatively stable over the course of adulthood. One study of working-age adults found that personality tended to be stable over a four-year period and displayed little change as a result of adverse life events.

Studies have shown that maturation may have an impact on the five traits. As people age, they tend to become less extraverted, less neurotic, and less open to the experience. Agreeableness and conscientiousness, on the other hand, tend to increase as people grow older.

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Genetic And Environmental Factors

A 2013 review found that “Neuroticism is the product of the interplay between genetic and environmental influences. Heritability estimates typically range from 40% to 60%.” The effect size of these genetic differences remain largely the same throughout development, but the hunt for any specific genes that control neuroticism levels has “turned out to be difficult and hardly successful so far.” On the other hand, with regards to environmental influences, adversities during development such as “emotional neglect and sexual abuse” were found to be positively associated with neuroticism. However, “sustained change in neuroticism and mental health are rather rare or have only small effects.”

In the July 1951 article: “The Inheritance of Neuroticism” by Hans J. Eysenck and Donald Prell it was reported that some 80 per cent of individual differences in neuroticism are due to heredity and only 20 percent are due to environment….the factor of neuroticism is not a statistical artifact, but constitutes a biological unit which is inherited as a whole….neurotic predisposition is to a large extent hereditarily determined.

The History Of Neuroticism Terminology

Personality: âBig 5â? Traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism)

The terms neuroticism and neurotic are derived from the word neurosis, which was first used to describe abnormalities in the nervous system, and later adopted by the field of psychology. In psychology, the word neurosis took on new meaning as a way to describe psychological and emotional abnormalities. At one point, it was a clinical term used to help differentiate different kinds of psychological disorders. While it is no longer used as a diagnostic term, the word neuroticism continues to be used to describe negative emotional states and traits.1

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Why Am I So Neurotic

The exact medical workings of neuroticism are still misunderstood. Researchers suspect that people with high neuroticism have an overactive limbic system, the part of the brain that deals with our emotions and memories. And a small American study suggests that its connected to serotonin levels. But more research needs to be done.

But most people with neurotic tendencies have a parent who also was neurotic.

And studies of twins reared separately suggest that around 50 to 60 per cent of neuroticism is in fact genetic.

The rest would be down to environment. Your life experiences would have triggered and solidified your tendency to be neurotic.

Factors That Influence The Big 5

Like with all theories of personality, the Big Five is influenced by both nature and nurture. Twin studies have found that the heritability of the Big Five traits is 40-60%.

This finding was similar to the findings of another study, where the heritability of conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion were estimated to be 49%, 48%, 49%, 48%, and 50%, respectively .

Such twin studies demonstrate that the Big Five personality traits are significantly influenced by genes and that all five traits are equally heritable. Heritability for males and females do not seem to differ significantly .

Studies from different countries also support the idea of a strong genetic basis for the Big Five personality traits .

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Neuroticism / Emotional Stability

Emotional stability or neuroticism is one of the five personality traits of the Big Five personality theory. Emotional stability refers to a person’s ability to remain stable and balanced. At the other end of the scale, a person who is high in neuroticism has a tendency to easily experience negative emotions. Neuroticism is similar but not identical to being neurotic in the Freudian sense. Some psychologists prefer to call neuroticism by the term emotional stability to differentiate it from the term neurotic in a career test.

How Therapy Can Support Neurotics

Neuroticism: Characteristics, Impact on Job Performance ...

The psychoanalyst Nancy McWilliams says that neurotics tend to seek therapy because of problems not in essential security or sense of agency, but because they keep running into conflicts between what they want and obstacles to attaining it that they suspect are of their own making. In other words, neurotics keep making problems for themselves and dont quite have the tools to untangle themselves from those problems. Theyre functioning well, but life isnt as smooth or as joyful as theyd like it to be.

For a neurotic coming into therapy which is usually long-term and open-ended the work may be to look at the defences that have kept them going all these years, and starting to unpick the defences that arent working quite so well for them. They may also work on the aspects of self that keep holding them back, becoming less buttoned up, getting in touch with their playful, creative side, and gradually connecting with their true self.

If youd like to seek support for your anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessions then do get in touch. We have a team of counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists offering sessions seven days a week at our centres in Clapham and Tooting. Call 020 8673 4545 or email for an initial chat and to book an appointment.

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Can Neuroticism Be Beneficial

From the examples provided, it might seem like neuroticism is wholly negative, but rest assured that having a small and manageable amount of neuroticism in your life can actually be a good thing!

As Daniel Nettle, who wrote the book Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, explains, neurotic people are strivers and tend to have an inner, self-directed drive to succeed. In addition, the tendency toward rumination that is often wrapped up in neuroses can be an asset if you are working in a detail-oriented job or one that requires in-depth thinking and analysis.

Neurotic people can also be healthier than others, especially if they are conscientious as well. Nicholas A. Turiano Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says that these individuals have fewer chronic health conditions, they have healthier body weights, and they have lower levels of inflammation. Healthy neurotics are also better equipped to deal with stressful situations. As Turiano says The healthy neurotic individuals somehow find a way to channel that anxiety they have to motivate them to do good work, Turiano says.

Is Neuroticism A Bad Thing

If your tendency toward neuroticism is causing you distress, or pushing you toward depression, anxiety, phobias, or addictions you should certainly consider seeking counseling or therapy to help manage your feelings and move toward wellness. Therapy can help you effectively manage stress and anxiety, which may help you prevent neurotic behavior.

But remember, being neurotic is not a medical condition or even a diagnosable mood disorder. It is a personality trait and a state of being that some of us tend to have more of than others. Living with a higher dose of neuroticism than most people can be challenging and therapy modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been helpful for people who feel that their neurotic tendencies are taking over.

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Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy therapists encourage you to accept difficult emotions and be willing to experience them without getting stuck or overly involved in them. ACT also teaches you how to avoid emotion-driven responses and to instead choose value-driven responses that align with the things that matter most to you.

Costs And Benefits Of Extreme Levels Of Neuroticism

Understanding Neuroticism – what is neurosis, how to manage neurotic behavior and negative emotions

Highly neurotic individuals are defensive pessimists. They experience the world as unsafe and use fundamentally different strategies in dealing with distress than non-neurotic people do. They are vigilant against potential harm in their environment and constantly scan the environment for evidence of potential harm. They may withdraw from reality and engage in protective behaviors when they detect danger.

Psychologists note that highly neurotic individuals tend to be poor problem solvers. Because of their tendency to withdraw, highly neurotic individuals tend to possess an impoverished repertoire of behavioral alternatives for addressing the demands of reality. Consequently, they tend to engage in mental role-play instead of constructive problem-solving behaviors. In contrast to their impoverished behavioral repertoires, however, they may possess a rich inner world. Introspective and apt to analyze their thoughts and feelings, they are highly invested in seeking the true nature of their intrapsychic experiences. Some neurotic individuals who have developed creative channels through which to tap their rich, overpopulated intrapsychic worlds, such as American filmmaker Woody Allen, have become successful artists.

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Neuroticism: A ‘big Five’ Personality Factor

What is neuroticism and how does it affect a person’s personality?

Neuroticism is one of the Big Five factors in the study of personality in psychology. It is measured on a continuum, ranging from emotional stability to emotional instability .

Big Five Personality Traits
  • Agreeableness
  • A neurotic personality is characterised by persistent, often disproportionate, worrying and anxiety. A person may strive to be a perfectionist during their everyday activities, and experience stress as a result of events that are beyond their control.

    Neuroticism can lead an individual to focus on, and to dwell on, the negative aspects of a situation, rather than the positives. They experience jealousy and become envious of other people when they feel that they are in an advantaged position over themselves. They may be prone to becoming frustrated, irate or angry as they struggle to cope with life stressors.

    Personality psychologists Robert McCrae and Paul Costa describe how people with high neuroticism levels cope with such stress:

    In contrast, people with low levels of neuroticism find it easier to remain calm and are less affected by stressful events. They are able to maintain a more proportionate perspective on events, which results in them often worrying less and experiencing lower levels of stress.

    What Is The Neuroticism Test

    Neuroticism is a trait we all have at different levels, and many neuroticism tests will rate “how neurotic” one may be, however to really address any neuroticism concerns it is best to speak with a therapist. Through therapy you can understand your identity and find ways to empower yourself to be the best version of yourself.

    Humans have created many different ways to test their psychology or test for mental illness over the centuries. One more modern way is known as the neuroticism test. In this post, we shall discuss what neuroticism is and what the neuroticism test entails.

    What Is Neuroticism?

    Neuroticism is one of the “one free test you can try, and here’s a second free option. Longer tests will be more detailed, but they’ll also take more time. A shorter test is good for a quick glance, but results won’t be as thorough.

    The Big Five

    Even though we’re focusing on neuroticism, we can’t discuss it thoroughly without discussing the other four personality traits. In theory, the Big Five are the five primary personality traits that define an individual. These exist on a spectrum, so everyone will have different amounts of each. That’s part of what makes the world so interesting!





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