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Neurosis (from the Greek νεύρωσις) refers to a class of functional mental disorder involving distress but not delusions nor hallucinations, where behavior is not outside socially acceptable norms. It is also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, and thus those suffering from it are said to be neurotic. Once a common psychiatric diagnosis, the term is no longer part of mainstream psychiatric terminology in the United States, though it continues to be employed in psychoanalytic theory and practice, and in various other theoretical disciplines.

Psychoanalytical account of neurosis

As an illness, neurosis represents a variety of mental disorders in which emotional distress or unconscious conflict is expressed through various physical, physiological, and mental disturbances, which may include physical symptoms (e.g., hysteria). The definitive symptom is anxieties. Neurotic tendencies are common and may manifest themselves as depression, acute or chronic anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, phobias, and even personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. It has perhaps been most simply defined as a "poor ability to adapt to one's environment, an inability to change one's life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality."[1] Neurosis should not be mistaken for psychosis, which refers to loss of touch with reality, or neuroticism, a fundamental personality trait according to psychological theory.

According to psychoanalytic theory, neuroses may be rooted in ego defense mechanisms, but the two concepts are not synonymous. Defense mechanisms are a normal way of developing and maintaining a consistent sense of self (i.e., an ego), while only those thought and behavior patterns that produce difficulties in living should be termed neuroses.

Effects and symptoms

There are many different specific forms of neurosis: pyromania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety neurosis, hysteria (in which anxiety may be discharged through a physical symptom), and an endless variety of phobias. According to Dr. George Boeree, effects of neurosis can involve:

...anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.[1]

Such symptoms are extremely common in women who suffer from hormonal imbalances, prompting widespread speculation as to a link between Neurosis and other such hormone related conditions. It is of widespread opinion however, that symptoms which manifest themselves in the form of behavioural issues should not necessarily be tolerated. It is therefore recommended that sufferers of Neurosis who exhibit wild mood swings and other bintish behaviour seek immediate psychiatric help and/or therapy

Jung's theory of neurosis

Jung found his approach particularly fitting for people who are successfully adjusted by normal social standards, but who nevertheless have issues with the meaning of their life.

I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life (Jung, [1961] 1989:140).

The majority of my patients consisted not of believers but of those who had lost their faith (Jung, [1961] 1989:140).

[Contemporary man] is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by "powers" that are beyond his control. His gods and demons have not disappeared at all; they have merely got new names. They keep him on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food – and, above all, a large array of neuroses. (Jung, 1964:82).

Jung found that the unconscious finds expression primarily through an individual’s inferior psychological function, whether it is thinking, feeling, sensing, or intuition. The characteristic effects of a neurosis on the dominant and inferior functions are discussed in Psychological Types.

Jung saw collective neuroses in politics: "Our world is, so to speak, dissociated like a neurotic" (Jung, 1964:85).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Boeree, Dr. C. George (2002). "A Bio-Social Theory of Neurosis". http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/genpsyneurosis.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 

Further Reading

  • Fenichel, Otto. (1945) The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. New York: Norton Publishing Company.
  • Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. 24 vols. London: Hogarth, 1953-74.
  • Horney, Karen. The Collected Works. (2 Vols.) Norton, 1937.
  • Horwitz, A. V. and J. C. Wakefield. The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder. Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-531304-8.
  • Jung, C.G., et al. (1964). Man and his Symbols, New York, N.Y.: Anchor Books, Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-05221-9.
  • Jung, C.G. (1966). Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Works, Volume 7, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01782-4.
  • Jung, C.G. [1921] (1971). Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8.
  • Jung, C.G. [1961] (1989). 'Memories, Dreams, Reflections, New York, N.Y.: Vantage Books. ISBN 0-679-72395-1
  • Russon, John. (2003). Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-5754-0
  • Winokur, Jon. Encyclopedia Neurotica. 2005. ISBN 0-312-32501-0.

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