Are You Neurotic? Here's How You Can Tell

Are you neurotic? This behavior arises because there's an unidentified conflict between repression and desire. That tension manifests as conflict, nonconformity, and irritability.
Are You Neurotic? Here's How You Can Tell

Last update: 26 September, 2020

The word neurotic is quite popular and has lost some of its original meaning. People started using it more than a century ago in psychiatry and psychology. However, it actually took shape in the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud.

In general, someone who shouts a lot or is very conflictive is labeled neurotic. But this isn’t accurate. Back in the 18th century, there was talk of neurosis when a patient suffered from emotional instability. However, this definition has changed.

Almost everyone is neurotic according to Freudian lingo, although the intensity of this condition varies. From this perspective, any human being develops some degree of neurosis. For example, you create inner tension just by being a part of a society and neglecting your personal desires.

“Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity.”

-Sigmund Freud-

A woman who can't tell if she's neurotic.

Freud and neurosis

For Freud, someone is neurotic when they’ve had to repress their basic impulses or drives against their own wishes. In other words, they hold back because they have no other option. However, deep down, they’ve yet to give up on their basic urges.

There’s tension when you suppress yourself. You want, but you can’t. In Freudian terms, there’s a struggle between the superego, the body that determines duties, and the id, the body that represents the most basic desires. This leads to continuous discomfort.

Tension occurs unconsciously, so the neurotic person simply feels that nothing satisfies them; that conflict and unresolved doubts predominate. Thus, they expend a great deal of energy resisting reality. However, at the same time, they fail to organize a way to actively change it, other than through a resistance that lacks direction.


The neurotic’s restlessness and discomfort go beyond everyday stress, although it resembles it. The difference is that such stress remains when there’s neurosis, although there’s no reason to feel it.

A neurotic person is neither always loud nor easily identified by their temper. In fact, these people are often quiet and sullen and only eventually explode. Of course, they remain in conflict with themselves and with the world. Their main characteristic is an internal tension that doesn’t dissipate.

Intense neurosis is more common in those who live in big cities. It’s also more common in those who live in poverty or have suffered childhood abuse, abandonment, or neglect. It’s difficult for the neurotic person to be spontaneous is laugh. This is because they find it hard to relax.

A seemingly worried woman.

Are you neurotic?

As we mentioned above, almost everyone has neurotic traits. This is because it’s the price you pay for being part of society. However, the renunciation of basic desires is the fruit of rationality and not simply of repression for those who can handle it.

Here are some questions to evaluate your degree of neurosis:

  • Do you consider yourself a hypersensitive person?
  • Do you tend to feel like a victim?
  • When someone points out a mistake to you, do you justify it or defend yourself before analyzing whether it’s true or not?
  • Are you often anxious?
  • Do you think others pay attention to you?
  • Are you jealous and distrustful?
  • Do you criticize others often?
  • Do little problems often seem big to you?
  • Is your optimism or depression exaggerated?
  • Do you have a difficult sex life?
  • Are you often upset with the world?
  • Do you have little or no ambition to improve?
  • Do you often think about changing jobs or are you fired from them often?
  • Are you overly meticulous in one or more aspects of your life?
  • Are you particularly messy?
  • Do you lie for no reason?
  • Are you superstitious?
  • Do you do things you later consider silly?
  • Is your behavior compulsive?
  • Do you have exaggerated fears or phobias?
  • Are you easily angered?
  • Do you have a hard time concentrating?
  • Do you have illnesses a doctor can’t diagnose?
  • Does your head hurt often?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?

The results

You clearly have some neurotic traits if you answered “yes” to four questions. Also, you probably have neurotic behaviors if you answered “yes” to four to eight questions. Finally, your neurosis requires specialized help if you answered “yes” to more than eight questions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pelissolo, A. (2012). Trastornos de ansiedad y neuróticos. EMC-Tratado de Medicina, 16(4), 1-10.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.