Neurosis vs Psychosis: What’s the Difference?

Important notice: the information in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from a psychiatric illness, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.

There are three categories that we use to classify psychiatric conditions: neurotic, psychotic, and personality disorders. These are not to be confused with Hans Eysenck’s neuroticism and psychoticism personality dimensions. We will compare and contrast the former two categorisations of psychiatric symptoms and discuss the causes, treatments, and prevention methods of both neurosis and psychosis.

Neurosis

Neurotic disorders involve symptoms of stress without a radical loss of touch with reality. Examples of neurosis and neurotic disorders include major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive disorders. Neurotic persons over-appreciate real or potential issues happening in their lives, causing mental distress.

Causes of neurosis include neuro-chemical imbalances, chronic life stress, traumatic or grievous experiences, and poor coping strategies. Typically, neurotic disorders present during puberty, which is when most young people are first experiencing social and academic stresses. Neurotic disorders can manifest at any stage in a person’s life, however. neurosis vs psychosis

Treatment methods for neurotic disorders depend on severity and presenting symptoms. Patients experiencing low or moderate distress will normally start with talk or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). When a patient reports suicidal ideation, they may be medicated or institutionalized for a short period at the psychiatrist’s discretion.

Preventative measures for neurotic disorders include developing healthy coping strategies, reducing stress, and regular visits with a licensed therapist. In most cases, these steps can greatly reduce your chance of getting a neurotic disorder. However, there’s no guarantee any one method will prevent the onset of any condition.

Nearly half of patients with depression went into symptom remission after just six months of therapy.

Psychosis

Psychotic disorders involve delusions, emotional turbulence, and a radical loss of touch with reality. Hallucinations are common but not necessary for a diagnosis. Some psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder (not in all cases), and psychotic depression.

The causes for psychotic disorders and neurotic disorders are quite different. Often, psychotic disorders have a stronger genetic component and are unavoidable, even with healthy coping mechanisms. Alternative causes for psychosis include substance use, brain tumour, head trauma, childhood abuse, and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Treatment methods for psychotic disorders will always involve a prescription component. Anti-psychotic or mood stabilising drugs, along with regular talk therapy are important for recovery. Even though patients will not always present psychotic symptoms, the disorder is lifelong. Fortunately, with modern medications, it’s now possible for those living with psychosis to have a long, fulfilling, symptom-free life.

Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Isaac Newton had psychotic disorders and are immortalized for their contributions to art, literature, and science.

Final thoughts

Neurotic and psychotic disorders present a challenge for patients and their families. But with modern treatment methods, people can have partial or complete symptom remission. Psychiatric conditions are not all bad, however, and it’s hypothesised that neurotic disorders increase productivity while psychotic disorders expand the associative horizon, which contributes to creativity.

Today, it’s estimated that nearly half of all adults will experience a psychiatric illness in their lifetime.


Author biography: Alexis Schaffer received her undergraduate degree in psychology and is a registered nurse. In her free time she teaches yoga and writes for various online publications.