neurosis

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neurosis,

in psychiatry, a broad category of psychological disturbance, encompassing various mild forms of mental disorder. Until fairly recently, the term neurosis was broadly employed in contrast with psychosis, which denoted much more severe, debilitating mental disturbances. The two terms were used regularly until 1980, when the American Psychiatric Association released a precise listing of known mental disorders excluding the two broad categories of "mild" and "serious" mental disorders.

Neurosis, according to Sigmund FreudFreud, Sigmund
, 1856–1939, Austrian psychiatrist, founder of psychoanalysis. Born in Moravia, he lived most of his life in Vienna, receiving his medical degree from the Univ. of Vienna in 1881.

His medical career began with an apprenticeship (1885–86) under J.
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, arose from inner conflicts and could lead to anxietyanxiety,
anticipatory tension or vague dread persisting in the absence of a specific threat. In contrast to fear, which is a realistic reaction to actual danger, anxiety is generally related to an unconscious threat.
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. In his formulation, the causal factors could be found roughly in the first six years of life, when the personality, or ego, is weak and afraid of censure. He attributed neurosis to the frustration of infantile sexual drives, as when severe eating and toilet habits and other restrictions are parentally imposed (see Oedipus complexOedipus complex,
Freudian term, drawn from the myth of Oedipus, designating attraction on the part of the child toward the parent of the opposite sex and rivalry and hostility toward the parent of its own.
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), which appear in adulthood as neurotic symptoms (see psychoanalysispsychoanalysis,
name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M.
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). Other authorities have emphasized constitutional and organic factors. Among the psychoanalysts, Alfred AdlerAdler, Alfred
, 1870–1937, Austrian psychologist, founder of the school of individual psychology. Although one of Sigmund Freud's earlier associates, he rejected the Freudian emphasis upon sex as the root of neurosis.
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 and H. S. SullivanSullivan, Harry Stack,
1892–1949, American psychiatrist, b. Norwich, N.Y., M.D. Chicago College of Medicine and Surgery, 1917. He was, along with his teacher William Alanson White, responsible for the extension of Freudian psychoanalysis to the treatment of patients with
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 stressed social determinants of personal adjustment, and Karen HorneyHorney, Karen,
1885–1952, American psychiatrist, b. Germany, M.D. Univ. of Berlin, 1913. She married Oscar Horney in 1909. Prior to her arrival (1932) in the United States, she was secretary of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, where she taught for 12 years.
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 emphasized insecurity in childhood as causes of neurosis.

Until 1980, neuroses included anxiety disorders as well as a number of other mild mental illnesses, such as hysteriahysteria
, in psychology, a disorder commonly known today as conversion disorder, in which a psychological conflict is converted into a bodily disturbance. It is distinguished from hypochondria by the fact that its sufferers do not generally confuse their condition with real,
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 and hypochondriahypochondria
, in psychology, a disorder characterized by an exaggeration of imagined or negligible physical ailment. The hypochondriac fears that such minor symptoms indicate a serious disease, and tends to be self-centered and socially withdrawn.
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. Anxiety disorders are fairly common, and generally involve a feeling of apprehension with no obvious, immediate cause. Such intense fears of various situations may be severe enough to prevent individuals from conducting routine activities. Phobias, the most common type of anxiety disorder, involve specific situations which cause irrational anxiety attacks. For instance, an individual with agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) may be too anxious to leave their house. Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when an individual relentlessly pursues a thought or action in order to relieve anxiety. Panic disorder is characterized by anxiety in the form of panic attacks, while generalized anxiety disorder occurs when an individual experiences chronic anxiety with no apparent explanations for the anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorderpost-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), mental disorder that follows an occurrence of extreme psychological stress, such as that encountered in war or resulting from violence, childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or serious accident.
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, occurring in the wake of a particularly traumatic event, can lead to severe flashbacks and a lack of responsiveness to stimuli. Anxiety disorders are usually accompanied by a variety of defense mechanismsdefense mechanism,
in psychoanalysis, any of a variety of unconscious personality reactions which the ego uses to protect the conscious mind from threatening feelings and perceptions.
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, which are employed in an attempt to overcome anxiety. Hypochondriasis and hysteria (now generally known as conversion disorder) are classified today as somatoform disorders, and involve physical symptoms of psychological distress. The hypochondriac fears that minor bodily disturbances indicate serious, often terminal, disease, while the individual suffering from conversion disorder experiences a bodily disturbance—such as paralysis of a limb, blindness, or deafness—with no clear biological origin. Treatment of neurosis may include behavior therapy to condition an individual to change neurotic habits, psychotherapypsychotherapy,
treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods. Psychotherapy, thus, does not include physiological interventions, such as drug therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, although it may be used in combination with such methods.
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, and group psychotherapygroup psychotherapy,
a means of changing behavior and emotional patterns, based on the premise that much of human behavior and feeling involves the individual's adaptation and response to other people.
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. Various drugs may also be employed to alleviate symptoms.

Bibliography

See M. Trimble, Post-Traumatic Neurosis (1981); S. Henderson et al., Neurosis and the Social Environment (1982); J. Lopez Pinero, The Historical Origins of the Concept of Neurosis (tr. 1983); G. Russell, ed. The Neuroses and Personality Disorders (1984).

neurosis

a disorder of the emotions with no underlying physical cause for the feelings of ill health it engenders. Neurosis is a term covering a variety of AFFECTIVE DISORDERS, such as anxiety, depression and obsessive states. Though there is no disease, there is considerable unhappiness. Mental health may be restored through various therapies, PSYCHOANALYSIS primarily being designed to help neurotics, but client-centred therapy (see Carl ROGERS) within the counselling movement, and cognitive BEHAVIOUR THERAPY are also appropriate. Neurosis should be distinguished from PSYCHOSIS which describes much more severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

neurosis

[nu̇′rō·səs]
(psychology)
A category of emotional maladjustments characterized by some impairment of thinking and judgment, with anxiety as the chief symptom.

neurosis

a relatively mild mental disorder, characterized by symptoms such as hysteria, anxiety, depression, or obsessive behaviour