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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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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.
..... Click the link for more information. ), 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.
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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,
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . Various drugs may also be employed to alleviate symptoms.
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).