How Neuroticism Affects Your Behavior

Neurotic Behavior: 20 Examples

How Neuroticism Affects Your Behavior

Neurotic people find themselves overthinking, over-worrying, unable to let things go, or preoccupied with their health, their job, or the opinions of their friends and loved ones. Everyone has quirks, but neuroses interfere with work, relationships, and your overall state of mind.

«You're neurotic!» is often used as an insult, but it's actually a mental health descriptor. Being neurotic is not easy, but there is plenty of hope. There are ways to manage neuroses, and one of the most important is seeing a therapist to gain emotional insight.

Before we get there, let's explore what it means to have neuroses.

Neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis. It's a descriptor used for parts of many different disorders, and neurotic behavior can indicate bigger issues.

Some examples of neurotic behavior include, obsessing over what others think or having a more anxious temperament than others.

Someone who struggles with neuroses may have difficulty when they make mistakes at school or work. They might be critical of themselves and others as well.

«Did I do something wrong? Is everything okay?»

A hallmark sign of neuroses is chronic worrying. Worrying can be a sign of anxiety, but it also indicates neuroses. A neurotic person worries about their behavior and how others see them.

They are fearful that others dis them, so they might ask for reassurance a lot. It can be distressing to those around them when they are constantly asking, «Did I do something wrong? Is everything okay.

» It's normal to worry, but when your work or relationships suffer from worry, it can be a sign of neuroticism.

The Positivity behind Neuroticism

Researcher Richard Zinbarg discovered that neurotic people are also highly sensitive and empathetic.

They might be vulnerable to anxiety and depression, but they also pick up on their friend's feelings and want to help. Being anxious or neurotic doesn't make you «bad;» it's a way of operating.

You worry about the feelings of others, and you want to help them feel better. From one perspective, this sensitivity is a positive trait.

Neurotic Behavior

Many people do not recognize their own neurotic behaviors or temperament. Furthermore, each person might have a particular neurosis, but some people behave more neurotically than others. Being neurotic is best defined by behavior.

A few of the examples can be harmless when mild, but others can be dangerous. Take a look at the twenty examples of neurotic behavior below. Maybe you exhibit some of these behaviors, and you didn't even know it. But don't sweat it.

After all, recognizing a problem is the first step toward solving it.

Examples of Neurotic Behavior

Whether you exhibit these behaviors or not, you probably see them often in your day-to-day life.

The proverbial crabby neighbor is displaying neurotic behavior when they routinely complain about minor issues. When they're constantly nagging you to be quiet, to stay away from their property line, or to keep your kids off their sidewalk, they may be showing you their neurotic side.

Identifying Examples Of Neurotic Behavior Can Help You Learn How To Cope

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Plenty of neurotic behavior comes in the form of mysterious complaints about physical symptoms that have no medical cause. When someone with no diagnosable illness talks a lot about their bodily symptoms, they annoy others. Their relationships may suffer from their neuroticism.

People with road rage are displaying neurotic behavior. After all, people make mistakes while driving. Some of them end in wrecks, but more often than not, they correct themselves and get back to driving well enough. Over the top anger at minor mistakes is a clear sign of neurotic behavior.

Parental neuroses over the common risks children take can result in «helicopter parenting.» Though they may be well intentioned, these parents do not create the conditions for a normal childhood. The parents' obsession with safety results in miserable, anxious, and self-conscious children.

Ironically, people can know full well that they're displaying neurotic symptoms, but they still behave that way anyway. Being obsessed with their mental health can make their problems even worse. Of course, if you are troubled by serious symptoms, it's important to seek help. Even then, you don't have to analyze yourself at every turn.

It's perfectly normal to be upset when bad things happen, but it's unreasonable to get upset over something minor. Breaking a fingernail, spilling your breakfast cereal, or being ten minutes late to meet a friend are all examples of common problems. There's no need for something minor to ruin your day.

People who are prone to neurotic behavior often show signs that they're feeling excessively guilty over things that aren't their fault. Or they behave guiltily when what they've done is so minor that no one even noticed it. They may apologize profusely or avoid eye contact because of this guilt.

Obsessive thinking is not only neurotic behavior, but it can also lead to depression. When you often ruminate about things you should have done differently or about minor problems in your life, other types of neurotic behavior can follow.

Most people want to do well in whatever they do. There's a difference between that and feeling you must do everything perfectly. People who are perfectionists usually spend more time than necessary completing tasks because they're determined to avoid making a mistake.

Being too dependent on others to meet your daily needs can cause a variety of neurotic behaviors. For example, rather than doing something for yourself, you whine about your problems hoping someone else will solve them. You wait for others to do things for you when you could be taking care of your own needs. You become clingy and, at the same time, irresponsible.

People who behave in neurotic ways typically have trouble getting along with others at work. Social neurotic behaviors being needy, whiny, dependent, or argumentative can take a toll on your business relationships and keep you from succeeding at work.


Neuroticism can even keep you from taking care of your basic needs. If you feel unwarranted sadness or anxiousness, you may find it difficult to complete routine personal care tasks bathing and grooming. You may also have trouble sticking to a healthy eating plan or getting enough sleep because every little disturbance makes you feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Relationship problems are common for people who behave in neurotic ways. They might nag, whine, and expect their partner to do things they could do for themselves. They may try to control their partner, or they may accuse them of being unfaithful without any evidence of cheating.

The term «drama queen» is very popular, especially on social media. A drama queen can be anyone, male or female, who stirs up controversy among their friends or makes a big show of emotion about minor incidents. When you make everything a big, dramatic production, you not only make yourself miserable, but you also disrupt others' ability to have a peaceful day.

There's nothing mentally unhealthy about being sad over a major loss. However, sadness, crying, or staying in bed over small setbacks can indicate neurotic behavior.

Maybe you lost the pen you used to sign the mortgage on your first house. Maybe your child showed a new sign of maturity.

A moment of sadness might come, but when you foster it and let it grow until it affects your functioning or temperament, that's neurotic behavior.

People who display neuroticism are often very envious of others. You want to have the possessions that others have. You want to have their opportunities or advantages. You want to be them. You express these desires with neurotic behaviors sabotaging, begging others to give you what they have, or even stealing.

Sometimes, the event that upsets you is neutral, but you react with a habitual negative response. For instance, your mail carrier might place a package on your doorstep rather than knocking first to get your attention. If you get upset anyway, even though you heard the carrier, saw the carrier, and received the package without a hiccup, then this a clear sign of neurotic behavior

It's natural to panic in threatening situations. It's part of your ingrained fight-or-flight response. However, if that response system kicks in when nothing is threatening in your environment, neuroticism is ly prompting your unnecessary panic.

Because you're so easily thrown off balance by even the smallest events and circumstances, you behave in unstable ways. You may seem to be doing fine one minute and then get angry the next; this might be followed by sadness a few minutes later. No one can count on you, and all of your relationships suffer.

PTSD could be considered a type of neurotic behavior. You may have had terrifying experiences in a war, and if the sound of fireworks going off triggers a relapse, then you have experienced a neurotic episode. Similarly, you may have been abused by a parent when you were a child, and if you feel scared when you are alone around another adult, then you might be experiencing neuroticism.

What Does Neurotic Behavior Indicate?

Again, neuroticism is no longer a diagnosis; it is a type of behavior that requires further analysis.

If you habitually behave in neurotic ways, then you might have a serious mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or rage disorder, to name a few.

Doctors no longer talk much about neuroses, but they can help you if your neurotic behavior is habitual and extreme.

How BetterHelp Can Help Calm Neurotic Behavior

Some ways to stop your neurotic behavior include:

  • Building your self-esteem
  • Making an effort to do things for yourself
  • Having clear responsibilities
  • Learning to be satisfied with what you have
  • Taking good care of yourself (even when you don't feel it)
  • Reminding yourself that it's not worth getting upset over minor negative events

Neurotic behaviors are difficult to change by yourself, and you may need to get help to overcome them. This is especially important because, according to a 2002 study, people who engage in neurotic behaviors are more ly to develop psychotic symptoms.

Treatment for neurotic behaviors might include anything from meditation to cognitive behavior therapy. Behavior therapy that includes instruction and reinforcement has been shown to change neurotic behavior as well.

You can talk to a licensed counselor for help with neurotic behavior and other mental health issues by contacting for online therapy. Counseling happens at your convenience, when and where it works best for you. Check out some review of BetterHelp counselors below, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

«I love that Dr. Bermudez is a neuropsychology researcher. Having studied a variety of philosophies and techniques, her recommendations are evidence and studied practices. I trust that I will always get the greatest and latest, the tested and true.»

Identifying Examples Of Neurotic Behavior Can Help You Learn How To Cope

Let's Talk. Get Matched With A Licensed Therapist Today

«Working with Patrice has been a joy for me. I've begun the long journey during a rough patch getting myself back. And better. She has helped me to be stronger and more able mentally than I was previously, to combat the negative thoughts and emotions and begin to think with gratitude. Big thanks to her for all her work!»


You don't need to let your neurotic behavior get in the way of a healthy and fulfilling life. With the right tools, you can begin your journey to balance. Take the first step today.


What it Means to be Neurotic: The Pros and Cons of this Personality Trait

How Neuroticism Affects Your Behavior

You can see them coming from a mile away, angsty energy radiating a nuclear bomb. That friend, neighbor, or coworker who obsessively analyzes every thought, feeling, and action, and then analyzes their analysis.

And if there isn’t an audible narration going along with daily life, mapping out the possible negative consequences of every future action, you can be sure a permanent proverbial thought bubble hangs overhead.

You know them, you love-hate them, the Woody Allens or Larry Davids of the world, better known in clinical terms as neurotics.

What is Neuroticism?

Classified as one of the Big Five personality traits, or the OCEAN model (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) psychologists look at to define personality, account for individual differences, and predict wellbeing, “neuroticism has to do with the ways people experience negative emotion in response to stress,” says clinical psychologist Kristin Naragon-Gainey, PhD, associate professor of psychology in The University of Buffalo’s Department of Psychology .

“Two people could be faced with the same situation and the neurotic one will put a negative spin on the experience and produce a stronger reaction to stress—with feelings sadness, anxiety, fear, hostility, irritability, and anger,” Dr. Naragon-Gainey says. Often, their level of worry or sadness isn’t commensurate with what’s actually happening.

The Upside to Being Neurotic

A little neuroticism can be good for the soul.

“These personality types tend to be intelligent, humorous, have more realistic (if cynical) expectations, a greater self-awareness, drive and conscientiousness, they take fewer risks, and have a strong need to provide for others,” says psychiatrist Grant H. Brenner M.D., FAPA, co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry, in Manhattan. And, according to research, neurotic people are more ly to be creative thinkers.

Neurotics also possess more emotional depth. “They have more experience handling negative emotions, which, though difficult, can also make them deeper, and facilitate empathy and understanding for other people’s struggles,” Dr. Naragon-Gainey explains.

Then there’s the evolutionary standpoint, which explains why neurotic people tend to think ahead and are more ly to be prepared for possible negative outcomes. “The reason we pay attention to negative emotions is because they’re informative of the environment or perceived danger,” Dr. Naragon-Gainey says.

When Neuroticism Goes South

While some neuroticism is healthy, because it’s associated with heightened self-criticism, “It can become a ‘crash and burn’ dynamic, where negative beliefs about yourself lead to ineffective social functioning, which then confirms those negative beliefs, and further re-enforces neurotic tendencies,” Dr. Brenner says.

For example, take the coworker who’s a superstar at work but tends to worry a lot about her performance.

Then all of a sudden, she gets a little negative feedback from her boss, which to her feels a huge criticism.

She responds by worrying more to the point that she’s so consumed with self-evaluation and anxiety, she can’t focus anymore and calls in sick. In the end, she creates her own self-fulfilling prophesy.

While extreme, this type of maladaptive response can lead to difficulty in relationships, problems keeping jobs, an overall decreased satisfaction with life, depression and anxiety disorders, and a decreased life expectancy.

Article continues below

How to be Less Neurotic

To keep your levels of perceived threats from reaching apocalyptic-level preparedness, learning some simple techniques to shift your mindset can go a long way towards saving your sanity.

  • Be mindful. Instead of approaching neurotic patterns of thinking, well, neurotically, take a step back as an observer and think about what’s causing the angst. Studies show mindfulness can reduce how often you have negative thoughts and increase your ability to let go of them. “Learning to observe yourself at times of intense emotion more objectively and asking questions , ‘What am I thinking? How am I feeling? How am I responding?’ makes it easier to take a broader perspective,” Dr. Naragon-Gainey says.
  • Take some deep breaths. It may sound totally trite but pausing to take a few deep breaths can actually help you create some distance from the intensity of the experience, and you might realize that your reaction is whack with the situation itself, Dr. Gainey says.
  • Practice self-acceptance. “Self-acceptance prevents us from getting stuck on negative points, allowing healthy grief, and limiting the vicious cycles of self-recrimination,” Dr. Brenner says. “Ultimately, self-acceptance translates into optimism, self-appreciation, and an increased sense of self-efficacy,” he says. Go ahead and give yourself a little loving kindness and compassion; you’re doing the best you can.

Neuroticism and overthinking: Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2015). “Too Much Thinking: Self-Generated Thoughts as the Engine of Neuroticism.”

Neuroticism and depression: Neuroticism Now (2016). “Neuroticism Predicts Anxiety and Depression.”

Neuroticism and longevity: The Journals of Gerontology (2013). “Personality Factors in the Long Life Family Study.”

Neuroticism and mindfulness: Clinical Psychology Review (2011). “Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies.


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