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Psychosis Vs. Neurosis - Definitions & Differences

They are terms we generally don't think twice about using - "Did you see the way she wiped her chair before sitting down? She's so neurotic!" or "My mom's gone psychotic on me..." - but how many of us really know how psychosis or neurosis are defined, on a medical level, what the signs and symptoms are, or how they are treated? Simple definitions and the differences between the two are highlighted below.



Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state involving the loss of contact with reality, causing the detioration of normal social functioning. (Reference: Stedman's Medical Dictionary) The word was first used by Ernst Von Reuchtersleben as an alternative for the terms "insanity" and "mania," and is derived from the Greek psyche (mind) and -osis (diseased or abnormal condition).

Today, the difference in uses for the terms "psychosis" and "insanity" is vast, the latter employed primarily in a legal setting to denote that a person cannot be held responsible for his or her actions in a court of law, due to psychological distress. Psychosis, on the other hand, is not a clincial diagnosis in and of itself, but, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a symptom common to several other mental illness categories.

The three primary causes of psychosis are "functional" (mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), "organic" (stemming from medical, non-psychological conditions, such as brain tumors or sleep deprivation), and psychoactive drugs (eg barbituates, amphetamines, and hallucinogens).

A psychotic episode may involve hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and/or disordered thinking. Psychosis is not necessarily permanent, and occurs in both the chronically mentally ill and otherwise healthy individuals. It is treated by the prescription of anti-psychotic medications, psychotherapy, and, in extreme cases, periods of hospitalization.



Neurosis is a general term referring to mental distress that, unlike psychosis, does not prevent rational thought or daily functioning. This term, coined by William Cullen in the 18th century, has fallen out of favor along with the psychological school of thought called psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud.

The DSM no longer lists "neurosis" as a category of mental illness, but disorders associated with the term have included obsessive-compulsive, chronic anxiety, phobias, and pyromania.

While the Greek roots (neuron, meaning "nerve," and -osis, meaning "disease") implies disorder, neurosis affects most of us in some mild form or other. The problem lies in neurotic thoughts or behaviors that significantly impair, but do not altogether prevent, normal daily living.

Neurosis is commonly treated, rather controversially, by psychoanalysis or other psychotherapy, despite the debate over whether or not counselors of this sort are qualified to accurately diagnosis and treat what is defined as a disorder of the nervous system.

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shakoor yousafzai on October 12, 2015:

thanks alot that,s nice article

Sidra Munawar on August 29, 2013:

thanx 4 this useful info

Eddie Jackson on April 30, 2013:

Needs spell check...

keshav on April 28, 2013:

Thanks a lot, I cleared my doubt

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poonam on February 10, 2013:

Well written and explained .thanx

Taban Dario on January 15, 2013:

Great work please, otherwise the confusion centered around these words is clearly uprooted. Thanks for this article

Tamakloe on May 26, 2012:

Thank you for making the difference clear.

Bernice Antwi on April 08, 2012:

You've been of great help thanks.

neurotic on April 02, 2012:

Thanks jusway alghamadi u added a lot to it.

louromano on March 25, 2012:

thank you for this information. you helped me out a lot. ^_^

CenterAll72 from New York on March 19, 2012:

I see the difference clearly between these psychosis and neurosis. I thought the disorganized thinking was a part of neurosis, but seems to be actually psychosis. I guess that were problems arises. People often confusing the two. Thank you for clearing things up!

Vinit Kumar Singh on December 26, 2011:

Really Sir now I am very clear about psychosis vs nuerosis..thanks a lot..

NurseHailie on November 30, 2011:

Very well written!! Great help.

makori on November 28, 2011:

this is encouraging

talenty kanengoni on November 27, 2011:

Thanx for the info it greatly helped me

Robin Rafique. on November 07, 2011:

Thanks for this excellent hub. Its easy to understand.

nosa-sweety on October 21, 2011:

thnx a lot nice information

Amaechi on September 30, 2011:

Well written and well understood. Kudos to that!

DR SM Khan on September 28, 2011:

The artcile is really good for clinical psychology students and even for public who want to get acquited with these two words.

Maddie Ruud (author) from Oakland, CA on September 08, 2011:

Hi lambservant,

There are many different kinds of neurosis, so it is hard to have a set list of symptoms, but phobic behavior, obsessive/compulsive behavior, and extreme anxiety can all be signs of neurosis.

seema sharma on September 08, 2011:

hi i m a student of applied psychology and this article gave me immense information as this is in my course of IV semister..thanx a lot and special thanx to Jusway Alghamdi for adding the information

Lori Colbo from United States on August 29, 2011:

I'm still not quite clear on what neurosis is. Could you tell me the symptoms or manifestations of neurosis? This is an excellent hub and very well researched.

yesudas kollam on August 09, 2011:


Midianite from Australia on July 12, 2011:

Sweet hub, this is awesome. Voted up.

leomyr on June 21, 2011:

thx po the term of Neurosis and Psychosis now i learn the term thx again !

ellon on May 16, 2011:

I was also using these terms without getting the medical meaning of these terms but now I clearly understands the meaning of these terms with respect to science and will now use it on only correct situation and time.

htodd from United States on May 01, 2011:

That's really great article!

anonomous on March 18, 2011:

Wow, this helped me a ton! Nice pictures, by the way.

Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on February 15, 2011:

This hub was amazing! I loved every bit of it. I learned so much more. Thanks

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on October 26, 2010:

Hi Maddie and thanks for a very informative hub. I'm in the mental health field and love reading anything related. You made this easy and enjoyable to read:)

akshata on October 12, 2010:

hey thanks a lot i needed the detailed information coz im studying psychology and had to know the difference between the two in abnormal psychology!!!!

Qaiser Fayyaz on August 19, 2010:

The above information is really good for psychology students and even for public who want to get aware about the mental health issues.

maarz on August 03, 2010:

well explained . . It really helped me a lot

amina on May 24, 2010:

very well explained...

Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on April 26, 2010:

Interesting articles, thanks.

brandyBachmann on April 08, 2010:

good summary, very informative and nice hub ;)

dreagon5 on March 02, 2010:

"Psychosis Vs. Neurosis" Poet and didn't know it! ;-)

MUHAMMAD IQBAL KHAN on January 25, 2010:


Emor on December 30, 2009:

I feel rather enlightened after reading this article for my definition of neurotic appears to be incorrect to an extent- yet I claim to have a reasonable knowledge of psychology >_

romeo on December 27, 2009:

thank u juman now i com to know that im neurotic

vashtina on December 16, 2009:

thanks for the information it was well stated.

Roger on November 14, 2009:

Like Dr Murray Banks says: "The neurotic builds dream castles in the air, the psychotic moves into these castles, and the psychiatrist collects the rent."

theglobalspirit on November 02, 2009:

Great hub and thank you. Between you and Juman I learned something new for me.

We are fans,

Stacey & Bobby

Jusway Alghamdi on October 10, 2009:

Thank you hub for these great efforts .. .. but we tought in the school much more details about the different between Neurosis Vs Psychosis.. i'm going to list them in brief for the benefit of the people here :

1) lack of insight happened with psychosis but not with neurosis.

2) the surrounding are suffering in psychosis but in neurosis the patient himself/herself suffers.

3) Psychosis sometime associated with delusions and hallucination. but Neurosis is not associated with delusion and hallucination.

4) Psychosis features are abnormal in Quality(e.g. delusion).But neurosis features are abnormal in Quantity(e.g. anxiety.

thank you again and again i really get benefit from this website and what i post is the least thing to pay back :)


Nupur on April 20, 2009:


The information provided in here has helped me before one day of my exam.

well done!

thanks once again..

shashigai from New England on December 11, 2008:

Nice professional presentation. It makes me want to write a hub on how they look in real life, from the perspective of psychiatric crisis work. These days most people don't talk about neurosis, but many people come to the crisis service suffering from a psychotic episode.

DNKStore from Mississippi USA on October 29, 2008:

Great Hub! Very professionally rendered! Kudos!

hypnosis-review on February 23, 2008:

Great job explaining a complex topic.

shiela marie on February 19, 2008:

I like the way of explaining the differences of pychosis and neurosis it helps me to understand more about it! Thank You!!

J D Murrah from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas on February 12, 2008:


Your handling of the topic was done succintly and effeciently. I like the way you split insanity from psychosis.

Rapidwriter from UK on January 01, 2008:

Really impressed with your clarity. Very succinct and clear. Strange, isn't it how terms for mental disorders filter into the vernacular so easily from mad and insane, through maniac to schizo and psycho. And most of them pejorative. Without a doubt, madness possesses huge mystique.

Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on December 11, 2007:

This is a great write up. not only is it well written, it has obviously been well researched and contains some great diagrams. Thanks.

cgull8m from North Carolina on July 06, 2007:

Great Hub, makes sense with the differences, how easily we get confused with the two.

Veronica from NY on July 04, 2007:

I remember this from college. You've summed these terms up better than my Psych 101 Prof. Nicely written. I'd love to see more articles about different mental disorders as succinct as this article is.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on July 04, 2007:

Thank you for this thorough and extremely clear explanation! I'm reading a book that uses both terms and thought they were interchangeable. I'm glad you cleared this up for me.

Colpitts7 from Inwood on July 03, 2007:

Well researched and written: Since I have suffered from Manic-depressor disorder, I am well acquainted with both terms. Thanks for this well written and needed article.

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