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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Comments 56 comments

shakoor yousafzai 15 months ago

thanks alot that,s nice article

Sidra Munawar 3 years ago

thanx 4 this useful info

Eddie Jackson 3 years ago

Needs spell check...

keshav 3 years ago

Thanks a lot, I cleared my doubt

poonam 3 years ago

Well written and explained .thanx

Taban Dario 4 years ago

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

Tamakloe 4 years ago

Thank you for making the difference clear.

Bernice Antwi 4 years ago

You've been of great help thanks.

neurotic 4 years ago

Thanks jusway alghamadi u added a lot to it.

louromano profile image

louromano 4 years ago

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

CenterAll72 profile image

CenterAll72 4 years ago from New York

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 5 years ago

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

NurseHailie 5 years ago

Very well written!! Great help.

makori 5 years ago

this is encouraging

talenty kanengoni 5 years ago

Thanx for the info it greatly helped me

Robin Rafique. 5 years ago

Thanks for this excellent hub. Its easy to understand.

nosa-sweety 5 years ago

thnx a lot nice information

Amaechi 5 years ago

Well written and well understood. Kudos to that!

DR SM Khan 5 years ago

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

Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA Author

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 5 years ago

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

lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

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 5 years ago


Midianite profile image

Midianite 5 years ago from Australia

Sweet hub, this is awesome. Voted up.

leomyr 5 years ago

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

ellon 5 years ago

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 profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

That's really great article!

anonomous 5 years ago

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

Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

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

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 6 years ago from Minnesota

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  6 years ago

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 6 years ago

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

maarz 6 years ago

well explained . . It really helped me a lot

amina 6 years ago

very well explained...

sparkster profile image

sparkster 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Interesting articles, thanks.

brandyBachmann profile image

brandyBachmann 6 years ago

good summary, very informative and nice hub ;)

dreagon5 6 years ago

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



Emor profile image

Emor 7 years ago

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 7 years ago

thank u juman now i com to know that im neurotic

vashtina 7 years ago

thanks for the information it was well stated.

Roger 7 years ago

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 7 years ago

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

We are fans,

Stacey & Bobby

Jusway Alghamdi 7 years ago

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 7 years ago


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

well done!

thanks once again..

shashigai profile image

shashigai 8 years ago from New England

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 profile image

DNKStore 8 years ago from Mississippi USA

Great Hub! Very professionally rendered! Kudos!

hypnosis-review profile image

hypnosis-review 8 years ago

Great job explaining a complex topic.

shiela marie 8 years ago

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 profile image

J D Murrah 8 years ago from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas


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

Rapidwriter profile image

Rapidwriter 9 years ago from UK

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.

sparkster profile image

sparkster 9 years ago from United Kingdom

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 profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

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

Veronica profile image

Veronica 9 years ago from NY

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.

livelonger profile image

livelonger 9 years ago from San Francisco

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 profile image

Colpitts7 9 years ago from Inwood

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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