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Psychosis Vs. Neurosis - Definitions & Differences

Updated on March 8, 2011
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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    • profile image

      shakoor yousafzai 23 months ago

      thanks alot that,s nice article

    • profile image

      Sidra Munawar 4 years ago

      thanx 4 this useful info

    • profile image

      Eddie Jackson 4 years ago

      Needs spell check...

    • profile image

      keshav 4 years ago

      Thanks a lot, I cleared my doubt

    • profile image

      poonam 4 years ago

      Well written and explained .thanx

    • profile image

      Taban Dario 4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Tamakloe 5 years ago

      Thank you for making the difference clear.

    • profile image

      Bernice Antwi 5 years ago

      You've been of great help thanks.

    • profile image

      neurotic 5 years ago

      Thanks jusway alghamadi u added a lot to it.

    • louromano profile image

      louromano 5 years ago

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

    • CenterAll72 profile image

      CenterAll72 5 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!

    • profile image

      Vinit Kumar Singh 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      NurseHailie 5 years ago

      Very well written!! Great help.

    • profile image

      makori 5 years ago

      this is encouraging

    • profile image

      talenty kanengoni 5 years ago

      Thanx for the info it greatly helped me

    • profile image

      Robin Rafique. 5 years ago

      Thanks for this excellent hub. Its easy to understand.

    • profile image

      nosa-sweety 5 years ago

      thnx a lot nice information

    • profile image

      Amaechi 5 years ago

      Well written and well understood. Kudos to that!

    • profile image

      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 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      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.

    • profile image

      seema sharma 6 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

      Lori Colbo 6 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.

    • profile image

      yesudas kollam 6 years ago


    • Midianite profile image

      Midianite 6 years ago from Australia

      Sweet hub, this is awesome. Voted up.

    • profile image

      leomyr 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      ellon 6 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 6 years ago from United States

      That's really great article!

    • profile image

      anonomous 6 years ago

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

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 6 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

      Linda Rogers 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:)

    • profile image

      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!!!!

    • profile image

      Qaiser Fayyaz 7 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.

    • profile image

      maarz 7 years ago

      well explained . . It really helped me a lot

    • profile image

      amina 7 years ago

      very well explained...

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting articles, thanks.

    • brandyBachmann profile image

      brandyBachmann 7 years ago

      good summary, very informative and nice hub ;)

    • profile image

      dreagon5 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      MUHAMMAD IQBAL KHAN 7 years ago


    • 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 >_

    • profile image

      romeo 7 years ago

      thank u juman now i com to know that im neurotic

    • profile image

      vashtina 7 years ago

      thanks for the information it was well stated.

    • profile image

      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."

    • profile image

      theglobalspirit 7 years ago

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

      We are fans,

      Stacey & Bobby

    • profile image

      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 :)


    • profile image

      Nupur 8 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 9 years ago

      Great job explaining a complex topic.

    • profile image

      shiela marie 9 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 9 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 Publishing 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 10 years ago from North Carolina

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

    • Veronica profile image

      Veronica 10 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

      Jason Menayan 10 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 10 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.