Neurotic Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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Have you ever heard of the word neurotic? This word can mean something more significant in a medical context than in a casual conversation, but all of its definitions are important to know.

So, what does neurotic mean? Where did this word come from? How is it important in the medical field? This article seeks to answer all of these questions. Let’s get started! 

What Is the Meaning of the Word Neurotic?

The word neurotic is fairly simple to understand. But depending on who is saying the word, this adjective or adverb could mean something much more significant. 

Here are the definitions of the word neurotic:

  • Medical: Of, relating to, or caused by neurosis
  • Casual: Behaving in a strange, weird, or crazy way, specifically in an anxious or worried manner

In a medical setting, the word neurotic carries a specific meaning. Neurosis is a category of anxiety disorders that are characterized by irrational fears, compulsions, or obsessions. Neurosis is essentially a very intense or exaggerated method of dealing with anxieties. 

If this word is used in a medical or mental health context, it could be implying a diagnosis of a mental disorder, which is obviously quite significant. However, this word is also used in casual conversation, which can bring some confusion. 

In a casual setting, you might hear someone call somebody neurotic as an insult or an observation. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are saying that person has a neurosis. They might just be saying they act strangely, have neurotic behavior, or have sudden and unexpected mood swings. 

So, context is key with this word. Sometimes the word neurotic has much larger implications than others. 


Neurosis is a mild mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, most neuroses are typically classified as anxiety disorders, but this was not always the case. 

People with neurosis often have diagnosable phobias. Some of them have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Others just have strange, anxious behaviors that they don’t necessarily notice. Others are overly self-conscious about an aspect of themselves they constantly try to change.

Neurotic tendencies can make people maladaptive to new situations, and they can fill their heads with negative thoughts and negative emotions. Neurotic symptoms are characterized by stress and hyper-fixation on a small problem, and over-the-top ways to fix it. 

People with a neurotic disorder don’t always behave strangely, and oftentimes, their behaviors are still socially acceptable, if not a little quirky. 

Significantly, although neurosis and neurotic traits are still important words in the world of psychiatry, in 1980, the word neurosis was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In the third edition of the Manual, also called DSM-III or DSM-3, the word did not appear. 


Today, we are on the fifth edition of the DSM Manual, called the DSM-5. The DSM-5 puts forth a dimensional trait model to help describe people’s personalities. There are five domains of general personality, also called the Big Five personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and neuroticism

That means that sometimes, neurotic behavior is not a characteristic of a mental disorder. Sometimes, it is just a personality trait. Of course, there are times when neurotic behavior goes too far and can then be a symptom of a mental illness, but this is not always the case. 

Where Did the Word Neurotic Come From?

To help bring more clarity to the definition of neurotic, let’s look at the history of how it came to be, or its etymology.

The word neurotic is derived from the Greek language. The Greek word neuron, which means “nerve,” is paired with the Greek suffix otic, which means “related to.” So, the word neurotic literally means “related to the nerves.” 

This English word was originally used to refer to medication that acted upon the nerves, and it had nothing to do with personality traits or behaviors. It simply described the part of the body that medicine would affect. 

It wasn’t until the late 19th-century that the word came to be associated with the psychological condition of neurosis or neurotic behavior. 

What Are Some Examples of the Word Neurotic in a Sentence?

Seeing a word in context can help bring more clarity to its definition and how you can use it in your own life. Here are some example sentences that use the word neurotic.

I love Jesse, but sometimes she can be a pretty neurotic person. 

His neurotic behaviors consist of washing his hands constantly and refusing to touch dirty surfaces. 

I’m sorry I yelled at you for not cleaning the bathroom properly. I was being neurotic.

I have been trying to be less neurotic, but my anxiety just takes over. 

I can be a little bit neurotic from time to time, but that’s just my personality type.

Don’t call me neurotic! You know I have a personality disorder. 

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Neurotic?

Here are some synonyms of the word neurotic that you might find in a thesaurus:

  • Compulsive
  • Manic
  • Obsessive
  • Hysteric
  • High strung
  • Distraught
  • Anxious
  • Psychoneurotic
  • Disturbed

What Are Antonyms of the Word Neurotic?

Here are some antonyms for the word neurotic:

  • Normal
  • Well-adjusted
  • Sane
  • Stable
  • Regular
  • Calm

The Word Neurotic

Now you know everything you need to know about the word neurotic, its definition, its history, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your writing and your conversation. Ig you need a refresher on this word, just come back to this article for the information that you need. 


Neurosis | APA Dictionary of Psychology 

NEUROTIC | Cambridge English Dictionary 

Neuroticism is a fundamental domain of personality with enormous public health implications | PubMed Central