NEUROTIC PERSONALITY

A pattern of personality traits which renders the individual susceptible to an actual or “symptomneurosis.The neurotic personality does not exhibit a specific pattern of symptoms, but shows tendencies which may (or may not) develop into one or another neurotic reaction type. The persistently tense, apprehensive, insecure person is prone to anxiety neurosis; the overly cautious, meticulous, orderly individual is more likely to develop an obsessive- compulsive reaction. Other individuals may have a tendency toward the fixed, irrational fears of the phobic patient, the chronic fatigue of an asthenic, or the bodily complaints that characterize conversion reaction.In addition to these special tendencies, neurotic personalities have a number of fairly common traits. Many of them are morally rigid and unable to recognize or give full expression to their sexual or hostile impulses. Their attitudes toward other people are usually ambivalent; they hold them at arm’s length even though they may crave closeness, or veer from co-operative to nonco-operative attitudes. They have an unstable concept of themselves and are therefore unsure of their goals, sometimes expecting too much, sometimes too little of themselves. They usually lead unsatisfactory or distorted sex lives. They are constantly at the mercy of feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, guilt, or anxiety, and make excessive use of defensive reactions, such as rationalizing away their shortcomings, displacing their anger or disappointment to others, or denying the reality of their problems.Some neurotic personalities remain fairly well stabilized; others develop outright neuroses with clearly defined symptom patterns. Still others can be characterized as borderline cases, since their neurotic traits and symptoms are not sufficiently disabling or clear-cut to constitute a full-blown neurosis.The transition from neurotic personality to neurosis cannot always be satisfactorily explained, but three types of precipitating factors often appear to be responsible. First, a sudden change in the individual’s life situation, such as a new job, a promotion, or parenthood, especially when the new situation exposes long-standing weaknesses, revives latent fears and conflicts, or puts too heavy a burden on faulty behavior patterns and defenses. Second, a single traumatic experience, or a prolonged series of stresses, that weakens his psychological defenses and brings his anxieties to the surface—for example, business failure, social ostracism, debilitating illness, or death of a loved one. Third,the slow corrosion that occurs when an individual gradually uses up his resources in overcoming feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or rejection. In such a case he may break down under the weight of the ordinary responsibilities and difficulties of life. Any one of these three factors may exploit the neurotic personality tendencies and lead to one or another type of symptom neurosis.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "NEUROTIC PERSONALITY," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/neurotic-personality/ (accessed November 12, 2019).
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