Definition of neurosis in English:



  • 1A relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviour, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.

    Compare with psychosis
    • ‘Freud presented the world of phantasy as a ‘storehouse’ that the patient can draw on to feed both his neurosis and his psychosis.’
    • ‘The Home Office has found that 90 per cent of prisoners suffer at least one of five mental disorders: psychosis, severe neurosis, drug dependency, alcoholism or personality disorders.’
    • ‘There are other conditions which may cause a malfunctioning of the mind which, while they may have an organic cause, are not neuroses or psychoses, for example, epilepsy or hyperglycaemia arising from diabetes.’
    • ‘Borderline Personality Disorder was described only 30 years ago and it was so named because it was thought to be at the border between psychosis and neurosis.’
    • ‘These substitutions are sometimes viewed as part of a neurosis or psychosis.’
    mental illness, mental disorder, psychological disorder, mental disturbance, mental derangement, mental instability, psychological maladjustment, psychoneurosis, psychopathy
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (in nontechnical use) excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession.
      ‘apprehension over mounting debt has created a collective neurosis in the business world’
      • ‘Why not write a book in praise of the obsession, celebrating the neurosis at the heart of all literature?’
      • ‘It's a hefty task, seeing as each of her children is manoeuvring their way through a litany of oddball obsessions and neuroses.’
      • ‘So what made this scene so powerfully articulate ‘collective neuroses and fears’?’
      • ‘We need a disposal service for our collective neuroses, something to clear away the rubbish of our self-regard and pomposity.’
      • ‘OK, so I'm a quivering bundle of irrational neuroses, but that's not the point.’


Mid 18th century: modern Latin, from neuro- ‘of nerves’+ -osis.