What is the treatment for neurosis


Sigmund Freud, who did not invent the term neurosis, but significantly coined it, attributed the cause of neuroses to early childhood conflicts. These conflicts include trauma, other critical life events (e.g. death, parental divorce) and disorders of sexual development. These lie dormant in the unconscious and, according to Freud, are the cause of the occurrence of the neurosis in which the unprocessed problem shifts to something else - this is how Freud reinterpreted the fear of snakes into fear of sexuality, since the snake resembles the male sexual organ.


The question of the cause of neuroses is answered completely differently in psychoanalysis than in psychiatry, since the elucidation of early childhood conflicts is not relevant from a medical point of view. Because of this, the two disciplines also differ greatly in the treatment of neurotic disorders.


While in psychoanalysis according to Sigmund Freud, early childhood conflicts are still treated as the cause of neurotic disorders, it is from the point of view of other theories (e.g. learning theory) learned misjudgments that lead to inappropriate reactions to one's own environment (e.g. fear of snakes). In general, it is the case with mental disorders that a predisposition for them can be inherited, but critical life events and the general ability to deal with stress also determine the actual occurrence of mental disorders.


Neuroses can express themselves in the form of the following mental symptoms:

  • fears
  • Constraints
  • Depressive moods
  • Alienation experiences (e.g. one no longer feels like oneself or the environment / situation does not feel real)
  • Hypochondria (fear of being or getting sick)


The physical symptoms relate to organ disorders (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, paralysis) that are not based on actual physical problems. Closely related to this is the concept of hysteria created at the time of Freud, in which physical disturbances also occur without organic cause.


Freud also defined character neuroses in which certain "neurotic" personality traits are in the foreground (e.g. self-glorification in the narcissistic character).


The common names for mental disorders and their equivalents from the theory of neuroses are given below:





Anxiety disorder

Anxiety neurosis

Anxiety that is not limited to specific situations, e.g. panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder.

Depersonalization and Derealization Syndrome / Alienation Syndrome

Neurotic depersonalization syndrome

Perception, feelings, body sensations and thoughts are not perceived as belonging to the self (depersonalization) or the environment is not properly perceived (derealization).

Dissociative disorder, conversion disorder

Hysterical neurosis (also: conversion reaction)

Physical symptoms (e.g. paralysis) occur due to emotional conflicts or perceptions, memories, ideas and feelings are not adapted to reality.


Depressive neurosis (also: neurotic depression)

Chronic depressive mood that is not so pronounced to be classified as a (mild to moderate) depressive disorder.

Hypochondriac disorder

Hypochondriac neurosis

Extreme concern about one's own health that comes with anxious introspection.

Phobic disorder


Fear of specific situations or objects, e.g. agoraphobia (fear of large spaces / crowds), social phobia, claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces).

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Recurring obsessions and compulsive actions, combined with fear of dire consequences if these are not pursued.


In addition, functional disorders of organs such as palpitations or diarrhea - which are perceived by those affected as a physical illness, but are in fact of psychological origin - were referred to as neuroses (e.g. cardiac neurosis, gastric neurosis). Today we speak of somatoform disorders or symptoms in this context.