Difference between Neurosis and Psychosis

There is more than one way to put mental disorders into distinct categories. One way is to divide all the disorders into neuroses and psychoses. In this article, we will see what the differences between these are.


Neurosis vs Psychosis
A facial expression while in the state of neurosis

Neuroses refer to the class of mental conditions that involve some sort of unwanted emotional state. These include anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, social phobia and social anxiety, et al.

The theory of neurosis was developed in its modern application by Sigmund Freud and Carl-Gustav Jung in their studies on psychoanalysis in the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays, professional psychiatrists do not use the term, as it is too vague, and prefer to describe a particular mental condition associated with a particular neurosis in other, more specialized terms.

movie “Psycho”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Psychotic transformations as represented by the famous character, Norman Bates (played by actor Anthony Perkins in the movie “Psycho”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1969)

Psychosis in general describes a mental state of an individual in which he or she experiences hallucinations and delusions. Psychotic episodes do not necessarily imply that an individual is mentally sick, as they can happen to anyone. When we are stressed, tired, feel dizzy, we can see things that aren’t there. In the case of the disorders that have psychosis among their symptoms, like schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder, hallucinations are repetitive and persistent, and false beliefs are firm.

Neurosis vs Psychosis

What is the difference between neurosis and psychosis?

Neurosis is a term that commonly refers to a group of mental disorders associated with abnormal behavior, but not associated with hallucinations and delusions. The latter are the symptoms often referred to under the common term “psychosis.”

People with neurosis almost always know the cause of their mental problem, but cannot cope with it. People with psychosis, on the other hand, at some point do not realize they show psychotic symptoms. Most patients with schizophrenia seriously believe that the voices they hear and the images they see are real.

Comparison chart

Neurosis Psychosis
Is associated with anxiety and phobia Is associated with hallucinations and delusions
Corresponding mental disorders include anxiety disorders, eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia), phobias, depression, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder Corresponding mental disorders include schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder, dissociative identity disorder
Neurotic people are more in touch with reality Can lead to lost contact with reality
Is rarely connected with organic changes inside the brain Can be caused by organic problems with the brain


In this video you can see a presentation on the nature of psychosis and neurosis that helps explain the differences between the two: