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Neurotic and psychotic symptoms

Article outlining the difference between neurotic and psychotic symptoms
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

One reason why mental health issues are so difficult to define is that a person living with them may display many different symptoms.

A consequence of this is that symptoms have traditionally been divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms (Gofal 2018).

Neurotic symptoms Psychotic symptoms
These are symptoms that can be considered as extreme forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Conditions previously classified as ‘neuroses’ are now more often called ‘common mental health problems’. However, this does not always denote that they are any less severe than conditions with psychotic symptoms. These symptoms interfere with a person’s perception of reality and may include hallucinations, delusions or paranoia, with the person seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling or believing things that no one else does. Psychotic symptoms or ‘psychoses’ are often associated with ‘severe mental health problems’ (Gofal 2018).

It is important to remember that some illnesses feature both neurotic and psychotic symptoms.

The fact there is no clear dissimilarity between the symptoms of common and more severe mental health problems can create significant complexities when defining mental health issues, as this can differ wildly depending on the individual and the severity of their illness. There are also wider implications to consider that can alter how a person can be diagnosed such as cultural influences and the view of society.


Gofal (2018) ‘What is Mental Health?’ [Online] available from [12th November 2018]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Defining Mental Health: A Short Introduction

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