Difference Between Psychosis and Neurosis

Main Difference – Psychosis vs Neurosis

According to World health organization (WHO), mental health is defined as a “state of subjective well-being, self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of individual capabilities and emotional fitness, when dealt with the society”. When an individual’s mental health is disrupted due to some reason, it may result in a mental illness, which will eventually proceed into a state that interferes with day to day life, ultimately regressing the quality of life. However, there are various types of mental illnesses, identified among the general population, and the most common ones include Psychosis and Neurosis (based on the touch with reality). Psychosis and Neurosis completely differ from each other in the aspects of pathology, symptoms, treatments and prognosis. However, the two terms, Psychosis and Neurosis, are often used interchangeably even by professionals due to many common features they share, but it is important to identify how they differ from each other, in order to make an accurate diagnosis. The main difference between psychosis and neurosis is that Neurosis is a mild mental disorder in contrast to Psychosis.Difference Between Psychosis and Neurosis - infographic

What is Psychosis

Psychosis is a major symptom, seen in most of the serious mental disorders, characterized by the gross disruption of emotional and mental components of an individual’s personality, resulting in loss of touch with the reality. Even though the exact etiology for psychosis to occur has not been identified yet, brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, stroke, and infections like HIV and syphilis are supposed to be playing a major role in its pathology. Psychosis can also be triggered by alcohol and drug use which mainly contains Cocaine or Methamphetamine.

Psychosis is usually associated with hallucinations (sensory disturbances in the absence of any external stimulus), delusions (strong yet a false belief held in contrast to actual evidence), loss of motivation, distractions, loss of focus, suspiciousness, anxiety, disturbances of sleep and social isolation.

Psychotic people will often indicate gross distortion of the usage of language, with incoherent speech and grammatically incorrect phrases. The main reason for this type of an unusual presentation is known to be the delusions and hallucinations they experience, which make a bizarre impact on thoughts and emotions.

Few of the major psychiatric conditions which carry psychosis as a key feature include bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, psychotic depression, and Schizophrenia

This condition, however, can be frightening and dangerous where an affected person may even try to self-harm or make suicidal actions. Therefore, it is advised to seek immediate medical help as soon as the unusual features are obvious and notable.

Main Difference - Psychosis vs Neurosis

What is Neurosis

Neurosis is defined as an exaggerated presentation of defense mechanisms in order to escape from potentially harmful feelings, situations or people which may not be truly dangerous. Affected individuals may feel highly anxious and scared in their subconscious levels or even go through panic attacks because of the unusual fear experienced on certain occasions. Anxiety neurosis, depression, eating disorders (Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa), Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias are some of the main types of neurosis, commonly seen among the general population. These can be completely harmless for some people, but medical attention should be considered if there is a considerable impact on the quality of life caused by the interference on a day to day activities.

Difference Between Psychosis and Neurosis

Difference Between Psychosis and Neurosis


Psychosis: Psychosis is defined as a major personality disorder which disrupts one’s emotional and mental aspects of life.

Neurosis: Neurosis refers to a constant struggle between an individual’s personality and his patterns of behavior in a stressful condition, often associated with physical and mental disturbances .

According to most non-medical people, Neurosis is a mild mental disorder in contrast to Psychosis, which is none other than complete insanity or madness.

Effect on Personality

Psychosis: Those with Psychosis has a complete alteration of their personality with a considerable impairment or loss of insight.

Neurosis: In patients with Neurosis, only a part of their personality has been affected by the condition along with a mild loss of insight.


Psychosis: Psychotic patients often lose their touch with the reality with an absolute distortion of it which may even require hospitalization. They also have this characteristic feature of not accepting the fact that they have a problem.

Neurosis: Neurotic patients know that they have been affected by a certain illness, so only a small external support will help them to overcome their condition.


Psychosis: Psychotics need medications like antipsychotics which mainly act on their behavior, thoughts, and emotions.

Neurosis: Neurotics may only require counseling, behavioral therapy and supportive measures to control their symptoms.

Even though the two conditions completely differ from each other in the aspects of pathology, symptoms, treatments and prognosis, studies have shown that about 4-7% of people affected by Neurosis will become psychotics later in their lives.

Image Courtesy:

“Attitudes Passionnelles XXVI”  – Images of hysterics under hypnosis at Salpêtrière, from D.M. Bourneville and P. Régnard ( Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

“Phobia” by JD (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music