What is obsessional neurosis?

neurosis obsesiva que es

Obsessive neurosis is a concept coined by Sigmund Freud, to define a disorder associated with psychological tensions, characterized by the presence of obsessive thoughts that trigger compulsive behaviors or that can lead people to actions that are not very beneficial for themselves or for their environment. . 

It should be noted that the DSM-IV Manual does not address obsessive neurosis as a psychopathological entity in itself , but it has delved into all the associated symptoms. 

Where does the concept obsessive neurosis come from?

One of the great theorists who has addressed the subject is the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freund, who also stated that we are all neurotics, from the sense in which, for the author, the neurotic structure stands out for a constituted “I” that enters in conflict with reality, with the demands of the “id” and mediated by the demands of the “superego”

Within the neurotic structure, obsessive neurosis is inserted as a psychic disorder, characterized by the presence of constant catastrophic thoughts, or that make the person who experiences them uncomfortable, causing certain rituals or repetitive behaviors to be created as a method to counteract the appearance of these thoughts , or ideas that generate in the subject. 

One of the theorists who studied the subject the most was the psychoanalyst Henry Ey , who used the term obsessive neurosis to refer to a disorder in which the person has difficulty controlling the level of compulsiveness of their feelings. 

The study of obsessive neuroses has evolved, and is currently located within anxiety disorders, particularly in the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) , which stands out for the appearance of obsessive ideas that generate anguish, anxiety and discomfort in the person who suffers from them, causing them to develop hobbies or compulsions to process irrational ideas. 

An example of this would be someone who feels that if they don’t check all the doors at home 3 times at night, something bad is going to happen. 

It should be noted that we can all have some rituals or behaviors that may resemble what is described in OCD, however, the point at which it is located as something pathological, is the presence of negative or catastrophic thoughts or feelings that affect the daily life of the person . person. 

Main features of obsessional neurosis

The characteristics of obsessive neurosis are different according to the psychic structure of the person, however, it must be taken into account that one of the most characteristic symptoms is the appearance of obsessive ideas or thoughts that manifest as follows:

Defense mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are habits or behaviors that a person develops to minimize the impact of obsessive thoughts or to try to control the sensation that they produce. For example, someone who feels that the world is a dirty or polluted place may develop compulsive hand washing as a defense mechanism, as a method of avoiding illness.

There are also situations in which these thoughts can seem more irrational, such as in the cases of rituals in which people must count all the tiles on the floor to feel comfortable in one place or light candles in each room of the house when it rains. , for fear that something catastrophic will happen in a storm.

These types of actions or habits make the person reduce their level of anguish in the face of irrational ideas, and from this line of meaning, they function as a kind of shield against these types of thoughts.

obsessive cognitions

Obsessive cognitions are what we popularly know as obsessive thoughts or intrusive thoughts that are loaded with negative emotions such as feelings of guilt, the need for verification or compulsions towards certain aspects such as cleaning.

Regarding this, it is important to highlight that, for example, in psychoanalytic therapy, it is not considered correct to call them “intrusive thoughts”, because it generates the feeling that it is something that comes from outside, however, within the framework of the process psychotherapeutic, it is necessary for the individual to assume that these thoughts come from himself, in the search of being able to process them adequately.

Linked to the above, it should be noted that it is okay to have certain verification behaviors in a moderate way, such as checking that the stove has been turned off or that the doors are properly closed, however, when this becomes something that generates a high dose of insecurity or anguish, you are already entering the field of mental disorders, specifically in relation to OCD or anxiety disorders.

sintomas neurosis obsesiva

Symptoms of obsessive neurosis

The symptoms of obsessive neurosis are diverse, taking into account that, as we mentioned before, neurosis as such is considered as one of the personality structures according to psychoanalysis . This means that neurosis itself has multiple features and not all of them are linked to the theme of obsession. 

However, as we are exploring the subject of obsessive neurosis, we will focus only on this aspect, and that is why we want to share with you some of the most representative symptoms of obsessive neurosis: 

  • Constant appearance of thoughts that generate feelings of anguish , fear, and guilt that generate anxiety in the person and that become difficult to control. 
  • The person tends to act impulsively , even if this is not what they really wanted to do. 
  • The person develops certain rituals or repetitive actions that have a symbolic background , such as ordering the objects on the desk in a certain way or even generating practices that in the eyes of others do not seem to make any apparent sense. 
  • The person tends to develop psychasthenia, which is a neurosis characterized by a feeling of strangeness in the world, the appearance of phobias and even intellectual and social inhibition. 
  • The person feels a recurring anguish for not being able to stop their obsessions.

In general terms, these are some of the signs that indicate that a person may have an obsessive neurosis. If this is your case or that of someone you know, it is best to look for tools that allow you to understand your situation or specialized help to alleviate the symptoms.  

What causes obsessive neurosis?

The appearance of obsessive neurosis has to do with multiple physical, psychological and sociocultural factors . Like most psychological conditions, this is determined by different aspects that influence the constitution of a person, both individually and by their relationship with the environment from early childhood. 

Below we will explore some of the causes of obsessive neurosis according to scientific postulates. 

Physical factors

It is suggested that the development of obsessive neurosis has to do with a neurochemical imbalance. According to different studies, there is a common factor in the appearance of this disorder, and it is a dysfunction in the orbito-fronto-caudate circuit. 

Likewise, it is suggested that obsessive neurosis may be related to the presence of anomalies in the striatum , which is a set of structures located at the subcortical level, responsible for the process of regulating automatic and intentional movements. This also produces an imbalance in the transmission of serotonin to the orbito-frontal region, which would facilitate the appearance of severe obsessive thoughts. 

Environmental factors

The context in which a person develops has a direct impact on their psychological structure, causing various symptoms to arise. 

In the case of obsessive neurosis, it is stated that people who have had experiences that were out of their control have a greater facility to develop obsessions. 

These situations must have a high traumatic potential, such as child abuse, family abandonment or living in broken homes. 

It is necessary to highlight that, in addition to the above, from psychoanalysis it is stated that obsessive neurosis can be generated due to the relationship that the subject has with desire.

Lacan argued that obsessive neurosis can sometimes arise from the relationship we have with others and, in turn, from the relationship we have with our own desires. From this line of meaning, the obsessive neurotic converts the other into a master who opposes the realization of his desire, even though this opposition is not something raised in reality. This translates into the fact that the obsessive person feels that he cannot give free rein to his desires, because the other prevents him from doing so, when in reality he himself is the one who creates a wall between himself and the realization of his desires, causing the drives to manifest themselves. through your symptoms. 

Genetic factors

It is also suggested that the origin of obsessional neurosis has a genetic component, in the sense that obsessive neurosis traits have been detected in members of the same family. 

The foregoing is still a hypothesis, taking into account that there may be a genetic component, or it may be due to the process of adaptation of the child to the family where he learns and replicates behaviors seen in his family circle, in this case associated with the traits of the family. obsessive neurosis. 

Trying to delve into the appearance of the symptoms for the first time can be somewhat difficult to locate, because if we speak in terms of structure, it is from early childhood that the person is exposed to certain stimuli that affect the development of their personality, approaching one or another structure. 

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How to treat an obsessive neurosis?

The treatment of obsessive neurosis can be done through different techniques or practices that help the person to understand and process their condition. 

Some of the things you can do to treat obsessional neurosis are: 


Taking into account that obsessive neurosis is generally related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and this in turn is the trigger for symptoms such as anxiety or depression, psychiatrists normally prescribe antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. 

However, it should be noted that for a psychiatrist to treat you, you must have already been diagnosed, and it is preferable to first resort to other types of treatments or strategies, taking into account the high impact that drugs can have on a person’s life. 


Psychotherapy is the most used treatment for the treatment of obsessive neurosis, the effectiveness of the intervention has been verified from different paradigms such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy. 

Psychotherapy is based on the use of the word to understand ourselves and to be able to process those symptoms or situations that are affecting our lives, from this sense, through the accompaniment of a professional you can understand the nature of obsessive thoughts and what things they may be masking. 

Coping strategies 

Another way of working with obsessive neuroses is the commitment of the person to alleviate their symptoms, this is evidenced in the will to know themselves and understand what they think or feel, and in the implementation of strategies that allow them to live better. 

We know that this can be difficult, and that is why there are tools such as the Psiconnea App , where you can evaluate your mental and emotional state, in order to know if you need professional support , or if you can work using the tools that it offers you. Psychonea to improve your mental health.

Psiconnea also provides you with personalized monitoring , and it works wonderfully considering that it combines Artificial Intelligence with psychological knowledge, in the search that all people can access strategies that allow them to take care of their body, mind and emotions and improve their quality of life. 

Finally, it is important to highlight that in many cases mixed treatments can be done , that is, use coping tools and strategies, receive psychotherapy and pharmacological treatment, but the latter will only be in cases in which the symptoms are pathologically affecting the people’s lives, and under professional supervision. 

We hope you have understood what obsessive neurosis means, what its characteristics are and how to process it, remember that mental health should always be your priority.