In this condition, a person experiences episodes of anxiety that vary from mild uneasiness to panic. Sometimes the episodes manifest themselves by physical signs such as sweating, dizziness, diarrhoea, difficulty in breathing, or a pain in the heart. The person may feel extremely tense and irritable, the way one normally feels when something dreadful is about to happen, except that the neurotic individual has no idea what the dreadful thing might be. This state is often associated with a fear of losing love.
These are divided into common phobias, or exaggerated fears of things most people are afraid of, such as death; and specific phobias, or fears of things that are not in themselves frightening.
Included in the almost endless list of phobias are: acrophobia, the fear of high places; agoraphobia, of open spaces; astrapophobia, of thunderstorms; claustrophobia, of enclosed spaces; kleptophobia, of stealing; monophobia, of being alone; and nyctophobia, of the dark.
This neurosis is expressed through a preoccupation with bodily functions or organs. The person is afraid of, or believes he suffers from, physical disease.
This differs from hypochondria in that it is expressed in a physical symptom or symptoms, which, although not real in one sense of the word, are certainly real to the person. Hysterical paralysis is one example. A soldier undergoing a severe conflict between his desire to be brave and his desire not to be killed finds his legs suddenly paralysed. He is not faking—he feels nothing when pins are stuck into his legs.
This causes people to perform actions without knowing why, or without wanting to perform them. The impulse stems from an idea or set of ideas that have no relationship in the person’s conscious mind. For example, a person always puts on a certain undergarment inside out.
It is not neurotic to be unhappy or depressed under certain circumstances—for example, when a beloved person dies or when there is a divorce or the loss of a job.
However, well-adjusted people ‘work through’ their grief and disappointments so that they can resume their activities and re-establish social contacts within a reasonably short period. But when poorly adjusted people suffer from neurotic depressions, they feel helpless; their low self-esteem convinces them they can never cope.
A number of women experience, to some degree, a pre-menstrual depression, a depression after childbirth, or menopausal melancholia.
Sometimes, parts of the memory and personality become separated from one another. When the person regains his self-awareness, he has forgotten what took place during his forgetful period.