In psychoanalysis, neurotic structure is a concept used to assess signs of distress.
The term structure allows us to study the subject of psychoanalytic psychopathology in a comprehensive and simple way.
Let us know that the symptoms, (which are the main reason for consultation when someone goes to a psychoanalyst), generally refer to one of several symptomatic structures, and that neurosis is one of them.
Thus, what is known as a “symptom” is a phenomenon that we could label as universal, that we all, at one time or another, experience subjectively and produce feelings of discomfort, in addition to being unpleasant and / or painful.
It should be noted that our “symptom” (which causes us discomfort) is easy to understand and / or identify for anyone, since it is a conscious experience of which we are aware. However, its effects (what we perceive based on our own subjectivity) are more intense when they are experienced by someone suffering from neurosis.
Symptom, syndrome and disorder
Let’s make a differentiation of the above taking as a parameter other pathological structures.
In the most severe clinical cases, such as psychoses, the symptoms are usually more strange and incomprehensible (unlike neurosis), due to the presence of severe sensory, perceptual and interpretive distortions on the part of the subject.
On the other hand, if several symptoms are grouped under a fixed and defined pattern, presenting themselves in the same way in different patients, then what we know as a “syndrome” (depressive, for example) is obtained. But if the patient’s condition is severe and his subjective discomfort considerably alters his mental balance, disturbing his normal functioning, this becomes a “disorder”.
Let us be clear that the individual way of adapting and defending ourselves against the demands of our reality will influence neuroses more than other pathological schemes.
From normality to neurosis
Let us remember that the separation between normality and neurosis or other mental disorders is not only a nosological problem (which describes, differentiates and classifies diseases), but also one of magnitude. That is, the differentiation between normality and discomfort depends both on the extent of the pathology and on the characteristics of a certain psychodynamic condition.
At this point (and based on the above), we can consider the term individual susceptibility, that is, psychic predisposition, as valid.
The structure of neurosis
The characteristics of a neurotic personality are identified by presenting an intense sensation of internal conflict, as well as a great difficulty in harmonizing impulses, desires, norms and awareness of reality, which we can translate as a life centered on anxiety and insecurity.
Furthermore, the configuration of a neurotic structure has its beginning in the events of the individual’s original affective relationship, in the way in which he handles his aggressiveness and sexuality, and also in his need for self-affirmation and self-evaluation.
On the other hand, the origin of a neurotic structure is highly related to the individual’s Oedipal fixations, which (by their very nature) give rise to various fears, guilt, doubts and anxieties in the face of various events considered stressful inherent to a relationship of couple, family conflicts or work difficulties.
As a consequence of the above, the individual with a neurotic structure develops a dependence on the affect and esteem that others can provide, regardless of the value they attribute to it or the importance they assign to the subject.
Neurosis and affectivity
As the desire for affection presented by the neurotic is practically voracious, he begins to experience continuous anguish, which translates (clinically) into emotional hypersensitivity, excessive demand for attention from others in addition to a permanent state of quite uncomfortable alertness.
But something curious contrasts at this point: the subject’s intense desire for affection is equal to his own ability to feel it and / or to offer it. Let us clarify that it is not uncommon to observe a propensity to hide the need for love under a mask of indifference or manifest contempt for others.
The cracks of self-esteem
Likewise, the experience of life lacking sufficient love as well as adequate narcissistic satisfaction, generates a constant feeling of inferiority and incompetence before others and, consequently, self-esteem is diminished.
Similarly, in the clinical setting it is not uncommon to find people of above-average intelligence presenting feelings of handicap and highly overrated ideas of stupidity, as well as people of great beauty, with ideas of ugliness, or of defects that they in no way believe that they will be able to overcome.
On the other hand, in a neurotic structure there is never a lack of compensatory attitudes on the part of the patient presented in the form of self-praise, constant boasting (about anything), explicit display of his economic capacity as well as of his power and influence within his social circle.
Mentions about trips made to various places, professional links and contacts, in addition to the general knowledge that the individual may have on a specific area, cannot be absent either.
In the same way, the neurotic patient comes to present personal inhibitions of all kinds as part of his particular neurotic structure. These inhibitions can be to express wishes, complaints, praise, give orders of any kind to others, make criticisms (both destructive and constructive) in addition to presenting a serious inability to establish relationships with other individuals.
These inhibitions are also for self-determination as a person, knowing clear concepts about their own ideals and ambitions, as well as collaborating in constructive work with sufficient autonomy.
Disinhibitions such as aggressive, intrusive, dominant, and highly demanding behaviors also occur. These people, being convinced that they are right, can command and order, deceive others, criticize or denigrate without measure or control. Or, on the contrary, in a projective way, they can manifest feeling cheated, trampled on or humiliated.
The role of anxiety in the neurotic structure
It is curious to know that, in clinical practice, many of the neurotics who consult only seem to complain of depression, a feeling of disability, various disturbances in their sexual life, a feeling of complete inability to function efficiently (or at least as they idealize) in his work, without noticing, obviously, an extremely important element: the presence of anguish, this being the basic (and main) symptom that is found in the depths of his neurotic structure.
It is possible, then, to maintain a buried and hidden anguish without knowing it, and of course, without being aware that this is a determining factor for its treatment and well-being.
Unlike the above, there are other individuals who, at the slightest indication of an anxious episode, react disproportionately, presenting feelings of total helplessness, especially if they associate ideas of weakness or cowardice with the difficulty of controlling themselves.
In general, no neurotic individual clearly identifies his distress, among other reasons, because the more threatened he feels, the less he will accept that something is wrong with him and (therefore) must be modified.
An indicator of pathological features
Let us know that the neurotic structure of a person is the prelude to all neurosis and the determinant of its pathological characteristics.
Although the symptoms usually vary from person to person or even completely absent, the treatment of the anguish is of great importance, since it contains the root of the conflict and concentrates its own psychological suffering.
Let us also remember that, among the symptoms of the different existing neuroses, the similarities between them are more important than the differences present. These differences lie in the mechanisms used to solve the problems. For their part, the similarities have to do with the content of the conflict and the disturbance of development.
Note: if you think you are suffering from a mental disorder, the first professional you should go to is your family doctor. He will be able to determine if the symptoms that triggered his warning lights are due to psychopathology, a medical condition, or both. If a psychological condition is finally diagnosed, the next step to take is to consult a mental health professional.