Emotions drive behaviors, some of which can be productive, but many of which can be negative and interfere with daily functioning. For example, feeling anxious about the future can be positive if it spurs you on to study hard in school, to work hard in your career, and to make a good living and feel financially secure. However, too much fear about the future can create internal panic that leads you to spend too much time worrying and being unproductive.
For many people struggling with emotional issues, a support group can be invaluable. Having a safe place with caring, nonjudgmental people who can relate to your struggles with emotional issues provides great relief and community. Behavioral health treatment focuses on the various problems brought about by emotional issues, such as anxiety, loneliness, anger, grief, and depression.
Emotions Anonymous is one such support group that was originally part of a 12-step group called Neurotics Anonymous. Formed in 1966 in St. Paul, Minnesota, by a woman named Marion Flesch who had suffered for years with panic and other emotional issues, the group began after Flesch was inspired by a newspaper article suggesting a 12-step recovery model for emotional issues. With the help of members of Alcoholics Anonymous to structure the group, Neurotics Anonymous meetings began.
However, over several years, a faction within the group began to disagree with certain issues within Neurotics Anonymous, and the two groups split in 1971. Emotions Anonymous published by-laws and elected officers to become a separate group, and eventually, Neurotics Anonymous disbanded and is no longer a recognized 12-step group.1
BEHAVIORAL HEALTHBehavioral health refers to a person’s state of being and how their behaviors and choices affect their overall health and wellness. Behavioral health disorders are illnesses that are precipitated or perpetuated by your conscious decisions and which you are unable to resist the urge to repeat, despite negative consequences. Changing your addictive behaviors directly influences your life, then, by lessening or removing the symptoms of the behavioral addiction. Read More
The Evolution of the Concept of “Neurotic”
Neurotic is a term that is no longer used by the majority of behavioral health professionals. Neuroticism, neurotic anxiety, and other related terms came about when psychoanalytic theorists needed terms to explain the internal processes of the human mind. Psychologist Carl Jung believed that neurotic people suffered from a conflict between the internal processes of their unconscious minds and their egos and this conflict led to what he called neuroticism.2
People use to be described as neurotic when they behaved self-critically, anxiously, or had reactions dramatically out of proportion to their situation.3,4 Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud first made the term neurotic popular and coined anxiety neurosis to describe a mental disorder that resulted in extreme anxiety.5
Even though the term neurotic has formally left the behavioral health parlance, the general population still uses this word a good deal. Many people describe themselves and others as neurotic or may joke about exhibiting symptoms of worry, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder as a sign of being neurotic. For example, someone who washes their hands frequently, doesn’t like to use public bathrooms, or is fastidious about keeping their house neat, may jokingly say that they are neurotic.
Freud used psychoanalysis as the primary treatment for neurosis. A long-term form of therapy that typically lasts years, psychoanalysis lives in popular consciousness as the stereotype of the patient lying on the couch while the psychoanalyst asks them about their mother. Once very popular, psychoanalysis fell out of favor with the behavioral health community as it moved away from the view that mental health issues resulted from unseen and dynamic internal processes of the mind, and toward the model of behaviors being shaped by the external environment and behavioral mechanisms. In 1980, the term neurotic finally disappeared from formal literature within the mental health community with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM III).6
Moving into the Future
When the mental health community stopped using terms such as neurosis, neurotic, and neurotic anxiety, some clinicians were unsure how to describe these conditions. Over time, behavioral health professionals began to use such terms as:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Panic disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Acute stress disorder.
- Adjustment disorders.
Today, the most commonly used approach to treat mental health issues is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on replacing ineffective and distorted thoughts that tend to result in negative reactions to situations. By changing faulty thoughts and learning new ways to cope effectively with stressors, you can effectively manage distressing feelings.
This approach also acknowledges and emphasizes the physiological reactions of people and how these processes—such as a rapid heartbeat and feelings of nausea or fainting—are also part of the puzzle in managing the symptoms of various mental illnesses.7 Thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and motivations are all intertwined and influenced by various biopsychosocial factors that affect and maintain these reactions.
One common theme between the old-style psychoanalytic approach to the so-called neurotic behaviors and the newer, modern approaches of CBT is the importance of the relationship between the patient and the clinician. The need for an empathetic, nurturing person to guide someone through treating an emotional disorder is essential, regardless of the approach.7
Treating Emotional Issues
Many people find the support group approach to be helpful in managing their emotions, thoughts, and resulting reactions.There are thousands of treatment programs for emotional disorders, both inpatient and outpatient, but most people with a mental health diagnosis attend outpatient treatment. The specific approaches to treating anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress vary depending on the symptoms present, but the basic set of interventions designed to address thinking patterns and reactions to the environment are similar.
Many people find the support group approach to be helpful in managing their emotions, thoughts, and resulting reactions. Emotions Anonymous serves this purpose in chapters throughout the United States, as well as online in chat rooms and via Skype for members who may not be able to attend meetings in person.
The group does not provide counseling, medication, or clinical treatment; rather, it focuses on the common themes of controlling emotional responses and reaching emotional wellness through the 12-step approach. The group members’ common experiences enable them to share with and learn from one another and provide support throughout the process.
If you’re uncertain that a support group is right for you, Emotions Anonymous asks the following questions to consider when deciding if it’s for you:8
- Do you often feel nervous, tense, or bored?
- Do ordinary situations often frighten you?
- Do you often suffer from indigestion or frequent headaches?
- Do you have trouble sleeping or sleep too much?
- Do you experience mood swings?
- Do you eat when not hungry or have little interest in food?
- Do you often feel sad or cry for no apparent reason?
- Do your feelings get hurt easily?
- Do you often have difficulty making decisions?
- Do you feel indifferent about most things?
- Do you often feel guilty, even when you have no good reason for it?
- Are you often preoccupied with yourself and your problems and find it hard to concentrate?
- Have you lost interest in things you once enjoyed?
- Is there no humor in your life? Is nothing funny to you anymore?
- Do you feel you are a useless person?
- Have you ever considered suicide?
- Do you feel tired much of the time?
- Do you often feel that everyone is out to get you?
- Do you often feel different and alone?
- Do you often feel like a failure?
- Do you often find that nothing anyone else does or says is acceptable to you?
- Are you often irritable and perhaps abusive to those you love?
- Do you often use alcohol, food, pills, work, or television to escape your feelings?
- Have you lost hope that your life can ever be different?
Emotions Anonymous notes that “yes” answers can indicate emotional problems that could benefit from participation. Each person is different, however, and some may answer “yes” to only 1 or 2 questions, while others may find that many of these questions apply.
Emotions Anonymous is not a substitute for mental health treatment for people who are suffering with serious emotional issues, but the group can be a useful adjunct to formal treatment.
- Emotions Anonymous. (2016). Our History.
- Jung, C.G. (1967). Two Essays on Analytical Psychology: Collected Works. Volume 7. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
- McCrae, R.R. & Costa P.T. (2002). Personality in Adulthood: A Five-Factor Theory Perspective. New York: Guilford Press.
- Watson D., Clark, L.A. & Harkness, A.R. (1994). Structures of Personality and Their Relevance to Psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 18–31.
- Freud, S. (1920). A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York: Boni and Liveright.
- Mayes, R. & Horwitz, A. V. (2005). DSM‐III and the Revolution in the Classification of Mental Illness.Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 41(3), 249–267.
- Meichenbaum, D., Carlson, J. & Kjos, D. (2001). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Allyn and Bacon.
- Emotions Anonymous (2008). Hope for a Better Life.