Almost everybody may undergo a neurotic reaction if under a sufficient degree of stress, but those of sensitive or insecure personality have a lower threshold for developing neurotic symptoms. There is therefore an overlap between anxiety disorder and personality disorder; the main distinguishing feature is the specific starting point in time of an anxiety disorder, whereas a personality disorder is permanently present. Chronic neurotic symptoms can come to be seen as an anxious (so-called 'avoidant') personality disorder or a dependent personality disorder.

Sometimes, a neurotic disorder is clearly an exaggeration of aspects of the patient's personality; for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder often develops in those with obsessional characters.

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