Basic Anxiety & Neurosis: Karen Horney's Theory

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  • 0:00 Karen Horney
  • 0:25 Neuroses
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Kinder
Explore Karen Horney's theories on the development of basic anxiety and neuroses. Learn about each neurotic need, further illustrated with some real life examples.

Karen Horney

Karen Horney was a psychoanalyst who researched theories about why people develop neuroses, or obsessive and excessive anxiety. She thought that neuroses appear when people manage basic anxiety by over-fulfilling an irrational need. Horney believed that basic anxiety is experienced when adults feel hopeless, isolated, or abandoned as a result of being raised by emotionally neglectful parents.


According to Horney, these neuroses grow out of an extreme need to feel loved and wanted. At one time or another, most people act on these insecurities to feel better about themselves. However, it becomes unhealthy when they strive to obsessively meet a few needs for self-protection, rather than all of them more evenly. For example, occasionally needing to hear reassurance that one is liked is healthy. Needing to hear this reassurance constantly is not healthy and would be the sign of a neurotic need.

The following is a list of neurotic needs that was developed by Horney:

Need for Affection and Approval

This need involves craving approval and acceptance from other people. It typically involves being eager to please and having a high sensitivity to criticism.

Here's an example: Libby needs everyone to like her. She sacrifices all her own needs to make everyone else happy. However, at the end of the day, she still feels exhausted and unappreciated.

Need for Over-Reliance on a Partner

This need involves an obsessive fear of being abandoned by a partner. One's life revolves around a partner and his or her decision making. One might even believe their partner will solve all of life's problems.

Example: Lisa is terrified Jon will eventually leave her. She constantly checks his phone to see if he is cheating on her. If he left her, she would be devastated. After all, she believes she is nothing without him.

Need for an Overly Restricted Life

This need involves living a modest and inconspicuous life by not drawing attention to oneself and undervaluing one's worth.

Example: Clark lives a simple life 60 miles out of town. He doesn't venture into town very often because he doesn't have many needs. He'd prefer to keep to himself and not bother anyone.

Need to Take Advantage of Others

This need involves seeking relationships based on what can be gained from them. This is someone who would easily exploit and manipulate others for personal gain.

Example: Jeff wants to get ahead in the company. He knows that his co-worker, Jim, is best friends with the boss. So, he starts asking Jim to join him for golfing outings. Like most of his relationships, Jeff feels lukewarm about Jim, but he knows Jim can further his career.

Need for Power

This need involves seeking fame, public recognition, and prestige. Conversely, public humiliation or loss of prestige is devastating.

Example: Jack loves to be in the spotlight. His goal is to be the owner of a Fortune 500 company and be on the cover of all of the successful business magazines. He gets an adrenaline rush thinking about all the people he will have power over and all the people who will cater to him when he gets to the top.

Need for Admiration

This need involves seeking the admiration of others and inflating one's own self worth and importance. They might even be called narcissistic, or believe they are better than everyone else.

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