Personal or psychological conflict refers to a situation in which a person is motivated to engage in two or more mutually exclusive or incompatible activities. It occurs when the overt, verbal, symbolic, or emotional responses required to fulfill one motive are incompatible with those required to fulfill another. Social existence involves a great number of conflicts. The individual in society, subject to the pressures of the groups to which he belongs and the demands of the roles he must play, often experiences personal conflict. The entire process of the socialization of the child can be viewed as a conflict between the individual and society. Clinical studies show that the concept of conflict is particularly significant in the areas of personal adjustment and mental disorder.
Psychological conflicts are of central importance not only in neuroses but also in psychosomatic disease, sexual deviation and functional psychosis. Furthermore, they contribute to various forms of social pathology, such as marital, educational and vocational failure; delinquency, crime and prostitution; and alcoholism and drug addiction. Freud said that civilization itself is a product of the clash between the incompatible demands of biological urges and social conformity.
Psychological and behavioural conflict is not in itself an indication of mental or psychological dysfunction. Neither deviant behaviour, e.g. political, religious, or sexual, nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the individual herself is significantly distressed, disabled or suffers increased risk of death, pain, impairment, or an important loss of freedom. Reasonable or expected reaction to a particular event or social condition is not a psychological disorder.