A longitudinal study of neurotic disorder in the community showed that half the cases identified at first interview had remitted one month later. Remission was significantly related to four variables: recency of onset and of peak of the disorders, the occurrence of recent threatening life events and the occurrence of subsequent "neutralizing' life events. A neutralizing event was defined a priori as one which neutralized the impact of an earlier threatening life event or difficulty. One third of all remissions were caused by such an event. Remission of disorder was not significantly related to demographic variables, symptom severity, syndrome type, medical consultation or psychotropic drug prescription. The implications for neurotic disorder in the community are discussed, in particular its relation to life events and the favourable outcome in the absence of treatment.