Jealousy is a complicated and common emotion experienced by humans which varies in forms and multitudes across relationships and cultures. It is defined as a “feeling of resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success or advantages” The definition indicates that the perception of a rival is essential for the emotion to exist; without taking into consideration if the rival actually exists in the perceived context. It is an emotion that could rise in families, in the workplace, in friendships and in romantic relationships.
The feeling of jealousy is often confused with envy; which is defined as “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”. Envy differs from jealousy in the sense that the former emotion is experienced when an individual wants something that another individual has; while the latter is an intense emotion expressed when an individual fears that something or someone might be taken away from that individual himself/herself.
Under certain circumstances, jealousy could become delusional and dangerous; particularly in relationships. Pathological jealousy; also known as morbid jealousy, delusional jealousy is an abnormal form of jealousy which often presents itself in the form of an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and arises in in real or imagined relationships.
Morbidly jealous individuals construct decisive evidence and refuse to change their views even when confronted with contradicting information, and are inclined to make untrue statements or allegations against an individual they perceive to be a rival in success, be it a career or relationship. This emotion stems from profound insecurities, feelings of being unloved and an anxious state of needing to be in control and to feel safe. The occurrence of this disorder could be linked to different variables which include addiction to alcoholic and non-alcoholic substances, organic brain disorders, schizophrenia, neurosis, personality disorders or any mental disorder, such as anxiety, depression or mania, which is characterized by abnormal disturbances of mood.
Some symptoms of pathological jealousy include.
· Accusations based on individual ideation.
· Questioning of the individual’s behaviour.
· Isolation of the partner/individual.
· Retaliating in pursuit of personal interests.
· Laying conditions in regards to contact with the individual’s work or social circle.
· Suffering from the lack of reassurance, low self esteem.
· Verbal and/or physical violence towards the the individual whom is considered to be the rival or both.
· Blaming the individual and establishing an excuse for jealous behavior.
· Denying the jealous behavior unless cornered.
· Overvaluing an idea, which is defined as “an acceptable, comprehensible idea pursued by the (jealous) patient beyond the bounds of reason. The idea is not resisted and, maintains the distress of the partner/individual”. Overvalued ideas are characterized by being existent in the jealous individual’s own thoughts, being egosyntonic; meaning that the ideas project the behaviors, values and feelings that are aligned with the desires and aims of the jealous individual’s ego or consistent with the jealous individual’s ideal self-image, the ideas are also amenable to reason but are not resisted.
A pathologically jealous individual establishes suspicions concerning the individual. As soon as the doubts are established symptoms of the disorder begin to emerge. In the eyes of the morbidly jealous person, the indicted “other” is presumed guilty until evidence of innocence is found. The evidence however does not materialize, and brave efforts to demonstrate innocence or challenge guilt fail since irrational preoccupations in the mind of the jealous person cannot be refuted rationally. Moreover, the accused’s rejection of culpability could incite rage and violence.
In order to assess the psychopathology, a full psychiatric history should be considered.
The assessment should include:
· The history of affective and psychotic disorders.
· The history of threatened and perpetrated violence.
· The quality of relationships.
· The constitution of the subject’s family and marriage/partnership.
· The full history of the individual’s relationships with others.