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Jealousy is a basic human feeling and is also common in animals that build social bonds. Our dog, which barks for attention when we stroke the cat, also shows this feeling. In moderation and more, in justified cases, jealousy can neither be avoided nor is it unhealthy. The underlying causes are the need for recognition, trust and commitment. However, if it is unfounded and / or takes on an excessive measure, a real jealousy can quickly arise, which in the end destroys any form of relationship.
If our partner broke our trust, for example through recurring lies, a secret sex affair with another person or through the fact that he obviously conceals parts of his life from us, jealousy is not harmful, but an important warning signal. The opposite would be naivety here.
Anyone who feels neglected when the partner shines as an entertainer at parties but ignores the wife is not yet overly jealous. Often these are misunderstandings that can best be resolved by talking to those affected. For example, a partner often does not understand that a situation in which he feels at home is foreign to the person opposite him. The partner appears to him now, who gets up silently at the party and disappears as a spoil-hunter, who “only ever nags”, to her the partner appears as someone who always shows himself at his best to others.
While talking in such situations helps and understanding for the perception of the other can clarify a lot, a relationship is poisoned if I secretly check my partner's cell phone, portray him as a fraud because he talks to a former fellow student about old times or agrees with him assume sexual interest if he smiles at the barmaid while paying in the cafe. If such jealousy increases, the relationship will be destroyed sooner or later. In the end, there is no alternative for the wrongly suspect to separate in order to escape hell.
Emotional and sexual jealousy
A recent study from Pennsylvania showed that "jealousy" does not exist, but that the specific expression depends on the form of the relationship that a person prefers. People with a strong need for closeness in the partnership are therefore particularly sensitive if they suspect emotional infidelity and can thus get into a form of jealousy in which they do not believe that the partner “really loves them”. If this form takes on excesses, they put their partners under increasing pressure, they build up distance to protect themselves, and the relationship gets into a destructive spiral.
However, those who value independence in the relationship are not afraid of emotional infidelity, they do not even see it in the same light as the partner who longs for closeness. He has no problem with it when the girlfriend or boyfriend goes to the cinema with others, has a different circle of friends, or is in clubs alone at night. On the contrary, he claims this for himself and sees it as a sign of a healthy relationship, in which the two “don't sit together”. However, sexual loyalty is often very important to such people.
From bad quality to delusion
Increased jealousy can turn into a delusion. The boundaries are fluid, but the difference is that heightened form still has an anchor in reality, while a delusional disease confirms itself and only integrates any external stimulus into the closed system of delusion.
A delusion pathologically distorts reality, and those affected hold onto their distorted vision with absolute conviction, even if their perception is contrary to objective reality, their own life experience and the judgment of friends and acquaintances.
Insane people often refuse to review their judgments at all. They do not need and do not want a reason and often look contemptuously down on those who have not understood "the truth". "It is so," and anyone who doubts it for the best reason is considered either stupid or a liar to the delusional.
Those affected relate external processes to themselves, even natural phenomena such as rain or sunshine, but also conversations, the subject of which is completely different, looks or scraps of words, texts on billboards, quotes on television shows etc.
This is what jealousy of jealousy has in common with delusions of grandeur, descent of descent or conspiracy - in fact, some people affected generally suffer from delusions. These patients not only believe that their partner has sex with others behind their backs; They also think, for example, that bad powers want to poison them with cell phone rays, that they are an unrecognized genius that dark envy would deprive them of their place in the sun, etc.
Jealousy and sex addiction
"A jealous guy is worse than a great dog." Karel Capek
Morbidly jealous often do not themselves meet the demands they place on their partner - and this contradiction becomes pathological when it is no longer a matter of calculus or consciously selfish behavior.
For example, some of those affected are notorious apron hunters themselves or correspond to what was called “man-mad” in earlier times. You have to constantly confirm yourself through sexual achievements, which can include sexual assault. They usually brag about their sexual conquests.
At the same time, however, they are extremely controlling with their respective partners; they can't stand it if they even look at another man or woman. This also has to do with pathological forms of projection. Often they really do not understand that they are subordinating their own behavior to the partner.
While the relationship partner may be sitting alone in front of the television in the evening, while the possessing counterpart has drunk sex with a stranger in the pub toilet, he rings the bell an hour later and showered her with reproaches.
While he's just enjoying a 20-year-old and meets his girlfriend at a garden party, he goes completely nuts when she tells him that she doesn't want to ride his bike home because he's drunk. She roars, she only wants to jump into bed with (...).
Sometimes the delusional now projects his own behavior onto the partner, the less her behavior corresponds to his allegations. This is no coincidence: it dawns on him that the more stable she is - the less her balanced behavior corresponds to her delusion, the farther away she will be and finally separate.
Promiscuity and pathological jealousy are not opposites: the delusional man needs sexual conquests to prove his sexual worth, which he doubts. For the same reason, he fears that his (steady) partner has sex with others - because he considers himself insufficient. The paradox between the accusation of sexual loyalty of the partner and their own promiscuity fits together in the delusion.
Sooner or later, every mentally healthy person will break free from such a relationship. However, the patient only begins a new spiral of possessive conquests, sexual self-affirmation and broken relationships. He is jealous precisely because he feels deeply lonely himself, and the closeness that could end this loneliness makes his attacks impossible.
In fact, a jealousy of delusion is often based on a basic illness. For example, it is typical of alcoholism, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, the borderline symptom and narcissistic disorders and sometimes occurs together with anxiety disorders and psychosomatic disorders. Hypochondria, Munchausen syndrome, or dissociative personality disorder are also often associated with pathological jealousy.
What makes jealousy crazy?
The victim is convinced that his partner is cheating or cheating on him, even if all the evidence speaks against it. On the contrary: if the partner gives no real reason to be suspicious, the delusional sees this as proof that the partner is disguising his behavior.
Even if friends, acquaintances and relatives do well to convince the jealous that they have not seen the slightest sign that his guess is justified, he remains with his conviction. Jealousy craze even turns into a conspiracy craze: Anyone who tries to talk the victim out of his madness “is under the same roof with his partner”.
It is not harmless spinning. People who are delusionally convinced of their partner's infidelity become aggressive towards him, and rarely towards the supposed rival. That lasts until the murder - then we speak of intimicide.
How does pathological jealousy develop?
Jealousy arises from your own needs and only apparently from the behavior of others. There are many causes, but in the case of an increase there are usually three problems: First, those affected measure their value by how much others love them, take care of them, admire them - but have problems giving love themselves.
This often goes hand in hand with a narcissistic disorder, i.e. a false self that is sustained by the admiration of others. Such people feel worthless if they don't get someone else's attention and affection. Secondly, there are self-doubts, the feeling of not being lovable, and thirdly, a sense of ownership, in which the partner becomes personal property and the ego is expanded and unstable.
The drama about it is that people with such a mind psyche destroy what they long for, namely, attention and love in a positive sense from someone else, by their own behavior. Trust is part of love, and jealousies attack it through their controlling behavior.
How is someone supposed to open up to a partner, give them love when they are spying on them, how is someone supposed to give their partner security by bonding if at best they distance themselves through constant accusations.
Poison to the relationship
In fact, the morbid conviction of the partner's infidelity kills any healthy relationship in the long run, unless the affected person gets into a masochistic partner who is sensitive to such psychological terror. Mentally stable people react permanently to the mental prison in which the jealousy locks them up with separation: At some point they look for a partner who gives them the vital freedom. Or, consequently, they really go into an affair to compensate for the constant stress. As a result, the person concerned feels confirmed.
People who suffer from pathological jealousy have often had exactly this experience in relationships over and over again without learning. This is not because they are generally not capable of learning, but because their delusional system is so self-contained that they cannot get out of this mental prison themselves.
Affected persons can even be attractive at the beginning of relationships with sexual partners because the fresh relationship partner does not yet understand the boundary between attention and surveillance. First of all, the jealous appears to be the opposite of indifference.
Especially people who have relationships behind them, in which the partner did not care whether they sleep with someone else, go out with someone else, often have the feeling that the partner does not care whether they are in a relationship at all or not. The jealous now gives the partner the feeling of being needed. He craves attention, and some people are only too happy to give this attention at the beginning of a relationship.
What to do about jealousy?
If jealousy has not yet adopted delusional features, you can get it under control. However, this requires that the person concerned develops awareness of the problem.
First of all, he has to realize that, firstly, his jealousy has nothing to do with the partner and secondly, it is not love. It is not about the other, but about the person concerned, and they must now face their fear of being abandoned or not worth anything.
Then those affected must begin to accept themselves and accept them as lovable people. This is a long process because the roots of the lack of self-esteem usually lie in childhood.
It is also about doing something yourself. Jealousy depend heavily on their partner, and when they become dependent, they blame their partner. In fact, they think their partner and other people are more attractive, more interesting, and generally better than themselves.
The best way to change this lack of self-esteem is through personal experience. Those who maintain their own social contacts, pursue their own interests and meet their own friends become more independent. But if you feel more independent, you have less to lose. His fear that the partner will leave him disappears because he could live well without a partner. This slowly changes the relationship itself to the positive. Your own activities bring the relationship back to life.
Jealousy itself is a basic feeling, whether we like it or not, just like anger, sadness or joy. Certain risk factors can make them insane. In addition to the feeling of inferiority, this includes a depressed mood, pathological consumption behavior, alcohol abuse and the abuse of other substances, whereby psychoactive drugs in particular can distort perception.
Abuse of trust
An important psychological factor is real abuse of trust in past relationships. Those who have been lied to and betrayed by their partner find it difficult to get involved with someone again. He expects the new partner to cheat on him again and looks for secret signs. However, it is one of the basic psychological wisdom that people with such relationship patterns actually come back to fraudulent partners, while they quickly scare away honest partners through their jealousy.
There is a tragic psycho-logic behind it: the fraudsters find it easy to deal with jealousy, even if it becomes pathological. In contrast to the honest partner, he always comes up with a lie to appease the person concerned - and hardly anyone is as easy to manipulate as someone who suffers from a delusion.
However, the honest suspect initially gets on the wrong assumptions, when he develops deep feelings in the relationship, he increasingly suffers from tyrannical behavior, sooner or later he will no longer play his role as an unjustly accused person, precisely because he is not wrong did.
If, however, the old experience of abuse of trust has turned into a delusion, the person concerned will no longer be able to understand that there are other reasons this time when the new and honest partner leaves him. Rather, he now feels confirmed that "they are all the same".
A trigger for pathological jealousy can also be latent or repressed homosexuality. Whether man or woman, those affected now experience extreme fear of loss when friends or girlfriends for whom the friendship has no sexual component enter into sexual relationships.
Since those affected are not aware of their sexual attraction, they try to rationalize their jealousy. The new partner "you are not doing well", "I want to protect him from being exploited" are common suggestions. This delusion is particularly dangerous. Those affected just split off that it is (sexual-intimate) jealousy. There is no reason to be jealous because the friend from the sandpit has finally found his great love.
But the bond with this friend, with this friend, had previously had libidinal features. Not only sexual partners of the opposite sex, but also friendships of the object of desire to people of the same sex can now trigger dangerous actions.
For example, jealousy dramas are known in which the perpetrator seriously injured a friend after the perpetrator had spent a long time abroad and, when he returned, another man had apparently accepted the position of best friend and said after the crime: “I love him, you don't understand. "
Delusion is almost always based on a superordinate phenomenon, and delusional behavior can only be changed if this cause is dealt with. Often, however, a framework of behavioral disorders builds up over the original diseases, which has to be removed piece by piece.
The pathologically jealous, for example, also comes into conflict with the police because he is constantly involved in fights, lacks impulse control and has an authority problem; he scratches his arms and stages pseudosuicide attempts to draw attention to himself. He is addicted to drugs and suffers from obsessions, he collects psychosomatic illnesses.
The fear of loss does not fall from the sky. Those affected have often experienced loss, often they are orphans who are constantly looking for loving parents who they never had and can never have. Others were sexually abused as children by father or mother, and this sexual and abuse of trust, especially of the caregivers, without whom they could not live, has an impact on their further relationship patterns.
But it doesn't have to be sexual abuse - neglect works like poison. Anyone neglected as a child expects this neglect again and again in later life and fears it at the same time. If the partner now goes out alone or spends a weekend with the parents without the “neglected child”, the old feeling is there again - the helplessness. Controlling the partner, locking them up in a cage, now offers the pathological certainty that they will not go away like mother or father.
An extremely jealous person is above all a person who cannot deal with closeness because he has not had the positive experience of closeness as a child.
How do pathologically jealous people behave?
For people suffering from pathological jealousy, this displaces hobbies, work, friendships and social contacts. As strange as it sounds, the conviction of the partner's infidelity also displaces the relationship itself: The person concerned no longer perceives the real relationship at all.
Instead of worrying about what he and his partner could cook together, where they want to go on vacation, what there is in the cinema or even just washing the dishes together, disappears behind the craze. For the sick, jealousy becomes the alcoholic's alcohol. This is exactly what characterizes an addiction.
Are you at risk?
You can check for yourself if you develop pathological jealousy:
1) Read your partner's SMS when he is not there; do you search his personal belongings for supposed evidence?
2) Do you interpret your partner's behavior as evidence of infidelity without a reason?
3) Do you secretly check what your partner is doing when he's alone?
4) Do you ask acquaintances, friends and relatives about what your partner is doing when you are not there? Do you notice that this is not curiosity, but distrust?
5) Do you assume that your partner is unfaithful, will you fail?
6) Do you control your partner with calls, SMS, or emails? Do you insult him when he chats with other people on Facebook or Instagram?
7) Don't you believe your partner when he tells what he did at work, on the way home or before breakfast?
Is that mostly true of them? Then a consultation with a psychotherapist or psychologist on a jealousy consultation is recommended. Here you can find causes, backgrounds and possible solutions for your behavior.
If your jealousy is not pathological, after the first step, awareness of the problem, you can get out of the stressful patterns relatively easily.
However, if it turns out that the cause is a psychiatric illness, make sure that it is passed on to special therapists.
Jealousy can kill. The reason for this is simple: the main cause of acts of violence are insults. Offended rulers slaughtered entire peoples, insults were the trigger behind many wars.
Without psychologizing the deeper economic causes, this played a role even in the First World War: his British relatives always considered Kaiser Wilhelm II to be from above. The build-up of the German fleet in the years before 1914 was also due to this deep feeling of inferiority.
In relationships, however, nothing hurts as much as the withdrawal of love. Anyone who has not experienced unconditional love as a child and rightly or wrongly feels unloved in later relationships will develop feelings of revenge towards the partner in the worst case.
The murderous thing about the jealousy craze now lies in the basic feeling: If I can't have her or him, then no one else. So grotesque it sounds. If the person concerned destroys what he believes to love, he apparently regains lost control - which he never actually had, however.
Only in very few cases does jealousy lead to murder, but the victims often harass former partners for many years when they have a new relationship. They are well aware that the old relationship is over, but they cannot change their behavior.
They lie in wait for their ex-partner, they collect information about the ex-girlfriend that is useless in every respect, they meticulously collect every detail about life in the new relationship without it having any objective meaning.
If the “success” sets in, they do not win the partner back, but they have nevertheless managed to destroy the new relationship.
Incidentally, the jealousy of people who have had no experience of love and closeness need not only refer to the current or past partner. This is exactly how they try to disrupt people's relationships in their social environment.
Be it the buddy you are jealous of because he is considered a crush of women whom you put in a bad light with potential sexual partners; be it your best friend, who advises you on the most unattractive clothes in order to shine next to her.
Conflicts in the relationship
Increased jealousy in a relationship can also lead to harmful patterns from both partners. While the person concerned is watching the partner at every turn, the monitored person avoids anything that could raise suspicion and is thus exposed to ever increasing pressure. Even more: In order not to disturb his partner, he hides things where there is nothing to hide.
For example, he meets his former boss without any ulterior motives. Since the partner could understand this as a sexual approach, he meets secretly. If the partner can find out now, she sees herself confirmed, because obviously he has reason to hide the meeting.
Both partners are in demand. The jealous usually assumes that the other person only has to behave "correctly" and everything would be fine. But it is he himself who can break open his prison of thought.
A diary can help here, for example, in which he / she honestly writes about his / her feelings and discusses them with the partner. It is important for the partner to show that he / she takes these feelings seriously, even if they have nothing to do with the specific behavior of the object of jealousy.
For those affected themselves, mindfulness is now in the foreground: What do I feel? When have I ever felt that? At six at New Year's Eve, when I was alone in bed and was sad that nobody was hugging me? Write down when you feel special jealousy and when you don't. What are the triggers?
You can also take behavioral therapy. Jealousy is behavior, and behavior can only be changed if you want to change it, and especially if you know which behavior to change. Highly jealous people reject responsibility, and an important step is to take it on.
So instead of saying to the partner you just insulted publicly because he was with a buddy in the zoo: "You provoked that", it is necessary to admit that there is no justification for your own behavior - only after You will find explanations for this admission.
Absolute openness is necessary, especially for relationships that are poisoned as a result of fear of losing one's partner's love. This means that the partners agree to talk about what actually happened after jealousy dramas at a “neutral” time.
The attacked partner should neither resist the attacks nor give in small. It is better to go for a walk and say "we'll talk about it when you calmed down" and then do it.
During the conversations, nothing should be kept secret from the person concerned, however difficult it is. The jealous should force himself to listen. Incidentally, concentration exercises such as yoga help with this. He should focus on what the other is saying and not on what is going on in his own head.
The attacked person would do well to forgive the jealous. This does not mean to present the behavior as correct, but to show that he understands the partner's fears. Allegations of how much jealousy strains the relationship bring nothing.
Alcoholism and jealousy
Chronic alcoholics sometimes develop a delusion of being cheated by their partner (and their fellow human beings). This goes hand in hand with general feelings of inferiority, which the knowledge of one's own addiction entails. Delusion of jealousy and persecution are closely intertwined in alcoholics. This can lead to homicide offenses, especially in an alcoholic state. Such a delusion affects almost exclusively men.
There is nothing to clarify for a partner here. He can only say goodbye to the relationship or move away from his partner until he has absolutely abstained from alcohol. Intimate conversations, which can otherwise change a relationship into a joyful experience with increased jealousy, are not only out of place here, but potentially a dangerous eyewash.
It doesn't matter what the patient promises when he's sober. It is a ticking time bomb with no control. The next frenzy can be the last for the partner. Alcohol withdrawal can support psychotherapy or highly potent antipsychotics. Even with absolute alcohol withdrawal, the jealousy craze in this disease only disappears very slowly or not at all. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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ICD codes for this disease: F22ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.