Pathological Jealousy: When Jealousy Goes to a Dangerous Extreme

November 5, 2016

We all feel jealous from time to time. In fact, it is a normal reaction to the sensation that a highly prized relationship is being threatened. Healthy jealousy tells our family members, partners, and friends, “You are important to me and I would never want anything bad to happen to our relationship.”

However, just as there is normal and healthy jealousy, there is also excessive or obsessive jealousy. This disorder is called Pathological Jealousy.

“Jealousy is the most extreme expression of our own insecurity.”

How can we know if what we have is pathological jealousy?

Most cases of pathological jealousy are seen between husband and wife or romantic partners. A pathologically jealous person hangs on to the delirious idea that their partner is being unfaithful to them without caring if there is any evidence to support this conclusion. A person suffering from pathological jealousy believes they are their partner’s master and they are obsessed with watching over, following, and trying to “trap” their partner in the act.

Pathological jealousy can show up both in men and in women; however, it is more common and more dangerous in the case of men.

Unlike normal jealousy, pathological jealousy can last for years. Pathologically jealous people frequently focus on insignificant events to accuse their partner of unfaithfulness and they are not willing to change their point of view when they are shown logical proof that they were wrong.

In the most chronic of cases, the pathologically jealous partner goes to the extreme of becoming violent with their partner and/or the supposed lover. It is also common for pathologically jealous people to try to hurt themselves. This generally happens to people with paranoid personalities, or sometimes it is accompanied by some other psychosis or disorder, for example, obsessive compulsive disorder.

Causes and treatments

Tom Valeo, in his article When a Drug Leads to Suspicions of Infidelity, he mentions that he has seen cases of pathological jealousy in various patients who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease. Although this is not very frequent, pathological jealousy has been observed as a side effect caused by the medicine that patients with this illness take to stimulate dopamine production.

Cocaine, methamphetamine, or other drugs that produce a sudden increase in dopamine can produce a similar effect. In these cases, treatment of pathological jealousy involving simply reducing the dose of the medicine or overcoming the addiction has been very successful.

Unfortunately, most cases of pathological jealousy are not so simple. Pathological jealousy is found in cases of schizophrenia, neurosis, bipolar disorder, and in patients with damage to the right frontal lobe. It is also common in alcoholics and people who suffer from sexual dysfunction.

In short, jealousy blossoms when the person is feeling insecure, not feeling loved, and has an intense desire to be in a position of control.

To get help with pathological jealousy, it is essential to contact a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or even a sexologist. In some cases, a therapy that includes both members of the couple can offer great benefits. A healthcare professional will be able to do a complete evaluation in order to determine the causes and thus point out the best treatment.

Image courtesy of Mike Hoff.