When jealousy becomes pathological
Who's never felt jealous before? But let's be clear about it - while it's a common feeling amongst couples there is an actual illness - pathological jealousy - that makes you want to possess the one you love, thus turning your partner's life into living hell! Do you need help?
How can you tell if someone is just a bit on the jealous side, or pathologically jealous (which is a mental disorder)? Read on to find out.
There's jealousy and then there's jealousy...
Pathological jealousy exists in both sexes but often it takes on a more acute form in men. It's not usually a "permanent state" of feeling: there are big scenes, triggered by trivial events, but more often than not, the jealous man will be sorry for getting angry and making a scene.
There are however, several signs that characterise pathological jealousy: it lasts a long time (for several years) and can often be accompanied by violence.
From existential to pathological jealousy
Jealousy can take on one of three main forms, from the most 'normal' to the 'pathological':
- Existential jealousy. Occasionally jealous people can benefit from this in some way (at the expense of their spouse) by using this experience to get a better understanding of themselves and their relationships, to finally work on their personalities and issues. For instance, there may be some jealousy about a partner's job promotion or occasional jealousy about a partner's close friends or family - stemming from similar issues in your own personal sphere.
- Neurotic jealousy. This type of jealousy is compulsive with people who just can't stop themselves from being jealous, as they have no control over the feeling. What's more, they are obsessive and can't stop thinking about the object of their jealousy. Nevertheless, they don't go to the violent extremes that pathologically jealous people can reach.
- Psychotic jealousy. This form of jealousy generally occurs in people with paranoid personalities, characterised by mistrust, over-sensitivity and excessive pride. In such cases, jealousy causes real harassment and can even turn violent. This is true pathological jealousy.
Dealing with pathological jealousy
Faced with pathological jealousy, it is essential to consult a psychologist or sex therapist and in certain cases, therapy involving both partners can be useful. Even pathological jealousy can normally be overcome, and the couple can eventually get back to a normal life together.
After all, it is normally possible to love someone without ruining your life... and your partner's life too! If you are in any doubt about your own jealous tendencies or those of your partner, don't hesitate to speak with a health professional about it.
Source: Sex and psychiatry congress, December 2003
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