Jealousy, that green eyed monster. Jealousy is a powerful emotion and is commonly felt in relationships. These relationships might be romantic, in the workplace, or within a family. It can, in extreme cases, lead to mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. It’s also a symptom of mental health conditions and commonly occurs in the presence of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other personality disorders.

What is jealousy?

Jealousy is an umbrella emotion that is made up of many complex and painful feelings like anger, resentment, frustration, and insecurity. Jealousy is often an emotion felt in social situations and is most connotated with romantic or sexual relationships, though can occur in other types of relationships as well. People who feel jealous may feel inadequate in a situation, even if their inadequacy is a false assumption. Inherently, when someone is jealous of another person, they reflect on their own abilities or circumstances – and tell themselves that they “aren’t enough.” This can have detrimental impacts on one’s mental health.

The reason that jealousy is such an evocative emotion is that it taps into a sense of safety. Jealousy can result in an individual not feeling safe, whether that’s physically safe, emotionally safe, or safe in a relationship. They believe that their status as “special” or “loved” becomes in danger in comparison to other people. Often, this fear is really an insecurity that can be processed through with a qualified therapist.

Origins of jealousy

Many people that have painful experiences with other people, especially in relationships, can become frequently jealous. For example, if someone experienced infidelity in their past romantic relationship, they may have a stronger tendency towards being jealous of anyone they see as a threat to their current relationship. Traumatic experiences also can influence how often – and to what degree – someone gets jealous, as it taps into similar insecurities or anxieties.

Many people who have low self-esteem commonly struggle with jealousy. Often, they make comparisons of themselves against other people. Their low self-esteem warps their sense of reality and leads to feeling jealous of the other person – who they are, what they have, where they’re going. With perspective, this comparison can become more based in reality rather than assumption. Social media is a dangerous culprit of jealousy. Because so many images and narratives are altered, warped, or filtered on social media, many people begin to feel insecure about their own lives in comparison to those of celebrities and influencers. Many mental health professionals encourage clients to give up or take a break from social media to help with their jealousy.

Types of jealousy

There are many types of relationships where people tend to feel jealous. This could include:

  • Romantic relationships
  • Sexual relationships
  • Family relationships
  • Friendships
  • Against classmates or colleagues
  • Against strangers where you don’t know anything about them except for perhaps one shining aspect

Jealousy can also occur as a symptom of a mental health condition. People who suffer from personality disorders have a difficult time sorting through cognitive distortions, unfair assumptions, and damaging judgments of other people. This can lead to intense feelings of jealousy and even relationship conflict.

Therapy for jealousy

Therapists who specialize in treating jealousy know how difficult it can be to control this emotion. It’s not as easy as simply “turning it off” – jealousy can only be treated by a thorough examination of the root causes and then an openness to other perspectives. Therapists teach clients how to identify instances of jealousy and how it plays out for them across their relationships or daily lives. They also teach clients how to take a step back from the situation and analyze whether or not jealousy is a helpful emotion. They do this in a nonjudgmental, compassionate way. They’ll also offer clients different perspectives from which to view the event, circumstance, or situation to help them see an unwarped sense of reality. This often helps decrease the intensity of the jealousy.