Jealousy is a common but complicated emotion. It’s a combination of feeling insecure, overwhelmed, scared, and at a loss. It is natural to feel jealous every once in a while, but in the long-term, it can have a negative impact on the individual and their relationships. Common symptoms of jealousy include resentment, frustration, impatience, anger, and general unpleasantness.
How to Identify Jealousy
It can be difficult to recognize and reconcile feelings of jealousy. You may even feel justified in certain jealous reactions. Given the fact that jealousy is a vulnerable emotion that can trigger fears of abandonment, it can be tricky to discuss it with your partner, too.
When you feel jealous, you may become more irritable, so try to calmly communicate with the other person by asking them to make time to talk. It’s important to remember that your feelings should always be handled with care, so speaking with a therapist to sort things out can help as well.3
Causes: Where Does Jealousy Come From?
Feelings of jealousy often come from extended periods of poor or lack of communication and low self-esteem. People with poor boundaries might experience jealousy, and witnessing parents with poor boundaries usually reinforces maladaptive ways of coping. Because loneliness and other symptoms can manifest in jealousy, those with mental health issues can also be more prone.
Children with anxious attachment styles who don’t have great emotional regulation skills sometimes grow up to be jealous of others; however, jealousy can also show up in the wake of a partner spending time with someone who feels like a threat, or situations where there is a new dynamic, causing trust issues.2
7 Types of Jealousy
In addition to romantic jealousy, which may seem like the most obvious form of jealousy, there is also power jealousy, family jealousy, pathological jealousy, and more.
Here are seven types of jealousy:
- Romantic jealousy: Based on real or imagined threats to a romantic relationship. There could be a history of infidelity or inappropriate flirtations; however, this could also be solely based on insecurities.
- Rational and reactive jealousy: Based on something concrete, such as some kind of evidence (e.g., an incriminating text message) that leads to doubts that are based in reality.
- Family jealousy: Based on familial bonds. For example, it can come up when one sibling feels like the other is getting more attention.
- Sexual and suspicious jealousy: Based on fears that a partner may have cheated or be engaged in inappropriate communication.
- Power jealousy: Based on personal fears that come up at work or in relation to your career. For example, this might occur when a colleague receives a promotion and you don’t.
- Retroactive jealousy: a preoccupation with a partner’s past is retroactive jealousy. It can be their previous relationships with others, or the behaviors that they engaged in during these relationships
- Pathological jealousy: Based on irrationality and likely comes with a comorbid mental health diagnosis.1
Jealousy vs. Envy
Jealousy and envy may have similarities, but they’re actually two different feelings. For one, envy can actually prompt personal change, whereas jealousy prompts anger and a lack of empathy. There are several different characteristics for each that can help you differentiate.
Traits of jealousy:
- Fear based
- Causes resentment
- Prompts anger and a lack of empathy
- Can come from a lack of self-esteem
Traits of envy:
- Based on a desire to have something that doesn’t belong to you
- Causes sadness
- Prompts personal change
- Can come from a lack of possession
Jealousy & Mental Health Concerns
Sometimes, pervasive jealous feelings might be an indicator of a deeper issue related to your mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Here are other mental health concerns that could be related to jealousy:
- Attachment issues
- Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
9 Complications of Jealousy
Sometimes, a little jealousy can be a wake-up call that you need to change something for the better. It could also be a reminder to appreciate the relationship more. That said, if it’s persistent, jealousy can lead to all sorts of negative complications, too.
Here are nine complications of jealousy:
- Negative impact on the relationship
- Break up or divorce
- Panic attacks
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Stomach aches
- Weight changes
5 Ways to Cope With Jealousy
It can be challenging to figure out how to deal with jealous feelings, so it’s important to take back some control over and learn healthy ways to stop being jealous, like practicing gratitude, setting healthy expectations, or talking to a therapist.
Here are five ways to cope with jealousy:
1. Be Open About Your Feelings
Having open, clear communication with your partner is a good way to engage them in the conversation. Speak with compassion and trust to help your partner feel comfortable sharing.
2. Take Control of Your Fears
Insecurity is a major cause of jealous feelings, so taking time to work through these insecurities will only help you in the long-term. Once you’re aware of these insecurities and where they come from, you can learn ways to cope with them.
3. Discuss & Set Expectations
It’s important to remember that feelings or “reasons” for jealousy can feel very real for the person experiencing them, even if there is no evidence. To build trust, set expectations in the relationship and have agreed upon ground rules.
4. Engage in Gratitude & Mindfulness
Keeping a gratitude journal and practicing mindfulness meditation can help you center yourself and take back control of your emotions so jealousy doesn’t take over.
5. Talk It Out With a Therapist
There is nothing wrong with talking to a therapist to sort out jealous feelings and better understand where they come from.4
When to Get Professional Help for Feelings of Jealousy
If you feel like your jealousy is holding you back from daily demands or causing issues in your relationships/professional life, it might be time to find a therapist. Locate the perfect match through an online therapist directory that sorts therapists by area, expertise, cost, and more.
Once you find a therapist, the two of you will create a treatment plan. Depending on the type of jealousy issues you’re facing, marital or family therapy may also be recommended. It’s important to go in with an open mind and a general goal to address the underlying reason for your jealousy.
4 Potential Treatment Options
Different modalities of therapy can be used to treat jealousy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and solution focused therapy.
Here are four potential treatment options:
- CBT: This is one of the most common types of therapy used for complex emotions and mood disorders. The therapist helps you identify negative thought patterns that negatively impact your behaviors and emotions. By getting to the root of the thought, CBT empowers you to reshape your experience.5
- Mindfulness skills and formal meditation: These practices have powerful emotional regulation capabilities. Plus, these skills are often integrated into different types of therapy, including ACT, mindfulness-based CBT, and dialectical behavioral therapy.6
- Solution focused therapy: This modality is often provided in 6-8 sessions. It focuses on helping people find solutions for specific problems and stressors, such as certain events or situations that cause jealousy. Solution focused therapy can also be helpful to those experiencing situational stress and triggers or difficulties adapting to a specific life change that is leading to anxious thoughts.
- Medication: Another treatment option (in addition to talk therapy) is anti-anxiety medication. Anxiety disorders are complex, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The benefit of speaking with your doctor or psychiatrist is the ability to try different medications and determine what’s right for you. It’s important to be under medical supervision when starting, changing, or ending any medication regimen.7
How to Find a Therapist
The best way to find a therapist is by searching an online directory and reviewing the providers based on your preferences and insurance. Select a few to contact for initial conversations. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation that can give individuals or families an opportunity to evaluate whether or not they’re the right match.
Another way to locate a therapist is through personal reference. If you’re in a circle that can openly and safely discuss mental health resources, ask a friend for their recommendation. You might also request a referral from your physician. This gives them an opportunity to collaborate with you to identify the right type of treatment. Typically, a holistic approach to any kind of therapy should involve your physician or other specialists.
Cost of Therapy
Copays and coverage of treatment will depend on whether the provider you choose is in-network or out-of-network. It is not uncommon to have a copay even with an in-network provider; however, many providers are able to offer a sliding scale payment model. Always ask your provider about cost before starting therapy.
Final Thoughts on Dealing With Jealousy
What you’re struggling with may be unique to you, but you’re not alone. Consider talking to a therapist who specializes in jealousy and anxiety. Together, you will be able to develop a plan to help you better regulate feelings of jealousy and live a more balanced life.