Morbid jealousy may be known by a number of synonyms, which include pathological jealousy, delusional jealousy, obsessive jealousy, and Othello syndrome. This condition occurs when a person feels an unreasonable fear that a partner has been unfaithful, is presently unfaithful, or plans to be unfaithful. Though not strictly listed as a mental illness in manuals for psychiatry/psychology like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, this is a certainly a state of mind or mental condition that is recognized by mental health professionals. It is especially worrisome because it may fuel domestic violence in some instances, and expressions of it by a person are cause to be concerned.
William Shakespeare gave an almost pitch perfect description in his play Othello, according to some interpretations. Othello is easily convinced by the villainous Iago that Desdemona is in love with someone else and has been unfaithful. In a tragic ending, Othello strangles Desdemona, though she has been perfectly faithful, and this ending leads many to wonder why Othello was so gullible. Some interpret this by saying Othello didn’t need to be convinced; he was already suffering from delusional jealousy and Iago’s additional actions were the push Othello needed to take these feelings to the next level.
Not all real cases of delusional or morbid jealousy end in murder, though that risk may need to be considered because the jealousy expressed is not rational or sane, and it may escalate. More often, though, a partner who suffers from this might do things like stalk a spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend. He or she could constantly accuse the partner of infidelity, and these accusations might arise out of innocent exchanges with other people. Moreover, a look or conversation between the partner and anyone else might always be interpreted as a somehow traitorous act, which may fuel anger, create greater jealousy, and possibly risk abuse of the innocent partner.
There are mental health professionals who have called for greater legitimate inquiry into the causes of morbid jealousy, and many studies in scholarly journals suggest that this condition does have a mental illness component. It may arise in certain mental illnesses where extreme paranoia can occur, such as in schizophrenia or in the manic phase of bipolar I. Mental illness may not be that severe, however, and there are many people with this problem who either don’t have a mental disorder or have one that is considered less drastic like obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or anxiety disorder.
One interesting fact, though, is that treating this form of jealousy with medications like selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants may have a positive effect. The person doesn’t necessarily have to have other mental conditions. Many people appear to respond well to low levels of medication and, when this is combined with things like cognitive behavioral therapy, it may be a way to combat this condition effectively. Clearly, when other mental disorders, like bipolar or paranoid schizophrenia, are present, different types of medications are indicated.
While morbid jealousy is often viewed from the perspective of the spouse/partner who is victim to it, it also needs to be considered in light of the person suffering from the paranoia. Constantly believing that betrayal is imminent can be an incredibly painful experience, and may render a person unreasonable in many aspects of life. Even if the beliefs aren’t true, holding them can be emotionally torturous. Those suffering this condition, though they may be less pitied for inflicting their fear on others, are in serious need of legitimate treatment options. Early intervention stands as an excellent preventative to domestic violence.
A review of people diagnosed with this condition suggest that it is much more common among males than females, but it still can occur in the female population. For both genders, it remains important to know that there is little that can be done by the partner who is a victim of the morbidly jealous person, and signs of this type of jealousy early in a relationship should not be ignored. Assurances of fidelity or love tend to be completely ineffective, and being the partner/spouse of such a person hazards real risk. The best potential remedy for a person who suffers this obsessive or paranoid thinking is to get therapeutic help immediately; for most people, this is the path to recovery.