Causes of jealousy.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


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Jealousy results in many referrals for counseling.

Jealousy, like it’s relatives anger and loneliness are not specific mental health diagnoses. We often think of these as feelings, but all three also include thoughts and behaviors in addition to the feelings. Sometimes jealousy is the reason people come to see a counselor, other times the stated problem is something else such as “poor communication.” Under that other issue, the counselor is likely to find unaddressed jealousy. Jealousy, like anger, may also be a symptom of an underlying serious mental illness. Here are some of the diagnoses, and relationship issues that may be causing jealousy.

Substance Use Disorders cause jealousy.

Using and abusing drugs or alcohol alters people’s feelings and thoughts. Under the influence, people are disinhibited and more likely to act on their feelings of jealousy. The drinking and drug use lifestyle also puts people at risk. When under the influence and disinhibited, people are more likely to act on their sexual, cheating, desires. Having substances in the bloodstream affects memory and cognition resulting in people believing things that never happened. The substance using lifestyle also results in trauma or having to do things to get your drugs that you would not do clean and sober.

Psychosis and Delusions Disorders increase jealous thoughts and behaviors.

People hear and see things that are not there are at risk to misinterpret those hallucinations. The one specific mental illness which includes jealousy as a specific symptom is Delusional Disorder, jealous type. People who have schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, some people with bipolar disorder, and severe major depressive disorder with psychotic symptoms all may experience delusions. Delusional beliefs that others are treating them badly or that their partner is cheating on them can be common with severe mental illnesses.

Jealousy is common in Neurocognitive Disorders.

People with neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other forms of dementia are likely to feel their relationships are threatened and begin to believe that their partner may be cheating on. These kinds of solutions are especially hard on caregivers who may be with the demented person almost every hour of every day but still are faced with jealous accusations of infidelity.

Reactive Jealousy is the result of real events.

Reactive Jealousy is probably the easiest variety to understand. If your partner has had an affair or several affairs, it is understandable that you might become jealous. Couples often disagree on what behaviors constitute cheating. Men are more likely to become jealous if they believe their partner has been physically intimate with another man. Women are more likely to become jealous if their partner develops a close emotional connection with another person.

The risks of an affair affect the two genders differently. Men have historically been concerned that they might have to support the offspring fathered by another man. Women are more likely to fear that if their man becomes involved with another woman, he will spend money, economic resources, on that other woman thereby depriving her and her children of needed support.

Pathological Jealousy is the most dangerous.

Pathological Jealousy is believed to arise when one partner believes they are less desirable than their mate. If a man believes that his female partner has lots of men interested in her while he thinks if he loses her he will have difficulty finding another mate, he is likely to become jealous and try to control her access to other men.

Pathological Jealousy is the type most likely to result in violent, controlling behavior. People who are pathologically jealousy may become stalkers or engage in violent attacks on their partner or perceived rivals.

Stay tuned in for more posts about jealousy; it’s causes and its treatment, which is coming up soon. More information about Jealousy and its treatment is or will be at Jealousy.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

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