Jealousy is a surprisingly complex emotion that can trigger feelings of rage, fear, envy, suspicion, competition, and even humiliation. We explain more about the types, symptoms and causes of jealousy, and how hypnotherapy can help.
What is jealousy?
Anyone, at any age, can feel jealous of someone else. There are many different types of jealousy that you can experience towards a friend, partner, family member, or even colleague. While a little bit of jealousy can be a helpful sign that something is wrong and needs addressing, too much can risk damaging our relationships and our well-being.
Is jealousy always bad?
Not always! While jealousy is typically portrayed as purely a negative thing, a little bit of jealousy from time to time can be a normal, healthy reaction. As with all of our emotions, when we feel jealousy, it is telling us something about ourselves and what we need. For example, this could mean in a romantic relationship that you need to find new or better ways of communicating with your partner, or that you may be worried about your career development or finances if you are jealous of a colleague.
Feelings of jealousy may be unpleasant, but we shouldn’t ignore them as they can be a valuable sign that something needs to change in order for us to preserve or improve our relationships (romantic and platonic), or to act as a motivator to make other changes in our lives (career, work/life balance, financial).
As explained in Can hypnotherapy help me feel less jealous, “When we don’t handle feelings of jealousy in a healthy way by talking about how we feel or why it might not be appropriate, we risk hurt feelings and further problems.”
Types of jealousy
Feelings of jealousy can have numerous different causes and effects on people. These can include:
Rational jealousy: When you experience reasonable doubt that you may lose someone you love (due to other relationships, people, or other factors).
Suspicious jealousy: Where you feel your partner may be cheating on you (emotionally or physically), even if there is no evidence. These kinds of jealous feelings are often tied to low self-esteem and insecurity.
Reactive jealousy: A type of jealousy that happens in response to specific, actual threats to the future of your relationship. For example, you may experience reactive jealousy if your partner flirts with someone else or is flirted with in front of you. This most typically occurs in romantic relationships.
Retroactive jealousy: You feel jealous of your partner’s previous relationships, crushes, or sexual relations prior to your relationship. A common type of jealousy, the effects can vary greatly from person to person. You may feel mildly jealous, obsessive to the point of wanting to know every detail, or avoidant to the point of wanting to never even hear the previous partner’s name.
Family jealousy: Most typically felt between siblings, family jealousy happens when you feel jealous of the attention someone else is receiving. For example, a new baby being born could mean your parents have less time for you as the baby needs their immediate attention. For new parents, this kind of jealousy can also occur, as your partner may be spending more time and attention on your baby than on your romantic relationship.
Romantic jealousy: Fear that your romantic relationship is being threatened. This could be due to something you have witnessed (e.g. someone flirting directly with your partner) or unfounded (e.g. jealousy about how close a partner is with a coworker or friend, without any specific reasons for this fear). This can lead to jealous thoughts or reactions.
Sexual jealousy: Fear that your partner may have been unfaithful sexually, leading to ongoing feelings of suspicion and jealousy.
Pathological jealousy: An irrational type of jealousy, pathological jealousy is unhealthy. Feelings can often occur due to underlying ill mental health or specific mental illnesses, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia. If you are experiencing extreme jealousy alongside a desire to manipulate or control others, it can be a sign of pathological jealousy. Seeking the help of a therapist may be recommended.
Morbid or delusional jealousy: Also referred to as pathological jealousy, morbid jealousy refers to a range of irrational thoughts and emotions, combined with extreme, unacceptable behaviours. This kind of jealousy typically centres around your partner’s sexual unfaithfulness and is based on unfounded evidence.
This type of jealousy may also be experienced particularly by those with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Some people with a diagnosis of BPD feel that their feelings of jealousy can become magnified due to other symptoms of the disorder, meaning they may feel more angry or agitated due to their unfounded suspicions of their partner’s infidelity.
Power jealousy: Often caused by personal insecurities, this type of jealousy happens when someone else has something you want. This could be a colleague receiving a promotion, a co-worker getting a reward or pay rise you want, or even a friend getting a new, higher-paid or higher-powered job.
Is jealousy normal in friendships?
Jealousy is a normal emotion. You may experience jealous feelings in any close relationship, including new friendships, and close or long-time friendships. If you feel threatened or insecure about any relationship, you may experience jealousy. Feeling jealous of others who are friends with your friend, or jealous of a friend, can both be normal. You may be feeling this way due to self-doubt, insecurity, unexpected life changes, fear of losing your friend, or of them finding a ‘better’ friend.
Signs of jealousy
Experiencing some jealousy is perfectly natural, and doesn’t have to be a sign of unhealthy behaviours or feelings. However, if jealousy starts to affect your relationships, behaviour, or how you feel about yourself or others in a negative way, it could be a sign that you need help. Negative signs of jealousy can include:
- criticising others or constantly finding fault
- becoming quick to anger, or having a shorter fuse or temper than normal
- blaming others without good reason
- acting overprotective or suspicious without cause
- feelings of distrust
- acting obsessive
- becoming verbally abusive, name-calling, or otherwise belittling others
- feelings of embarrassment, insecurity, or being threatened
- fear of abandonment or loss
Too much jealousy can not only negatively impact your relationships, but can also cause physical symptoms. These can include:
- headaches, chest pains, or stomach aches
- high blood pressure
- fluctuations in weight (gain or loss) and appetite
- extreme feelings of anxiety
- trouble sleeping or insomnia
- weakened immunity
Jealousy can occur at any time, for anyone, in many different ways. You may have sudden feelings of jealousy that seem to come out of nowhere, or you may experience a slower build-up over time. You may feel the need to hide how you are feeling, say something to a loved one, or even act in an irrational way such as making accusations, storming off, or yelling.
When not addressed, jealousy can lead to extreme behaviours that can harm you, your relationships, and those you care about. Without help, some types of jealousy can lead to feelings of distrust, paranoia, or to abuse.
Are jealousy and envy the same thing?
While often used interchangeably, jealousy tends to be used to refer to other people, relationships, or situations, while envy is more commonly used in reference to how you feel about other people’s possessions or advantages.
What causes jealousy?
According to research, there are many different root causes of jealousy. Extreme feelings of jealousy can be caused by:
- low self-esteem
- high levels of neuroticism
- feelings of possessiveness
- fear of abandonment or loss
Certain situations can also trigger jealousy. These could include:
- A partner, friend, or family member spends significantly more time with someone (making you feel they are a threat to your existing relationship).
- A new baby joins your family (as a parent, your partner’s shift in attention could cause feelings of jealousy, or as a sibling, you may be unused to sharing your parent’s attention).
- Someone such as a coworker, friend, or family member appears to be more successful than you or is getting ahead faster (making you feel angry about your own progress, envious of their success, or feeding into your low self-esteem).
- Someone else’s accomplishments are being recognised but not yours.
- A close friend has a new friend, who they appear to be spending more time with, talking about more, or you fear may be a ‘better’ friend than you are to them.
People of all genders feel jealousy. Research suggests that men may feel more jealous about sexual infidelity (real or what they perceive to be a potential sign), while women may be more jealous of emotional infidelity.
Research suggests that psychological and socioeconomic factors can contribute to our feelings of jealousy. Different personality types and attachment styles may be more or less likely to experience jealousy. For example, those who have a high level of interdependence in a relationship may be at more risk of developing jealous feelings.
How to deal with jealousy
There is no single best way or ‘cure’ to get rid of jealousy. If you are looking to stop feeling jealous, there are a number of different things you can try. If you are worried that you are experiencing morbid jealousy (and accompanying extreme, irrational, or obsessive thoughts, emotions, or behaviours) you may need extra help from a professional.
Recommended methods of dealing with jealousy can include:
Self-help for jealousy
Learning ways you can cope with your feelings yourself can be a helpful first step for many. Identifying the reason for your jealousy is an important first step toward helping you confront the feelings that are causing you to feel jealous. Often stemming from insecurity, poor self-esteem, or common fears (e.g. losing your partner or fear of failure), once you are able to identify the causes, you can acknowledge and address them.
Ensuring you have realistic expectations within a relationship (e.g. how much time you will spend together), practising gratitude (being thankful and reminding yourself of the things you have in life) and mindfulness (being aware of the present moment, acknowledging and accepting your thoughts and feelings) can also be a huge help.
If you feel like jealousy is still having a negative impact, speaking with your friend, colleague, or loved one can be a big help. Healthy relationships of all types rely on openness, honesty, and communication. Sharing how you are feeling can help to overcome misunderstandings, build a mutual sense of trust and compassion, and help you to better understand each other’s perspectives. Even the act of openly acknowledging jealousy can be a big help, as it can not only remove the elephant in the room for many relationships but can lead to self-reflection and personal growth.
Talking therapy for jealousy
Cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive analytical therapy can both be extremely helpful in dealing with jealousy. CBT can help you to better understand how you are feeling, break negative thought patterns, and find new ways of reacting to things. CAT combines elements of cognitive therapy and analytic psychology to look at past experiences, help you understand why you think or behave in certain ways, and develop new ways of coping.
When should I seek help for jealousy?
There’s never a right or wrong time to seek help. If you feel like you are struggling with jealousy, or are worried that it might be negatively impacting your relationships, it can be a sign that professional help may be beneficial.
If you are experiencing mental-ill health or have another mental health diagnosis such as OCD, an anxiety disorder, some personality disorders, or schizophrenia, speaking with your GP or mental health practitioner may help you get a tailored treatment plan to help you.
Can hypnotherapy help you stop feeling jealous?
Working with a qualified, experienced hypnotherapist can help you to identify and tackle the root causes of your jealousy. Hypnotherapy can help you to reduce or eliminate symptoms of anxiety, find new ways of managing fear, tackle issues with anger management, improve low self-confidence, and boost low self-esteem.
A hypnotherapist can help you not only understand how you are feeling but also why you are feeling this way. They can support you and introduce you to positive changes that can help you to overcome relationship and personal issues.
(Hypnosis) is quite helpful in dealing with feelings of jealousy. It will diminish and remove them without the use of medications.
-Biodun Ogunyemi, Certified Master Hypnotherapist ANLP, BNLP, SNLP, C.H, Dip.Hyp, explains more in stop being jealous with hypnotherapy.
Using proven techniques, hypnotherapy can help those who experience jealousy to feel calmer and relaxed when faced with triggers. A hypnotherapist can bypass your conscious mind to work with your unconscious mind, helping you change your mindset from within.
A hypnotherapist may also suggest using self-hypnosis techniques between sessions, to help reinforce new ideas, helpful thought patterns, or new ways of managing your feelings. This repetition can help you to develop new routines, cement new ideas, and even feel an instant sense of calm and relaxation thanks to self-hypnosis techniques.
Does hypnotherapy really work?
Studies have shown hypnotherapy can be a successful method of treating specific health conditions and symptoms, as well as changing negative habits and unhelpful thought processes.
Hypnotherapy can only work for those who want to be hypnotised, have an open mind, and are ready to start making positive changes. Studies have shown that hypnotherapy can be particularly helpful in changing negative habits and helping with specific mental health issues such as anxiety.
Find a hypnotherapist
Ready to stop feeling jealous and find newer, healthier ways of communicating how you are feeling? Find an experienced hypnotherapist online or in person near you using our advanced search.