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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Jealousy

Jealousy is an intricate emotion. However, while the emotion is complex, it is also unbelievably common. It’s safe to say that all of us have felt some level of jealousy at some point in our lives. When someone is jealous they may be feeling a wide range of emotions, from anger, to skepticism, to embarrassment…and just about anything in between. In case all of this talk about feelings and emotions hasn’t made this clear enough, jealousy is entirely rooted in psychology. Let’s study this emotion a little more! Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of jealousy…

We may feel jealous when we feel threatened. 

Jealousy can be triggered by many factors. Perhaps the most common trigger is when someone feels a personal threat aimed at a relationship that they value. This threat comes from a third party and makes someone feel as if they are being replaced. Our brains commonly link jealousy to romantic relationships. For example, a boyfriend who starts an argument when his girlfriend gets a text message from another man. Or maybe when we run into an ex and they have their arm around someone new. These are common triggers for a jealous person, but we can feel threatened in relationships that aren’t romantic as well. For example, friendships, coworkers, family members, etc. 

There are psychological factors that can make someone jealous. 

Some people are more prone to jealousy than others. Psychological factors that may lead to a jealous personality type may include:

-low self esteem
-anxiety, moodiness, depression
-possessiveness-insecurities
-fear of abandonment 
-codependency 
-anxious attachment style

When someone’s personality is clouded by any or all of these factors, jealousy is likely not a foreign emotion for them. This can make it hard for them to have long lasting and meaningful relationships, both romantic and friendly. 

The severity of jealousy can be dependent on mental health.

As we mentioned above, there are psychological disorders and conditions that can make someone more likely to be jealous. Within that, there are different levels of instability. A woman in her early 20’s with low self esteem may get jealous from time to time due to feeling inadequate. A man in his late 40s may lose his mind when his girlfriend starts texting a new male friend because of the fear of abandonment he developed when his mother left him at a young age. We all have things we struggle with but the way we acknowledge them determines how we show up for people. 

Jealousy can save relationships.

While jealousy is not always caused by something “real”, sometimes it is! There are times when jealousy should be suppressed and we should remove our personal feelings from the situations. But there are other times when our feelings of jealousy are letting us in on something. Feelings of jealousy could be a wake up call for a failing relationship. Perhaps we didn’t recognize that we were letting a partner, friend, sibling, or coworker down until we saw them finding what we offered them in someone else. Some experts claim that jealousy is a necessary emotion to feel because it motivates us to be better and maintain our important relationships. 

Jealousy can be harmful for relationships.

While sometimes jealousy can open someone’s mind and ultimately be helpful, it can also cause harm. Whether they are the jealous party, or they are getting the brunt of it all, jealousy can destroy a relationship. This situation arises when the jealousy is uncalled for. Often times jealousy creates problems that otherwise would not exist. For example, if there is no reason for actual concern. is the jealous person simply insecure? 

Jealousy can also harm someone’s mental health. This often times happens when someone becomes far too obsessive about their jealousy issues. This can include stalking in person and/or online, judging others, obsessively being on their phone or computer, and more. 

Jealousy can lead to damaging behaviors. 

When someone is feeling jealous, their thoughts may become obsessive. These behaviors can exist on many different levels and can be damaging behavior for both parties involved. Becoming obsessively jealous can lead to someone monitoring someone else’s every move. From who they’re talking to, to where they are, to how they are acting and speaking. Someone in this frame of mind could also become violent. Did you know that jealousy is one of the leading factors in domestic violence? When there are a great deal of emotions involved, jealousy can become an even trickier emotion to deal with. 

There is no “cure” for jealousy. 

Seeing as jealousy can be brought on by so many varying factors, there is no standard “cure” for the emotion. However, just noting that the emotion exists and it is clouding your brain is the most important part. Jealousy is normal and can be a tricky thing to navigate. Understanding why we felt triggered and uncovering the emotions leading up to it can be very constructive. When did I start feeling this way? Why do I feel threatened? Is there something missing? What parts of my personality are involved in this feeling of jealousy?

While there is no magical cure, jealousy can be analyzed and likely avoided in the future. Reaching this point may include practicing mindfulness, therapy, challenging your negative thoughts, having intimate conversations, and being honest. 


Men vs. Women.

As we’ve mentioned, we have all experienced some form of jealousy. Our psychological make up may make us more likely to feel jealous but the emotion does not pick an age, a gender, an ethnicity, or any other possible factors. The triggers for both men and women are the same – a fear of losing something valuable to them. However, some experts claim that women are more likely to feel jealousy more often. Experts claim that this is just because of a women’s ability to be more in touch with her emotions. Women tend to be more honest and more sensitive. 

Envy and jealousy are not the same.

While we may easily pair those two feelings, they are actually not synonymous. Both emotions promote similar feelings within us, but they exist on different planes. When someone is jealous, there is a third party threatening what they consider to be theirs. For example, your best friend met a new friend at work and now they are getting dinner together without you. Envy is an emotion between just two people. When you are feeling envious, you simply want what someone else has. This could be in terms of looks, money, work status, class, etc. 

Animals can show signs of jealousy. 

In order for an animal to feel jealousy, they must have some level of cognitive ability to recognize the importance of the relationships in their lives. While we have always struggled with fully understanding the animal’s mind, we do know that they’re not too far off from us. While we cannot fully identify emotions in animals, jealousy is in fact thought to be a primal emotion. This means that on some base level, animals experience some form of jealousy. If you have dogs or cats, this probably isn’t crazy news to you. We’ve all seen our dog get unbelievably jealous when a new puppy arrives. But this is absolutely a series of emotions out in the wild!

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