Many see jealousy as a normal and even desirable emotion. Not being jealous is viewed by many as a problem or a sign that your partner doesn't care enough. But there are times when jealousy can become unhealthy for the person experiencing it and for those involved.
Morbid Jealousy, Delusional Jealousy or Othello’s Syndrome describe the same psychiatric condition and a person suffering from this will have strong beliefs that their partner is being unfaithful despite having little or no evidence to support their claims. It is often described in detail as a range of irrational thoughts and emotions, together with associated unacceptable or extreme behavior, in which the dominant theme is a preoccupation with a partner’s sexual unfaithfulness based on unfounded evidence. (Source)
Also, there are other abnormal behavior patterns linked to this delusion such as stalking, verbal or physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc. Although this condition will be presented more as a diagnosis, it is more of a symptom linked to other psychiatric conditions as it was rarely diagnosed as a pure condition.
The aspects that distinguish normal jealousy from obsessional jealousy:
- the person who is jealous spends a lot of time concerning about their partner’s unfaithfulness and find it difficult to concentrate on something else.
- limiting the partner’s freedom and checking the partner’s behavior impairs the relationship (controlling behaviors such as monitoring movements, inquiring about relationships with different people when there is clearly no romantic interest, refusing to allow the partner to have time by themselves or with their friends) There is also a need of control in other aspects such as spending money, dressing in a certain way or even stalking the person (following them to work or school to gather evidence for their infidelity).
- since this type of jealousy is delusional the partner will not understand the situation even if they are given strong evidence. They will see signs of unfaithfulness in almost any interaction or behavior.
- intimidation may be a common way for the partner to gain control. Threatening to end the relationship, to hurt you or your loved ones, or even to destroy your property are strong signs of Morbid Jealousy or Borderline Personality Disorder.
People suffering from Paranoid Personality Disorder may also suffer from Morbid Jealousy as the essential feature of Paranoid Personality Disorder is a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such as their motives as interpreted as malevolent. The pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts. (DSM IV TR) Actually some of the diagnostic criteria (3 out of 7) for Paranoid Personality Disorder can be linked to Morbid Jealousy:
- suspects, without sufficient basis, that the others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her;
- preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates;
- has recurrent suspicion, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner.
The same applies to Borderline Personality Disorder as it may also be a predisposing condition for morbid jealousy. Some of the aspects involved in Borderline Personality Disorder and Morbid Jealousy are:
- feelings of unworthiness
- anxiety about rejection and abandonment
- perception of unfaithfulness in partner
- affective instability and anger
- primitive defense mechanisms such as projection or unacceptable impulses
Delusional Disorder – Jealous Type is the definition of Morbid Jealousy in DSM. The presence of one or more non-bizarre delusions that persist at least 1 month would be sufficient for diagnostic. Psychosocial functioning varies as some people suffering from DD-JT might be unimpaired by their condition. However, when psychosocial functioning is impaired, this is a result of the person’s delusional beliefs. For example, they might avoid going out with their partner from fear that their partner might be attracted to somebody else.
According to DSM IV TR, the person suffering from DD-JT usually confronts the spouse or lover and attempts to intervene in the imagined infidelity by restricting the spouse’s autonomy, secretly following them, investigating the imagined lover, or even attacking the spouse.
There are different theories concerning Morbid Jealousy. Freud believed that extreme jealousy was linked to latent homosexuality, Klein believed that it emerged from the rivalry between son and father. Others have claimed that the level of competiveness is important as the person uses projective mechanisms and identification with their rival.
Some worrying aspects of this condition are self harm or violence. For the other partner involved in there is high risk of isolation, a loss of identity, or developing a mental disorder such as anxiety and depression.