Pathological jealousy: At what point is jealousy no longer healthy?

Everyone is probably familiar with a bit of jealousy in a relationship. However, when jealousy takes on morbid forms, it can become problematic for the relationship.

Your partner is flirting with another person who is very attractive. You probably don’t care, but the feeling of jealousy creeps in. But this is quite normal and even healthy, as relationship coach Daniela van Santen explains to us in conversation.

Almost everyone knows the feeling of jealousy. But if you or your partner, for example, checks the other person’s cell phone or makes unrealistic assumptions, then there is a risk that the jealousy could be pathological.

Healthy jealousy vs. pathological jealousy
“Jealousy is something quite normal, even healthy, and is part of the basic human makeup. This is called reactive jealousy,” jealousy coach Daniela van Santen explains to us. 98% of all people know this feeling. “This form of jealousy is normal. It can also make a relationship crackle again if it has fallen asleep.”

“I would go so far as to say that anyone who does not feel jealousy at all may no longer love their partner.” Whether someone is jealous very quickly and very strongly or reacts with a smile or even enjoys it to some extent depends on the history that everyone has, he said.

Jealousy becomes pathological when the partner starts to become excessively suspicious, usually for no reason. “The affected person then goes into a frenzy-like state when he or she has gotten into something. Adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, etc. are involved,” says jealousy coach Daniela van Santen. With a little distance, the person then usually notices that the actions or statements were exaggerated and groundless. Then often come insightful thoughts like “What am I doing? I’m ruining the relationship.”

You get back to normal after the high and swear to yourself that it won’t happen again. Relationship coach Daniela van Santen knows it will still happen again. “There is a search for evidence, the so-called checking, and you also think you have found something. That leads to the fact that one accuses the partner wrongly!”

Pathological jealousy is very individual, as Daniela van Santen explains. She has been running the Liebeskummer Praxis in Hamburg for 12 years and the only jealousy consultation in Germany for five years and reports on various causes of jealousy that are very surprising.

Your partner is pathologically jealous: now what?
“There are very many causes for pathological jealousy, for example, depression, psychosis, anxiety disorders or alcohol disorders. Then jealousy is an epiphenomenon, so to speak.” It’s then a matter of getting the trigger for jealousy under control. “Because usually when depression, for example, is under control, jealousy is gone or at normal, reactive levels.”

There are certain behaviors that are better avoided, as the expert explains, “In any case, you should not make accusations, such as “you’re not ticking right, go to a psychiatrist” or even go out of the situation, that only reinforces it!” It’s best to get professional help to work out together how to behave properly. Because it is important to find out what the real reason for the jealousy is.

According to relationship coach Daniela van Santen, self-doubt, low self-esteem and pure possessiveness are often also reasons for pathological jealousy, which must then also be resolved.

When pathological jealousy becomes a delusion: The Othello syndrome
However, pathological jealousy must under no circumstances be confused with the so-called Othello syndrome, as jealousy coach Daniela van Santen explains. “The Othello syndrome is not a pathological jealousy, but the jealousy mania! Therein lies a big difference. However, the terms are often mistakenly mixed together.” While a great many people are pathologically jealous, Othello syndrome is very rare.

Unlike pathological jealousy, in which the sufferer goes into a kind of frenzy for a short time but eventually “wakes up,” someone with Othello syndrome is in a permanent frenzy that doesn’t stop. “There is always an underlying brain-organic disorder here, for example in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s, or after accidents when brain regions have been damaged.”

Neither a coach nor a psychotherapist can treat Othello syndrome. It is a serious mental illness that belongs in the hands of psychiatrists and/ or neurologists.