Pathological jealousy

Almost everyone has experienced the green monster of jealousy at some point in life. Either you have felt jealous yourself or have had someone else express jealousy over you.

However, one form of jealousy that thankfully most of us have not experienced is the extreme and pernicious pathological jealousy associated with a delusional disorder. Although this severe jealousy is just one form that the psychotic disorder can take, it is both dangerous and unsettling for those involved.

In a delusional disorder taking this form, the individual is jealous and has fears and beliefs about his or her partner’s sexual infidelity. These beliefs are psychotic and not based on reason. These people will accuse, spy, investigate, stalk and threaten in order to stop what they believe is happening.

Although partners may initially try to placate the jealous individual by reassuring, discussing, explaining or even restricting their own activities, this becomes increasingly difficult as the jealousy is less and less rational.

Pathologically jealous individuals tend to become more and more controlling and their suspicions escalate as do the corresponding demands on their partners.

A jealous partner may begin harassing those suspected of sleeping with his or her partner and may send emails or letters to friends, family members or employers making explicit accusations in embarrassing and demeaning detail.

Unfortunately, the irrational behaviour may not stop with emails and letters. These individuals can become dangerous because they believe their accusations with absolute conviction and are beyond reason. Threats and acts of violence can ensue.

Usually this behaviour will lead to the end of the relationship as well as restraining orders and other attempts to stop the increasing harassment. In the worst scenarios, it can end in violence as the psychotic individuals may harm or kill those they believe are acting against them. In their minds, this would be justifiable homicide.

Such individuals usually do not seek psychiatric help because they do not have the insight to see that their beliefs and behaviour are not rational. If they do come in for treatment it is usually on an involuntary basis.

Treatment is difficult as these individuals are inherently distrustful and may incorporate the doctor, therapist or medication into their delusions. In some cases, antipsychotic medication may help – however it would likely need to be taken under some supervision to ensure the individual follows treatment guidelines.

This kind of a disorder may not develop until middle or late adulthood and those with a delusional disorder are likely able to function relatively well in some areas of life – with disability increasing as they become more and more involved in their particular delusion.

If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is irrationally jealous, it is better to get out sooner rather than later. It is also extremely important to appreciate your potential danger and take steps to protect yourself. Unfortunately, there will be little you can do to help your partner see reason.


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