Pathological Jealousy: An Interactive Condition

Psychiatry. 2016 Winter;79(4):379-388. doi: 10.1080/00332747.2016.1175838.


Objective: The aim of this review is to describe the psychopathology, antecedents, and current management of pathological jealousy from an interpersonal perspective.

Method: The Google Scholar database was searched with the following terms: delusional jealousy; morbid jealousy; paranoid jealousy; pathological jealousy; Othello syndrome; delusional disorder-jealous type; conjugal paranoia. From a total of 600 articles, 40 were selected based on their currency and pertinence to the interpersonal aspects of jealousy.

Results: Findings were that delusional jealousy is equally prevalent among men and women, with a greater prevalence in the elderly. Antecedents to this condition can be neurologic, drug related, and/or psychological, most often preceded by low self-esteem and excessive dependence on a romantic partner. Pathological jealousy can be triggered by the behavior of the partner and maintained by reasoning biases and by the psychological benefits that it initially bestows on the relationship. In the long run, however, it poses dangerous risks to the patient, the partner, and the imagined rival so that involuntary hospitalization is sometimes required. Treatment recommendations include couple therapy, a strong cognitive focus, antipsychotic medication, and interventions which enhance self-esteem of both partners and which address the solidarity of the existing relationship.

Conclusion: Treatment effectiveness does not yet have a firm evidence base.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delusions / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Jealousy*
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Paranoid Disorders / physiopathology*