- Jealousy can cause you to act in distrustful and destructive ways that ruin relationships.
- Jealousy often comes from people's insecurities of not feeling good enough for others in some way.
- Overcome jealousy by addressing your underlying insecurities or trauma with help from a professional.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.
Jealousy is an often painful emotional experience that can be difficult to navigate since it comes with a range of negative feelings from suspicion to worry to anger.
While most people experience jealousy at some point, research suggests that unchecked jealousy can result in depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, aggression, and the end of meaningful relationships.
That's why it's important to identify and understand your jealousy so that you can learn to manage it in a constructive, compassionate way.
Examples of extreme jealousy
Jealousy can manifest in just about any situation, whether it's sibling-on-sibling, amongst co-workers, between friends, or in a romantic relationship.
However, extreme jealousy turns a feeling into a damaging behavior that could turn into aggression.
Here are a few examples of extreme jealousy:
- Insulting or guilt-tripping a friend because they spent time with someone you don't like.
- Isolating your partner from people who trigger feelings of jealousy, like her close male friend or her mother who you suspect doesn't think you're good enough for her.
- Monitoring the whereabouts of your loved one, following them, or going through their phone or belongings without their permission.
- Lying about your accomplishments or taking credit for someone else's work to get more praise or recognition from your boss who you think favors another employee.
- Sabotaging your loved one's relationships with others, whether it's "checking up" on them at their place of work or sending or deleting messages from their devices.
Why am I so jealous?
You might be jealous for any number of reasons. For example, you might be jealous of people you perceive to be more attractive, wealthy, likable, or respected by your partner.
"But ultimately, it's not about that other person. It's about one's feelings toward themselves that causes jealousy," says relationship coach Michelle Baxo, MA, in Counseling Psychology, of Michelle Baxo Coaching and Consulting.
Most of the time, jealousy stems from insecurity. So people who are more prone to jealousy typically feel like they're not good enough for others in some way.
Case in point, a large 2022 study of 5,660 Finnish adults who tested with a high level of jealousy had the following characteristics:
- Believed they were less attractive than their partner
- Felt they could not trust their partner
- Had been cheated on in the past and had trouble trusting their partner
- Invested in fewer relationships with others
People prone to jealousy also tend to have an anxious attachment style and may exhibit other traits including clinginess and constant need for reassurance making it challenging to engage in and sustain trusting relationships.
How to combat jealousy
While jealousy might be easy to define or recognize, it can be hard to control. Here are some tips for avoiding jealousy in the future.
1. Communicate your feelings without accusing
Once you feel jealous, try to communicate your feelings to your partner.
For example, if you suspect that your partner is interested in being with someone else, ask them openly and listen to their response.
Our feelings can completely distort reality and cause a lot of upheaval in a relationship. Going back to the facts can help you avoid the slippery slope of jealousy like remembering that your partner comes home to you every day.
To steer clear of acting on jealousy in the future, think about how you'd want to be treated like how you want your partner to communicate their faith in the relationship.
"It's best to trust your partner the way you want to be trusted and move on," says Michelle.
2. Journal and practice visualization
Research suggests that visualizing or writing about memories of feeling supported by an attachment figure, can help you regulate your emotions to avoid future jealousy.
If you're feeling jealous in the moment, imagine getting an embrace from your partner, and take a moment to let that warmth wash over you.
For one small 2017 study, participants who imagined receiving an affectionate touch from a loved one had a greater sense of security and reduced feelings of jealousy than those who did not.
3. Address past wounds or trauma with a professional
Past trauma can increase a person's likelihood of experiencing jealousy, says Juan Santos, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at Santos Counseling.
But a counselor can help you address that trauma and rebuild your trust and sense of security with others. Therapy can also help you process painful emotions and reframe negative or destructive thoughts affecting your behavior.
For example, once you start to feel jealous, "we can acknowledge that jealousy is there and use it as a reminder of the deep love and admiration we have for our partner," Juan notes. Consider telling yourself, "My partner chose me over anyone else," or "I am thankful to be in a loving relationship with someone I care about." This can help combat negative self-worth.
A good therapist can also help you develop better communication skills and emotional regulation skills to help you handle sudden feelings of jealousy.
When it comes to types of therapy, everyone responds differently to different types, but research has found a couple of methods to be effective:
- One small 2021 study of 34 married women experiencing extreme jealousy found significant reductions to jealousy measures after participants engaged in 10 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Likewise, a 2019 single case study found significant reductions in jealous thoughts after 8 sessions of cognitive analytical therapy (CAT), with these benefits continuing after the end of treatment.
"Jealousy is a normal emotion we experience, no different than sadness or happiness. The importance is in what we do with it," says Juan.
Practicing open communication, improving your self-esteem, and trying visualizations are all ways you can combat jealousy to strengthen your relationship and avoid the feeling in the future.