Can jealousy cause depression?

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Page last updated: 22/10/2022

In this article, it will be discussed if jealousy can lead to depression. We will understand the concept of jealousy, how it can appear in the day to day life and what impact it has on mental health. It will also discuss how to deal with jealousy in relationships so it doesn’t lead to depression.

Can jealousy cause depression?

Yes, depression and jealousy can be related. Both feelings are linked to a central notion of one not being enough. It seems, when someone is jealous of a partner, a friend, or a family member, that all the people surrounding them are a better fit and could be better at that relationship. This sense of self-questioning is also present in someone dealing with depression and that might be the link that connects the two.

But let’s explore a little more to understand what is jealousy and what is depression.

So, what is jealousy?

Jealousy is a complex emotion, it is our emotional response to the fear of losing someone. It is extremely common and everyone feels jealousy to some rant. This feeling is intimately related to feeling insecure and unworthy of this bond. The jealous person spends a lot of time and energy thinking of how the relationship could end, what will happen and how they would feel.

The intensity of jealousy is often what can be a problem, it is related to the size of the emotional investment a person has in the relationship. So the more invested a person is, meaning the more a person sees this relationship as an essential part of their life, an accomplishment or a life goal, the easier it is to feel jealous.

Does jealousy only exist in romantic relationships?

No, it can happen in any type of relationship, such as:

-Romantic jealousy

-Power or work jealousy

-Friend jealousy 

-Family jealousy 

-Abnormal jealousy 

Romantic jealousy 

Romantic jealousy involves a romantic relationship and it can be divided between emotional jealousy, which consists of the jealousy of the emotional connection one person might have with the other; and sexual jealousy, this one is related to how a person might desire another sexually.

Can jealousy cause depression?

Power or work jealousy 

It’s a jealous feeling developed about other people in your work life, it can be someone that got a promotion or someone that has a better relationship with the boss.

Friend jealousy

This jealousy shows itself when someone is afraid of losing the friendship bond because of a third party.

Family jealousy 

It can express itself as a rivalry between siblings or among other family members.

Abnormal jealousy 

When some can’t handle the notion of losing control of the other person it can be a sign of abnormal jealousy. This one can happen in any kind of relationship and has no basis in reality, it is based fully on fantasies, on what you think your partner might be doing, not on what you know your partner usually does.

For example, your partner visits his parents every Thursday afternoon, but when you are living with abnormal jealousy, even though you know he would be with his parents, your mind will question if he is there or if he went somewhere else?

Do men and women feel jealousy differently?

Yes, although jealousy is a similar feeling for both genders, what makes women and men jealous is different.

Research done by Guerrero, Spitzberg, and Yoshimura in 2004 says how men and women feel jealousy in a love relationship. The authors use the concept of emotional and sexual jealousy, and have established that men usually feel more of sexual jealousy, the one where they fear their part might have or want to have sexual relations or desire for another person.

As for women, they usually feel more of the emotional jealousy, the one where a person feels threatened by the partners emotional and love involvement with a third party.

As to how each gender expresses jealousy, a study done by Saharan in 2004 showed that men usually express their jealousy by anger and in the form of revenge, and can turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with it. On the other hand, women usually make use of food as a way to escape the feelings of anxiety brought by jealousy.

And what is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that happens when a person has negative views of themselves and what surrounds them, be it the world, their relationships, or the future. 

Depression can make a person have constant negative thoughts of self-accusations, compliance, and denial. It is strictly linked to low self-esteem and a low sense of personal value.

With that in mind, it is important to understand that jealousy triggers a person to be constantly scared of what will happen, leading to feelings of intense anxiety. 

When a person is always thinking of what the future holds, if the relationship will work, if there is another person in the picture or even questioning if they are enough, that can lead a person to think about how uncontrollable life is, what can change, for example, their sleeping patterns, and all this questioning can, little by little, make a person depressed.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ): Can jealousy cause depression?

Are there stages of jealousy?

           According to studies done by Haliparn and Haliparn in 1997, there are four stages of jealousy. Those are: 

Identification

In this first stage, a person starts to realize an unsettling feeling among the 3 parts. It’s the moment when the fear of losing a person shows up.

Confrontative

It’s the moment when the jealous person is confronted with feelings of envy such as “I want my partner to treat me like they treat the other person”. At this point the fear of losing the loved person becomes clear.

Redirecting

At this moment the person redirects the energy of jealousy in subtle ways of attack, so instead of questioning a partner about how they look at another person, they might tell their partner about someone looking at them with longing eyes.

Medea

When it gets to this stage, it seems that the feeling of jealousy is almost irreversible. They start feeling irritable towards people and the world and cannot ever see themselves as a person worthy of success and love.

Can jealousy be considered a mental illness?

 Jealousy in itself can not be considered a mental illness although sometimes it may be associated with many psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and delusional disorder that can happen in people living with organic psychoses and paranoid disorders.

What’s the difference between jealousy and envy?

There are some important differences between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is associated with a feeling of being scared of losing something or someone, so it is related to a feeling of insecurity, on the other hand when someone feels envy they are usually wanting something that some other person has, it usually is connected to a feeling of unfairness, that another person got to the opportunity to have something that you wanted.

What are the types of jealousy?

 It usually comes in two forms. It can be reactive jealousy or suspicious. In the first form, it is a response to being aware of a real threat to the bond, it could be infidelity or a sudden closeness with another person. 

The suspicious kind is related to what you imagine might happen, it has no basis on what is going on in the relationship at the moment, it is a response to the fear of losing the bond.

Is jealousy a trauma response?

Can be, jealousy can be triggered by emotional memories a person is not even aware of, it could have been a childhood experience when the person felt insecure with the bond or some other bad experience. So when faced again with an insecure attachment, a person might get jealous.

How can someone deal with jealousy?

If we know that jealousy has an impact on mental health to a point that it can make a person depressed, how can one deal with all of it so it doesn’t come to that? Here are 3 pointers on how to not let jealousy bring you to that:

  • Practice gratitude 
  • Communication
  • Explore underlying matters

Practice gratitude

It is important, when feeling jealous, to try to pause and reflect on what you have in your life. Be aware that you are a person that deserves the affection and the relationship you are in. 

The feeling of insecurity brought on by jealousy is based on the thought of not deserving what you have, so try to establish a line of how you got to where you are, you will notice that you fought for the things you wanted, be it a love relationship or a good relationship with the boss, by doing that you can give yourself praise and permission to be grateful to where you are.

Communication 

A great way to deal with jealousy in a relationship, as to not let it take a great effect on your mental health, is communicating with your partner.

In doing so, one can share the deepest fears and face which of them are based on trauma, genuine threat, or feelings of insecurity. Sometimes it may be hard to understand that a relationship has its uncertainties, that you can’t control how the other feels or read their mind but by sharing your insecurities you can feel it is possible to free oneself of the ghost of jealousy.

Explore underlying matters

If experiencing jealousy in a debilitating way, such a way that can cause depression, it is important to look for professional help. Through talking to a therapist, a person can share in a caring and compassionate environment and by that understand how their jealousy is triggered, why it is so hard to not fixate on such topics or relationships, and how to let go, little by little, to the urge to control.

CONCLUSION

In this article the concept of jealousy and depression were discussed, it was also established that jealousy is a human emotion that can be related to feeling unsure, insecure and how that, sometimes, can lead to depression.

The article also highlights how men and women feel and express jealousy. There were also a few guidelines to help one cope with jealousy so it doesn’t come to a point of being bad for your mental health by following a few guidelines.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to use the space below to leave your thoughts.

REFERENCES

Xiang Y,Dong X, Zhao J. Effects of envy on depression: the mediating roles of psychological resilience and social support.Psychiatry Investig. 2020 Jun; 17(6): 547–555.

Guerrero, L. K., Spitzberg, B. H., & Yoshimura, S. M. (2004). Sexual and Emotional Jealousy. In J. H. Harvey, A. Wenzel, & S. Sprecher (Eds.), The handbook of sexuality in close relationships (pp. 311–345).

Hailparn, D. F., & Hailparn, M. (1997). Four dimensions of envy: Strategies for managing its manifestations in psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 27(1), 49-60

Guerrero, Laura, K.(2005). Attachment-Style Differences

Sagarin J.(2004) Sex Differences in the contexts of extreme Jealousy 11(3)319-328.

Somasundaram O. Facets of morbid jealousy: With an anecdote from a historical Tamil romance.Indian J Psychiatry. 2010 Jul-Sep; 52(3): 284–288.