Overcoming jealousy

Jealousy is a natural emotion, but it can be painful and difficult to control. We look at practical ways to handle the "green-eyed monster".

Jealousy happens most commonly within a romantic relationship, although it can occur between siblings and other family members, in friendships and in professional relationships.

A small amount of jealousy can be good. For example, if it's mild and well managed it can help a couple to appreciate each other and add to the passion of a relationship. But extreme jealousy can destroy relationships and damage your health.

What does jealousy feel like?

When someone feels jealous, they feel that someone or a situation is threatening something that they value highly, especially a relationship.

Jealousy can make you feel angry, anxious and threatened. You might become hypervigilant, oversensitive and possessive.

How do you know if your jealousy is a problem?

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair suggests that if you're concerned about your jealousy, ask yourself three simple questions:

1) Is this feeling interfering with my normal life?
2) Is my jealousy hurting someone I love?
3) Does my jealousy control me more than I control it?

"If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then seek help through your GP," says Blair. A GP can refer you to a counsellor or a therapist if you need further help.

Don't feel embarrassed about seeking help. It's healthy to deal with intense emotions.

How jealousy can be harmful

Your health

Jealousy can take over your life and lead to sleeping problems and a poor appetite.

Blair says that intense feelings of jealousy can have similar effects to chronic anxiety, including raised heart rate, sweating and exhaustion. 

If not managed properly, jealousy can also lead to depression.

Your relationship

Jealousy can affect your relationship in a negative way, especially if the perceived threat is not genuine and your partner is not doing anything to cause the jealousy.

Even the most devoted partner can feel hurt, exhausted, anxious and angry that they're not trusted. Ultimately, it drains them emotionally.

What can help with overcoming jealousy?

There are some practical and positive things that you can do to overcome your jealousy. But if your jealousy is not improving or is out of control, ask your GP to refer you to a counsellor or therapist. Blair offers the following advice:

  • Talk to your partner about your feelings without blaming them. Let them know what makes you feel worried and jealous. Prepare what you want to say, and talk to your partner in a non-threatening, neutral atmosphere. "For example, arrange to meet in a café or restaurant. You'll be more likely to stay calm," says Linda Blair. 
  • Just because you feel there is a threat, it doesn't mean that it's genuine. Try to view the situation objectively.
  • Uncertainty is a part of relationships. You can't ultimately control someone's feelings.

How would a counsellor or therapist help me?

A counsellor can help you to resolve your feelings of jealousy. They will help you look at the cause of your jealousy and deal with it on a day-to-day basis.

Blair says that, "Knowing the origin of the problem is not enough to resolve it completely. You need to look at the everyday triggers, i.e. why you continue to feel and act that way. A counsellor or therapist will help you understand that."

Relationships: coping with feelings of jealousy

People talk about jealousy and a psychologist explains what triggers it, the mental and physical symptoms, and how to control it before it becomes a problem.

Media last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016

Page last reviewed: 21/03/2014

Next review due: 21/03/2016

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