Psychology Explains 3 Reasons Jealousy Happens (And How to Stop It)

Psychology Explains 3 Reasons Jealousy Happens (And How to Stop It)


Few people don’t struggle with jealousy to some degree. It’s difficult just to tell yourself to use positive thinking when the green-eyed monster is slowly but surely taking over.

Sometimes, you may not even understand why the jealousy is occurring, or how you can stop it from pouring outwards and overwhelming everything. To help you out, here is how psychology explains three reasons jealous happens and how to stop it in four steps.

Why Does Jealousy Happen?

1.      Obsessive Thinking

Obsessive thinking can be immensely damaging in all relationships – and for most aspects of life in general. In more extreme forms, it can be a part of a mental disorder or a symptom of one. However, there are less severe levels of obsessive thinking on the spectrum of obsession. Here are some forms of obsessive thinking:

  • Facing difficulty managing anything uncertain or unknown
  • Reacting poorly to being unable to control a situation
  • Engaging in doubt-filled thoughts
  • Wondering about tiny details and blowing them out of proportion
  • Catastrophizing minor issues by turning them into bigger ones through slippery slopes

But how does this fuel jealousy? Well, jealousy is often an irrational feeling, born from misinterpreting something. These obsessive thoughts are often a product of insecurity, guilt, or other similar emotions, which can translate to jealous spiraling. As an example:

  • A friend’s excitement for a new like-minded group is blown up in your mind as a possibility of them losing interest in you for that new friend group
  • A partner’s noticeable business over the last two days leads to you wondering if they are cheating
  • An employee’s praise of another person over you causes you to fear that you will lose your job because you aren’t good enough
  • Your lack of ability to help a family member makes you worry that they will cut you off


2.      Disconnect From Reality

Some feelings of jealousy have a good reason to pop up, but by its very nature, most jealousy is disconnected from reality to some degree. It sees things that aren’t there and can even twist the thoughts in your head, causing you to believe your ideas are logical when they are not.

To determine whether jealousy is rooted in reality, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there an exact pattern that indicates a reason to be jealous, or are these emotions spawning from one isolated event?
  • Are the facts you’re basing your jealousy on truly factual?
  • How much of the inciting incident involves misunderstand and miscommunication?
  • Have you exhibited jealous behavior in similar situations often in the past, only due to the condition triggering the emotion, with no other trigger?
  • Are you 100% positive that what you are seeing is correct? Research indicates that jealousy can affect vision accuracy!

3.      Paranoia

We’ve talked about how obsession can be on a spectrum – and fear is on a spectrum, too. You’ve probably heard of severe disorders with paranoia as the main factor, or how moderate paranoia is a staple symptom of a wide range of other mental health conditions.

But paranoia can take milder forms on the spectrum and fuel jealousy. The problem is that this is a never-ending cycle: paranoia fuels jealousy, which fuels more paranoia, which fuels more resentment, and so on. This is how you can wind up becoming so overly paranoid that nothing you believe is rooted in reality.

Mild to moderate paranoia of a jealous variety often involves:

  • An inability to trust others due to fear of being harmed or hurt
  • Feeling like everything is out to get or harm you
  • Worrying that people secretly think poorly of you, even when none of their actions indicate that
  • Blaming others or making excuses for small things that few people, if any, would have noticed, to begin with
  • Protecting themselves to an extreme degree against sabotage, betrayal, and perceived threat
  • Grasping at shreds of barely-there evidence to support your beliefs
  • Believing that most, if not all, people have malicious intent within them

How To Stop Jealousy

1.      Understand Jealousy

Though used interchangeably with envy, jealousy and envy are not the same things. Envy refers to the act of desiring something that someone else has, but you don’t, while jealousy is defined as the fear that something you have will be taken away. As an example, you would be envious of someone’s job promotion, but jealous when someone else flirts with your romantic partner. Here are some ways to understand jealousy:

·         Learn How To Recognize Jealousy

When you are able to figure out what you are jealous of, the emotion loosens its grip on you, and you won’t be ashamed of it anymore. Identifying what you are suspicious of opens the door to acknowledging it and learning from it, and it can also help to show you where your values are in life so you can take positive steps towards them.

·         Know That You Can Learn From Jealousy

By understanding what you are jealous of, you can use that knowledge to better yourself. Instead of being jealous, you can instead use those emotions to fuel your desires for betterment. For example, jealousy that a friend is more interested in a new class or club than you can spur you to try new things on your own as well. or better.

·         Know That Festering Jealousy Is Toxic

Keeping jealous emotions bottled up inside is pointless and unhealthy. Whenever you have those feelings, you need to learn to let them go, or they will fester inside of you and become extremely toxic.

power of positivity meme

2.      Do Some Assessments

First, start by assessing the relationship that is sparking your jealousy. We will assume, in this situation, that the cause is a romantic relationship. Romantic jealousy is actually much more complex and has multiple sides to it that are affected by positive, negative, and other traits of the relationship in question. Consider:

  • Are the foundations of your relationship based on respect, trust, and love? Relationships founded on shaky bases are more prone to both performing actions that warrant jealousy and developing jealous reactions irrationally.
  • Does your partner’s behavior match their words? Do they act honestly and truthfully, or do they often act in ways that can trigger insecurities or perpetuate jealousy?
  • Does your partner behave in a controlling manner? Are they insecure about the relationship from the get-go?

Next, it’s time to assess yourself. If you have determined that your relationship has a solid foundation, but you are still feeling jealous, you should turn your sight inwards and look to yourself and your experiences. A person’s basic attachment style influences their tendencies towards being jealous. Attachment styles are influenced in turn by your growing environment, especially in childhood? Consider:

  • Did you grow up in a loving environment with secure attachments?
  • Were things in your childhood home often volatile and unpredictable?
  • Did you deal with abuse or abusive situations from people you thought you could trust?
  • Do you often feel empty inside or experience feelings of worthlessness?
  • Were you able to depend on the people raising you or the people around you?
  • Do you have negative experiences with previous partners cheating?

If you learn your attachment style is to blame, don’t despair, and keep your positive thinking. Attachment styles don’t have to be set in stone; in fact, they’re malleable! You can still influence and change your style by growing and gaining new experiences. A mental health professional can also help, so consider booking therapy or a similar appointment. A qualified professional can guide you, build your self-esteem, and help you resolve your concerns.

3.      Stop The Initial Reaction

Controlling your feelings and not acting immediately based on their impulsiveness is not easy. But stopping this initial emotional response is crucial in stopping jealousy. The feeling of envy itself is often not the problem you are facing, with the real issue being the decision to act on strong emotions and become lost in them without forethought.

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