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Dealing with jealousy

Jealousy is an emotion, just like happiness, sadness, and anger. Everyone feels jealous from time to time. But it can be painful and difficult to control.

Jealousy happens most often within relationships.

It can occur between:

  • romantic partners
  • siblings
  • family members
  • friends
  • work colleagues

Extreme jealousy can destroy relationships and damage your health.

Signs of jealousy

If you are jealous, you may feel that someone is threatening something you value.

You may also feel envy for something they have, such as:

  • a relationship with someone
  • their emotional state or happiness
  • material goods - for example, a car or house

Feelings of envy or jealousy can make you feel angry, anxious and threatened. You can become oversensitive and possessive.

How jealousy can be harmful

Your health

Intense jealousy can take over your everyday life and lead to sleep problems and a poor appetite.

Intense feelings of jealousy can have similar effects to chronic anxiety, including:

  • a raised heart rate
  • sweating
  • exhaustion
  • worried thoughts

Your relationship

Jealousy can affect your relationship in a negative way. For example, when your partner is not actually doing anything to justify the jealousy.

The most devoted partner can feel hurt, exhausted, anxious and angry if they're not trusted.

When jealousy is a problem

If you're concerned about your jealousy, ask yourself 3 questions:

  • Is this feeling interfering with my everyday life?
  • Is my jealousy hurting someone I love?
  • Does my jealousy control me more than I control it?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, talk to a counsellor or a therapist. Your GP can refer you.

How to deal with jealousy

There are some practical and positive things you can do to overcome your jealousy.

Talk to your partner

Tell them 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 and neutral place. For example, arrange to meet in a café or restaurant. You'll be more likely to stay calm.

Understand your past

It's important to ask yourself how your past experiences of relationships might be impacting your feelings of jealousy in current relationships.

For example, you may have experienced mistrust in previous relationships. People you loved and depended on may have treated you in unfair and hurtful ways. This can make you more likely to expect similar treatment in other relationships.

Accept some uncertainty

Uncertainty is part of relationships. You cannot know for sure what others are thinking or feeling. It's impossible to control what someone else is feeling.

How a counsellor or therapist can help

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

Talking therapies

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025