Othello Syndrome – Pathological Jealousy

The name of this syndrome came about from the famous Shakespearean play, ‘Othello’, where Othello was extremely suspicious of the infidelity of his wife and it became an obsession. Jealousy in a relationship is normal and it shows that the partner cares about their other half enough to get upset. However, it becomes unhealthy when it turns into an obsession, a constant need to check on your partner or stalk them.

The formal name for Othello Syndrome is Delusional Disorder – Jealousy type and it is a type of mental disorder that is quoted in the DSM-5.

Symptoms of Delusional Disorder include:

  • Constantly accusing partner of being unfaithful or giving other people too much attention
  • Invading their privacy, stalking them
  • Showing extreme jealousy
  • Inability to control impulses
  • Finding “proof” that their partner is unfaithful even though there is no such evidence
  • Finding fault with their partner
  • Verbal and physical abuse

There is no known cause for such a disorder. However, a possible explanation for it could be childhood trauma, where the person with the disorder has had an unstable relationship with their caregivers as a child, or they had familial issues where one parent was unfaithful to the other. This may have caused a sense of mistrust and instability in adult relationships. Attachment disorder could be another cause for Othello Syndrome and it could also be explained by childhood abuse or insecure attachment patterns with the caregiver. As a result of the person’s lowered self-esteem and confidence, they project their insecurities onto their partner through their actions of jealousy.

Othello Syndrome can be a very distressing disorder for the person suffering from it and also their partner as well. It greatly impacts the couple’s quality of life and causes high tensions in the relationship, which is unhealthy for the long term.

Couples Therapy is a good form of treatment to go through together as the therapist may help to address not just the issue of jealousy but some underlying concerns as well.

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Dr Hugo Gonzales

Clinicial Psychologist

Michiel Gonzales

Registered Psychologist

Samuil Hossain

Registered Psychologist

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