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How Jealousy Works

        Science | Emotions

Types of Jealousy
Sarah Nabwami adjusts her bandages in a Ugandan burn unit. As she worked at her restaurant, an assailant threw acid in her face on behalf of a jealous rival. He was fined 400,000 Ugandan shillings (about U.S. $250) and released.
Sarah Nabwami adjusts her bandages in a Ugandan burn unit. As she worked at her restaurant, an assailant threw acid in her face on behalf of a jealous rival. He was fined 400,000 Ugandan shillings (about U.S. $250) and released.
Walter Astrada/AFP/Getty Images

Jealousy can be best divided into two main categories: normal and abnormal. As already mentioned, everyone experiences jealousy at some point, no matter how saintly they are. Dr. Hupka notes that labels can be attached to every type of situation that causes jealousy. Some of these include:

  • Romantic jealousy: Dr. Hupka and many others believe that romantic jealousy is probably the most frequently experienced type of normal jealousy. In fact, according to PBS Nightly Business Reporter, the first fight romantic couples have usually involves jealousy, although couples usually move onto fighting about financial issues later on. Interestingly, a 2004 study published in Evolutionary Psychology found that, when asked about sexual versus emotional infidelity, respondents of both sexes reported more jealousy about their partner’s emotional infidelity.
  • Work or Power jealousy: Simply enough, this form strikes people who are jealous about a "missed" promotion, salary level or other work-related issue.
  • Friend jealousy: As mentioned in the section about adolescent jealousy, people are often fearful of "losing" a friend to an interloper.
  • Family jealousy: Sibling rivalry is one trademark characteristic of this type of jealousy.
  • Abnormal jealousy: Abnormal jealousy is often described by any one of a number of adjectives, including morbid, psychotic, pathological, delusional or anxious jealousy. According to Dr. Hupka, abnormal jealousy can be attributed to common issues including extreme insecurity, immaturity and being a "control freak." In some cases, however, it is due to a mental illness, such as paranoia or schizophrenia, or a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Paranoia and schizophrenia can cause delusions of unfaithfulness, causing a jealous reaction. Extreme sensitivity can also contribute to jealousy in instances where a person perceives a threat to the relationship when there's no threat present. "It is not easy to determine when it changes into neurotic jealousy," says Dr. Hupka.
"The latter is usually associated with the exercise of excessive control over the mate, who has unrealistic concerns about the mate’s faithfulness." He goes on to note that sufferers of this form of abnormal jealousy often exhibit behaviors such as calling the mate repeatedly to "check in" and going through the mate’s telephone and address books.

See how to overcome jealousy on the next page.


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