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Delusional jealousy is a mental disorder where a person has delusional beliefs around the idea that the person with whom they are romantically involved with is cheating on them. It is sometimes called morbid jealousy or Othello syndrome, taking its name from Shakespeare's play in which delusions of infidelity play a major role. Less common names for the condition are erotic jealously syndrome and sexual jealousy. Sometimes it is a condition of its own, but more often it is a symptom of another psychiatric disorder.
Psychiatric professionals distinguish between regular jealously and jealous behavior that may be delusional. A healthy sense of jealousy or suspicion only occurs as a response to evidence of infidelity. It also changes over time to reflect the facts surrounding a situation. Jealous delusions have no basis in reality, or do not change in the face of new facts or proof otherwise. These delusions manifest themselves in obsessive thoughts that can become the center of the person's life. A person suffering from delusional jealousy will often repeatedly accuse his or her loved one of infidelity, constantly search for evidence to prove the accusations and may even resort to stalking both the significant other and the person whom they think they may be cheating with.
As the delusions progress, they can also take up the entirety of a person'a life. Personal and professional relationships can begin to suffer, and the mental health of the person with the delusions can degrade even further. Delusional jealously can even become life-threatening for those suffering from it and the people around them. Stalking behavior based on delusions can turn violent. Suicide is also a concern, as the delusions can lead to severe depression.
Many times, delusional jealousy is a symptom to another mental disorder. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can often lead to delusions. Sufferers of BPD frequently go through periods of extreme anxiety and depression. They also tend to be defensive and easily offended. All of these combined tend to make them more susceptible to feelings of jealously, and extreme cases can lead to delusions associated with jealous thoughts. Depression and other mental problems such as bipolar disorders and schizophrenia can also lead to delusions of infidelity. External factors such as sexual dysfunction or drug and alcohol abuse have also been shown to contribute to delusional jealousy.
Delusional jealousy treatment can vary based on the severity of the disorder. Mild symptoms can often be treated with therapy and medication, but severe cases require stronger treatment. Since people with morbid jealousy can sometimes be violent toward themselves and others, involuntary detention to a mental hospital, and strong anti-psychotic medication may be used to help manage the condition. In extreme cases the best treatment may be for the partners to separate completely, eliminating the impetus for the delusions.
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