How Jealousy Affects Your Health & What You Can Do About It, According To Experts
Jealousy, like anger, is an ugly emotion that, like happiness, can sometimes blind you, altering your perception of reality. But even though jealousy feels, to quote Nick Jonas, "hellish," it’s a normal, completely human emotion that either comes and goes without a thought, or spirals out of control into a full-blown state of mind. When you battle these types of emotions over the long-term, jealousy can affect your health both physically and mentally. And while it’s easy to place the blame on a loved one or a stranger, envy or possessiveness typically stems from something deep inside you. The only way to free yourself from it is to address the root problem and go from there.
When I was growing up, for example, there was one girl I hung around with that always seemed to have it all. She was incredibly friendly, musically talented, she always landed the solo in the school play, she made honor roll, she got the guys she wanted. As for me, I was short, always came in second, missed getting all A's by one subject, and struggled with unrequited love until my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I was jealous, but looking back now, it wasn’t because this girl had everything I wanted. It was because I lacked the self-confidence to see my own self-worth and appreciate all the things I did have.
Oftentimes when people feel jealous, it’s in the context of a relationship. One person feels more secure than the other, and insecurities will translate into unwarranted assumptions, fights ensue, and it’s just a mess. There’s no denying that strong feelings of jealousy can cause a rift in your relationships, but what effect does it have on your relationship with yourself?
Jealousy is psychological, but even though it’s all a mind game, going green with envy can seriously alter the way you see yourself.
As harsh as this may sound, Dr. Carolina Castanos, founder of the Moving On program, says your jealousy likely stems from your greatest insecurities.
For some people, “it might take very little [to get jealous] and be very intense,” she tells Elite Daily. For others, “it might take a lot and be mild.” And even though these feelings might develop as a result of negative past experiences, a lot of the time, “how we relate with ourselves has to do with our jealousy.”
It all goes back to jealousy being a negative, volatile emotion; think of it as a leech that feeds off insecurities and self-confidence. Say you’re stuck in a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office job that irritates you more than anything else, and your best friend just got promoted to a corner office with a view. Because you’re not feeling so great about your current situation, chances are, coughing up a “congratulations” is going to feel pretty bitter. The jealousy is essentially a direct result of your unhappiness.
What's more, jealousy can become a vicious cycle that interferes with your mental and physical health.
You’re jealous because you’re unhappy for some reason or another, and jealousy feeds off that unhappiness, creating even more unhappiness in the long run.
“Imagine that all of your thoughts each and every day only focus on how terrible you are, and how badly others think of you,” Kati Morton, a YouTube vlogger and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Elite Daily. “Jealousy can really harm our mental health because when we feel jealous, we are only having negative conversations about ourselves and the world around us.”
It’s one thing to feel jealous, but it’s another to let jealousy control your life. According to doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee, jealousy sparks something in your brain, causing it to switch to fight-or-flight mode. Not only will you start to experience “intense anxiety,” “potentially obsessive thoughts,” and “difficulty concentrating,” should your jealousy blow up into a never-ending fixation, it can also affect you physically, as well. Things like “increased heart rate, sweating, and feeling sick to your stomach” are all common bodily responses, Dr. Forshee tells Elite Daily.
So how can you get a grip on this emotion before it takes over your life and ruins close relationships?
Jealousy is both a short-term and long-term struggle. When envy strikes in the moment, your cheeks get warm, and your body starts to shake a little. But rest assured, there are a few quick fixes to help you chill.
"Take a step back and physiologically deescalate yourself," Dr. Forshee says, suggesting things like phoning a friend, taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths, even listening to a motivational podcast. But what's tricky about your envious nature, she tells Elite Daily, is that you forget it exists once the heat of the moment subsides, so it's arguably even more important to work on the issue even before it presents itself.
The first step in overcoming jealousy before it overwhelms you is to ditch the denial front, and recognize that feelings of jealousy are totally normal. Accept the feelings you’re experiencing for what they are, and then you can start to dig a little deeper.
Next, think about what’s really grinding your gears. Shannon Thomas, an award-winning therapist and survivor of psychological abuse, tells Elite Daily that “identifying exactly what it is we are jealous of allows us to set new goals and direction.”
Harboring these negative emotions and having the same fight with yourself or with others gets you nowhere fast, and a good way to ward off the bad mojo is to replace it with positive energy. After all, "changing self-talk can honestly change your life," Morton reminds us, and at the end of the day, the negativity you bring on yourself doesn’t inspire productivity. When you can put your finger on what’s really concerning you, as Thomas suggests, you can sit down and brainstorm ways to overcome it.
Last but not least, once you've accepted that jealousy is just part of being human, and you've identified what's really causing these emotions to come through so intensely, find the lesson and move on. To do that, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a physician who specializes in Chinese and integrative medicine, recommends harnessing your energy by focusing on yourself, rather than others.
"I always tell my patients, don't look right, left, or behind you, and always move forward," she tells Elite Daily. "When you take care of yourself, you always will feel better."