According To Science, Jealousy Really Does Mess With Your Mind

We all experience jealousy at one point or another, but when you feel it intensely, you might notice yourself feeling particularly weird both mentally and physically. Believe it or not, there’s actually a good bit of science that proves that jealousy really does have an impact on your brain.

  1. You Feel Physical Pain. Just like with breakups, jealousy can trigger the area of the brain that registers physical pain. It makes sense that hearing something that triggers jealousy feels painful because it activates our fear of losing something we hold valuable, like a significant other or friendship. When you start to feel achy for what seems like no reason, ask yourself if you might be feeling jealous
  2. You Feel Good When Your Rivals Go Down Hard. Ever get that satisfying feeling when your competitor or ex totally fails, or does something super embarrassing? That’s your brain’s pleasure center lighting up, and this goes hand in hand with jealousy. The more jealous you are of someone, the more rewarding it feels when they flop. This can happen because a part of you enjoys the vengeance aspect of them failing, a part of you may feel like you have less competition, or a part of you feels like it is the fair karmic outcome you’ve always wanted.
  3. You Experience Anxiety. Feeling constantly jealous can eventually lead to anxiety-related symptoms that can make life more uncomfortable, like feeling constantly worried, restless, and agitated. Anxiety usually pops up to send us a message and let us know that we need to pay attention to our surroundings, as something doesn’t feel quite right. If your jealousy is leading to anxiety, consider examining yourself and the relationship in question.
  4. You Feel More Lonely. If you are experiencing jealousy often, chances are the people around you will start to pick up on this. Feeling constantly jealous of others may push the ones you care about away from you, as most people opt to be in relationships with supportive individuals. This could result in you becoming more isolated and less connected. Humans are social beings who, for the most part, need to feel connected to the important people in their life, and when they are not, this can lead to some pretty lousy feelings.
  5. You Have Difficulty Focusing. In one study, individuals who were experiencing jealous feelings had a more challenging time focusing on the given task than they did prior to feeling this way. This means that you might feel more distracted at work, when you’re with your friends, and especially when you’re with the one who brings out this emotion. Jealousy can create a seriously negative impact on your life if these feelings continue to be persistent.
  6. Your Stress Response Is Triggered. Jealousy comes from a place of stress, and with stress comes the potential for increased cortisol production. When cortisol levels increase, you are more at risk for becoming sick, feeling run down, experiencing sleep issues, and having decreased cognitive acuity. Being at a constant level of stress not only feels bad, but is also super hard on your body.
  7. You Want To Disconnect. Jealousy is typically an uncomfortable feeling, and for some, this can encourage you to isolate yourself from others. You may feel fearful or nervous for being judged for your emotional reaction, and not want others to know. This can cause feelings of shame to come up, which can also add to isolation.
  8. You Feel Suspicious. Jealousy can push you to snoop, check your partner’s emails, and read through their texts. This mistrust can create even more of a rift between you and your partner if your jealousy isn’t addressed head on. Think about why you are snooping, then address it with your partner if necessary.
  9. You Put Up A Wall. If you feel jealous and don’t say anything to your partner, you may begin to put up an emotional wall, blocking your partner from connecting with you. This can create a vicious cycle where you block emotionally when you feel jealousy, which then may cause your partner or friend to distance more, leaving you in a great position to feel even more jealous.
  10. You Feel Emotionally Unsafe. Chances are if you are constantly feeling jealous, your relationship doesn’t feel emotionally safe to you. Jealousy here or there is normal, but to feel plagued with it everyday should be taken as a sign for you to reevaluate your situation. Feeling emotionally safe is one of the markers of a healthy relationship, so be sure to check in with yourself if this is constantly missing from your life.
Gabrielle Applebury is a Marriage and Family Therapist intern, with a specialty in working with those who have experienced trauma. Along with her husband, she has adopted three dogs, two cats and two horses. She is a blog contributor for Oh Tiny Heart, BlogPaws, and The OC PTSD Center.