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Psychiatr Danub. 2013 Sep;25(3):334-9.

Obsessive versus delusional jealousy.

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Clinic of Psychiatry, Clinical Centre of Serbia, Pasterova 2, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia,


Although obsessive jealousy is a highly disturbing disorder, frequently it goes unrecognized, as most attention is paid to delusional jealousy, being the more prominent clinical phenomenon. In order to distinguish obsessive from delusional jealousy, the basic clinical characteristics of these two types of jealousy are presented, as well as the mechanism of their respective genesis, and the differences which we must be aware of in order to prevent misdiagnosis and consequent wrong treatment choices. The theoretical considerations are supported by case presentations providing a clear picture of the phenomena discussed. Unlike delusional jealousy, characterized by the presence of strong, false beliefs that the partner is unfaithful, individuals with obsessive jealousy suffer from unpleasant and irrational jealous ruminations that the partner could be unfaithful, accompanied by compulsive checking of partners' behaviour, which is recognised by the patient as ego-dystonic. This jealousy resembles obsessive-compulsive phenomenology more closely. Despite the differences, both forms of jealousy result in significant distress for patients and intimate relationships, and carry the risk of abuse, homicide and/or suicide. Delusional jealousy is a psychotic disorder and should be treated mainly with antipsychotics, while obsessive jealousy resembles obsessive-compulsive disorder and should be treated with SSRIs and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Regardless of the presence or absence of insight into the disorder, one of the key factors in the treatment of pathological jealousy is to motivate the sufferers for pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions.

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