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Aim is to discuss the difference between envy and jealousy.
Envy vs. jealousy
Domina Petric, MD
Aim is to discuss the difference between
envy and jealousy.
Although envy and jealousy are sometimes
considered synonyms, these two terms
differ from psychological and
philosophical perspective.
˝Envy is an emotion which occurs when a
person lacks another´s superior quality,
achievement, or possession and either
desires it or wishes that the other lacked it
(1). Aristotle defined envy as pain at the
sight of another´s good fortune, stirred by
those who have what we ought to have.
Bertrand Russel said that envy was one of
the most potent causes of unhappiness. Not
only is the envious person rendered
unhappy by his or her envy, Russel
explained, but that person may also wish to
inflict misfortune on others, in forms of
emotional abuse and violent acts of
criminality (2). Shadenfreude means taking
pleasure in the misfortune of others and
can be understood as an outgrowth of envy
in certain situations. Envy and
Shadenfreude are very similar and are
linked emotional states. Both emotions are
considered very complex and often times
looked down upon, which is
understandable considering they are both
antisocial behaviors (3).˝
Prerequisite for becoming envious is to
give up your own values. Envious people
give up their own values and then fill this
emptiness with envy. Sometimes people
that where traumatized and understimated
give up their own values, develop low self-
esteem with strong inferiority complex,
and then finally start to envy others who
did not give up their own values.
Envy is very powerful core of negativity
and can cause clusters of negative
emotions and thoughts to accumulate in an
envious individual. The great illusion of
envy is that the misfortune of others will
make the envious individual to feel better.
This feeling of false happiness
(Shadenfreude) is nothing but explosion of
malice. Envy is a trap for the envy
individual and stops the personal
developing. Envy is the killer of positive
emotions and thoughts.
˝Jealousy generally refers to the thoughts
or feelings of insecurity, fear, concern,
over relative lack of possessions, status or
something of great personal value,
particularly in reference to a comparator, a
rival, or a competitor. Jealousy can consist
of one or more emotions such
as anger, resentment, inadequacy,
helplessness or disgust. In its original
meaning, jealousy is distinct from envy,
though the two terms have popularly
become synonymous in the English
language, with jealousy now also taking on
the definition originally used for envy
alone. Jealousy is a typical experience
in human relationships, and it has been
observed in infants as young as five
months (4, 5, 6, 7).
Romantic jealousy arises as a result of
romantic interest. It is defined as a
complex of thoughts, feelings, and actions
that follow threats to self-esteem and/or
threats to the existence or quality of the
relationship when those threats are
generated by the perception of a real or
potential romantic attraction between one's
partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival
Jealousy can actually be a healthy feeling
associated with love and caring about
someone or something. It can be a healthy
defense mechanism when there is a risk for
losing someone or something that is of
great value.
Obsessive jealousy is pathological feeling
that is seen in neurotic individuals and
individuals with obsessive compulsive
˝Pathological jealousy, also known as
Morbid jealousy, Othello syndrome
or delusional jealousy, is a psychological
disorder in which a person is preoccupied
with the thought that their spouse or sexual
partner is being unfaithful without having
any real proof, along with socially
unacceptable or abnormal behaviour
related to these thoughts. The most
common cited forms of psychopathology
in morbid jealousy are delusions and
obsessions. It is considered a subtype
of delusional disorder (9).
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. 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 (10).˝
˝Although popular culture often uses
jealousy and envy as synonyms, modern
philosophers and psychologists have
argued for conceptual distinctions between
jealousy and envy. For example,
philosopher John Rawls
between jealousy and envy on the ground
that jealousy involves the wish to keep
what one has, and envy the wish to get
what one does not have. Thus, a child is
jealous of her parents' attention to a
sibling, but envious of her friend's new
bicycle (11). Psychologists Laura Guerrero
and Peter Andersen have proposed the
same distinction. They claim the jealous
person perceives that he or she possesses a
valued relationship, but is in danger of
losing it or at least of having it altered in
an undesirable manner, whereas the
envious person does not possess a valued
commodity, but wishes to possess it (12).
Gerrod Parrott draws attention to the
distinct thoughts and feelings that occur in
jealousy and envy.
The common experience of jealousy for
many people may involve: fear of loss,
suspicion of or anger about a perceived
betrayal, low self-esteem and sadness over
perceived loss, uncertainty and loneliness,
fear of losing an important person to
another and distrust.
The experience of envy involves feelings
of inferiority, longing, resentment of
circumstances, ill will towards envied
person often accompanied by guilt about
these feelings, motivation to improve,
desire to possess the attractive rival's
qualities and disapproval of feelings.
Parrot acknowledges that people can
experience envy and jealousy at the same
time. Feelings of envy about a rival can
even intensify the experience of jealousy
(13, 14, 15).˝
Jealousy can be a healthy feeling
associated with love and caring about
someone or something, but it can also be
pathological feeling when it is obsessional
or delusional. Envy is never a healthy
feeling and it is considered as an antisocial
behavior. Pathological jealousy requires
psychiatric treatment (psychotherapy with
or without pharmacotherapy), whilst envy
is not psychiatric problem, but theological
(one of the seven deadly sins),
philosophical, social (antisocial behavior)
and psychological (knots of negative
emotions and thoughts) problem. Although
envy is not considered as psychiatric
problem, both envious and pathologically
jealous people might experience similar
problems, such as significant distress in
everyday life and in interpersonal
relationships, low self-esteem and
maladaptive behavior. Envy is more that
pathological jealousy associated with
hatred and destructive thoughts about the
rival, although carries less risk of homicide
or suicide than delusional jealousy. In
extreme cases, envy might be associated
with the risk of homicide. Envy is always
associated with some level of at least
emotional abuse, and in more severe cases
with psychological and even physical
abuse. Both pathologically jealous and
envious people need psychological help.
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the experiences of envy and jealousy.
Journal of Personality and Social
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New York: H. Liverwright 1930
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egalitarianism with random dictators.
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infants can be jealous: Against
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Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap
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Document ID 1544, archived from the
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