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Signs of Jealousy (Envious)

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 05, 2020

You may have heard people describe someone as “green with envy.” This phrase dates back to the ancient Greeks, who believed jealousy could trigger bile production and turn skin slightly green, a sign of sickness. Jealousy is sometimes referred to as “a green-eyed monster.” It was Shakespeare’s character Iago that first muttered the phrase in Othello.

Although many people use the words “jealousy” and “envy” interchangeably, there is a difference between them. What is that difference, and how can you tell if you or someone you know is experiencing them? Learn the differences and steps to take if you’re in a situation around jealousy or envy.

What Is Jealousy and Envy?

Envy is wanting what someone else has. You might see a neighbor with a new car or a coworker get a new job and desire the same. You might feel a sense of resentment toward the individual for attaining something you want but have yet to achieve.

Jealousy is more about holding onto something you already have. You might experience jealousy in a relationship when you perceive a threat or worry that the relationship is changing in a negative way. 

While these emotions are easy to define and often easy to recognize, they can be difficult to control.

Signs of Jealousy and Envy

Jealousy is typically thought of in terms of relationships, especially with partners. Envy is more associated with desiring what someone else has or has achieved.

Signs of Jealousy 

Trust is an important aspect of any relationship. When you are feeling jealous, a lack of trust can lead to negative thoughts. Signs that you might be jealous are:

  • You don’t trust your partner when you’re not together.
  • You get concerned when they mention other people.
  • You constantly check their social media to see what they’re doing.
  • You think they’re cheating on you.
  • You’re attempting to control your partner’s behavior.

If you’re the target of jealousy, you may feel like someone (usually a partner or friend) is trying to control your life. They might do things such as check up on you, try to tell you what to do (or not do) and how to act, or limit your contact with friends and coworkers.

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Signs of Envy

Healthy competition between people can be good, but when you’re feeling unhappy when others achieve success or feel the need to constantly one-up their accomplishments, you may be experiencing envy. Signs of envy include:

  • You aren’t happy for others when they achieve success.
  • Another person’s success makes you feel unhappy.
  • You feel the need to diminish someone else’s success.
  • You judge others negatively.
  • You’re happy when others face setbacks.

The rise of social media has been documented to trigger envy and lower mental well-being in some people. As friends post pictures of their best moments in life, it can trigger feelings of inadequacy or regret in others. These can be powerful emotions.

Living With Jealous or Envious Thoughts

Just about everyone feels jealous or envious once in a while. However, when these emotions start to become overwhelming, it can trigger concerns about inadequacy or feeling ill will toward others. It can also bring about symptoms of stress. In some cases, it can lead to depression in some cases.

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Extreme Jealousy Can Be a Cause for Concern

Extreme jealousy is listed as one of the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse. If you’re the target of intimidation in a relationship or worried about your partner becoming angry or violent, get to a safe place and then reach out for help.

Use These Emotions in a Positive Way

As difficult as it might be to believe, jealousy and envy can also have a positive impact. When you recognize jealous or envious feelings, it can be a sign that you need to change.

For example, if you want that new car, you may realize you need to make changes in your spending or savings habits to get it. If you’re jealous of a coworker because they have a better relationship with the boss and you worry that may impact your job, you might try to develop your relationship with your manager.

Practice Gratitude

When you’re feeling these strong emotions, it can help to pause for a moment and reflect on the positive things in your life. Gratitude can mitigate these emotions and help you overcome any negative feelings by recognizing the positive things in your life.

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It’s not uncommon to have these feelings. Almost everybody has tinges of jealousy or feels envious from time to time. Recognizing the signs of jealousy and envy can help you control your emotions so they don’t escalate or negatively impact your life.

If you’re starting to feel like jealousy or envy are affecting your mood or you’re worried about the consequences of these feelings, talk to your doctor. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Frontiers in Psychiatry: “Effect of Gratitude on Benign and Malicious Envy: The Mediating Role of Social Support.”

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology: “The Colors of Anger, Envy, Fear, and Jealousy: A Cross-Cultural Study.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “envy.”

Military One Source: “Understanding Jealousy, Preserving Trust.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline: "Warning Signs of Abuse: Know what to look for."

Psychiatry Investigation: “Effects of Envy on Depression: The Mediating Roles of Psychological Resilience and Social Support.”

Psychology Today: “Jealousy.”

The University of Warwick: “Is Envy Harmful to a Society’s Psychological Health and Wellbeing? A Longitudinal Study of 18,000 Adults.”

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