Othello Syndrome: More Than Just Jealousy and Possessiveness

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Othello Syndrome: More Than Just Jealousy and Possessiveness

Jealousy is a hard challenge to resist and sometimes it can even lead to a mental health problem known as Othello's Syndrome / Photo by: Fabio Formaggio via 123RF


Jealousy can sometimes be hard to avoid in a relationship. It becomes worse when a partner repeatedly accuses their lover of being unfaithful despite having no evidence to show for it. This excessive jealousy may further develop into controlling behaviors like stalking or not allowing their lover to go somewhere without them. Actions like these are not just signs of insecurity. These kinds of behaviors may be the very manifestations of pathological jealousy, formally known as the Othello Syndrome, a disorder which derived its name from the titular character of Shakespeare’s play.

The play follows the story of Othello who was deceived by his treacherous friend Iago into thinking that his wife Desdemona was having an affair. Blinded by his jealousy, he murders his wife. After he had killed Desdemona, he later learns the truth from Iago. In regret, he mournfully declares that he “loved not too wisely, but too well.”

Psychology Today states that Othello Syndrome is more prevalent in men than in women. Studies show that 60% of males suffer from this condition, while 40% of females are affected by it.

Othello Syndrome Definition

Othello Syndrome is defined by Plos as “a type of jealousy delusion, marked by suspecting a partner of infidelity, with accompanying jealousy, attempts at monitoring and control, and sometimes violence.” It was condition first noted in the 1950s by Dr. John Todd, a British psychiatrist who recorded it as a “dangerous form of psychosis.”

Opposite to the usual kind of jealousy, jealousy delusions like this are not triggered by previous circumstances where they found their lover was actually cheating on them or by suspicious actions. According to Medicinenet, it is also called erotic jealousy syndrome, delusional jealousy, Othello psychosis, sexual jealousy, and morbid jealousy.

Dale Hartley, a retired psychology professor and author of the article Othello Syndrome: Passion Can be Pathological and Deadly, states that Othello Syndrome can emerge by itself or along with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. It may be also a result of a traumatic injury in the brain or can be due to some side effects of some medicines.


GoodTherapy says that an individual who suffers may consider even the most trivial actions as a proof of betrayal. For example, when they see their partner combing their hair, they may accuse them of trying to attract another potential mate.

Another symptom is that they will be constantly interrogating their lovers and even when their partner assures them that they are being faithful, they are still convinced that they are having a secret relationship with someone else.

They are always on the lookout for signs of their perceived infidelity, waiting to catch them in the act of cheating as they subject them to loyalty “tests”. In severe cases, their paranoia may prompt them to act violently towards their partner when confronting them. This may also lead to obsessive stalking.

The Elephant Journal also states other behaviors that the partner the one suffering from Othello should be wary of:

Their partner may be excessively worried whenever they leave the house and every time they come home, they will be constantly asked about their whereabouts such whom they last talked to and where they have gone. Each time they go somewhere, their partner may call them frequently.

Their lover may also be regularly keeping track of their telephone calls, internet browser history, e-mails, and social media accounts. Taken too far, they prevent them from using any devices or accessing their social media accounts. They may often scan their belongings like their bags, wallets, and pockets for proof that they have cheated.

They may also be always trailing or spying on them, making sure they or someone monitor their every move. They may even recruit a private detective for that purpose and may tell them to take a lie detector test.

Everything their partner tells them will always be challenged. When their lover points out that they have trust issues, they will not admit to having them. Instead, they will blame them for making them feel insecure.

Moreover, they may persuade their partner not to pursue any hobbies or interest that involves them having to leave the house. This is because they believe it can give their partner more opportunities to find someone who looks much more attractive than they are. Friends of their lover will always be criticized as being a bad influence to them.

Every time their partner does anything contrary to how they want them to act, they will threaten to self-harm. When their lover tries to break-up with them, they will think it is because they have a paramour. They will always insist that what occurred in their imagination was real since their memory is warped. Lastly, they may attempt to commit suicide or have thoughts about carrying it out.

One of the symptoms of Othello's Syndrome is a constant interrogation of a person to his or her partner / Photo by: Antonio Guillem via 123RF



There are no identified cures for Othello Syndrome in particular. However, a study which was published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health services, patients are advised to try Dialectical Behavioral Therapy if their symptoms are not accompanied by psychosis. For those affected by this condition and also have psychosis, doctors may suggest that they take antipsychotic medication.

Othello's Syndrome is yet to have a cure and the only treatment that can do is via anti-psychotic medication / Photo by: evkaz via 123RF




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