Jealousy And Bipolar: Lies My Head Tells Me

By: Alexis Zinkerman

I was chatting with another bipolar friend this weekend on the phone and the topic of conversation turned to jealousy. And I started to wonder how many other bipolar people struggle with the green-eyed monster old envy. Is this a feeling that goes hand in hand with bipolar? There’s delusional jealousy and then there’s out and out paranoia. 

I struggle when a friend gets promoted at her job and I’m trying to find steady work. I struggle when I see my husband chatting with friends online and offline and the few friends I had I lost due to my illness. I even once sent someone I was jealous over a nasty email in a fit of psychotic envy.

What is jealousy and why does it make us do awful self-destructive things? We all can relate to the seventh deadly sin. It is popularized in songs such as by Alanis Morissette. It’s something we all go through, but bipolar makes this emotion far more intense. I contacted relationship expert and best-selling author Susan Winter for her take on jealousy.

“Jealousy is a defensive response to feeling inferior and devalued. It’s the auto-reaction of one who doesn’t know their own worth, or that of a partner responding to an inappropriate situation created by their mate,” said Winter. 

“In relationships, a chronic jealousy of ‘others’ signifies the fear of losing one’s position of power. Other people are seen as a threat. Real or imagined, this creates an emotional roller coaster that eventually erodes love within the partnership.”

I’ve always seen other women as a threat, especially if they were prettier, thinner, smarter, had a better job, went to better schools. I get envious of the way some women have this repoire with men. 

Jealousy in Relationships

Author Dyane Harwood told me about the time she heard her boyfriend on the phone comforting his friend Christine. “She lived 3000 miles away from us in New Jersey and she was having marital troubles. I instinctly knew there was something more than friendship brewing between them. This time anger was my overwhelming feeling. I was livid, my breathing was shallow and tight, I held back sobs,” said Harwood.

Harwood said that jealousy has triggered her bipolar-related symptoms of anger and depression as well as anxiety. Her sleep can be affected. When she feels like this, she calls or texts her therapist. 

The worst thing Harwood did out of jealousy was to send Matt’s friend Christine a registered letter saying that she must stay away from him and leave our relationship alone after Christine had moved out to California to live with a relative. 

Is there a cure-all for such a destructive emotion?

Winter suggests that “The cure to jealousy is to create a full and rich life, to agree with ourselves and begin to appreciate who and what we are.”

“Having a “relationship” isn’t a cure for incompleteness. A healthy relationship must first exist within us, and then extend to include another. Also, we need to have a mate who respects our boundaries and doesn’t place us in emotional turmoil. No matter how solid our confidence, if we’re partnered with a person who acts inappropriately with others, then our natural reaction is to feel devalued, angry and upset,” she said.

When bipolars become jealous, jealousy becomes magnified by the symptoms of our illnesses. We can create whole imaginary scenes about the perceived injustice. Anger and agitation caress us instead of gratitude. 

Remembering to practice gratitude for the real things in our lives can keep the jealous bug away. Keeping a gratitude journal every night can help us from making up untrue scenarios based on our jealousy. 

This is how I combat it when I start to feel jealous of someone. I develop my self more, find new interests, pursue my passions and meditate on why I feel this way. 

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