Othello Syndrome (Morbid Jealousy)


Othello syndrome is a rare psychological condition, in which an individual suspects his partner of infidelity, despite it being only an illusion. The non‑genetic disorder, also known as morbid jealousy, delusional jealousy, erotic jealousy syndrome, Othello psychosis, or sexual jealousy, is more common in males, with 60% of patients being men.

English psychiatrist, John Todd, named the disorder after the Shakespearean character, Othello, who kills his wife out of suspicion and jealousy.

Signs and Symptoms of Morbid Jealousy

A person suffering from morbid jealousy forms a delusion, usually an accusation of his partner of being unfaithful. Once, this idea has been established, he becomes extremely obsessive to prove it right, thereby getting involved in activities like:

  • Restraining partner from having any social media account or personal hobbies outside house
  • Persistently interrogating partner’s behavior, demanding where and with whom she has been
  • Ceaselessly pressing partner for knowing the identity of unknown or accidental phone calls

These may degenerate to:

  • Complete controlling of partner’s social life
  • Forcefully detaching partner from family and friends
  • Blaming and threatening to cause harm
  • Resorting to verbal or physical violence
Couple in love and jealous woman in background

Couple in love and jealous woman in background


One of the reasons put forward by several studies is that the disorder is caused when the right frontal lobe of the brain does not function properly. As a result, activities such as self-monitoring, controlling of behavior and emotions, and analyzing the accuracy of responses of the left hemisphere gets affected, thereby causing it to form baseless interpretations, making the individual behave strangely.

Apart from this, the other two factors that tend to arouse this condition concerns:

  • The afflicted person’s insecurity or fear that leads him to question his partner’s sincerity to him
  • His conviction of having been drugged or given some substance to reduce his sexual potency

Triggering Factors

The strongest triggering factor for men is usually sexual infidelity, while with women, it is emotional infidelity.

Risk Factors

  • Aggressive addiction to alcohol as well as other substances such as morphine, amphetamines, cocaine
  • Decreased sexual function
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Encephalitis
  • Brain tumor
  • Dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Endocrine disorders

In rare cases, medications such as pramipexole to increase the dopamine levels in those having Parkinson’s disease may arouse the disorder.

Diagnosis and Tests

The disorder is mainly accessed with the help of:

  • Information on the marital relation of both partners, taken through multiple interviews
  • Examination of the affected individual’s mental state and psychic history and subsequently recording both, to differentiate the nature of the jealousy – obsessional or delusional
  • A history of the diseased individual’s underlying mental illness or substance abuse
  • Verification of whether the jealousy has been founded on some wrong idea or thought about their partner that the person has been pondering over for some time

Treatment and Management

Since an affected individual undergoes varied psychiatric states, the initial step generally involves an assessment and resolution of the primary psychiatric condition such as an underlying mental illness, with the help of the symptoms. Other therapeutic means that usually follow are:


  • Antipsychotic medication
  • Antidepressant medication

Psychological Treatment

Along with medication, certain therapies that may prove useful in overcoming the condition are:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Insight-oriented psychotherapies
  • Couple therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psycho education imparted to the concerned individual and his partner

Apart from these, the affected person is also subjected to certain social measures for his betterment as well as for the benefit of others, such as:

  • Making the concerned person stay in a different geographic location from his partner
  • Treatment of alcohol and substance misuse that he might be addicted to

Other than this, significant steps are also taken regarding the protection of any children of the couple.

Can Othello Syndrome be Cured

Since the disorder encompasses different psychiatric stages, the prognosis and outcome vary, depending on the observation of the complexities an affected person is likely to exhibit in interpersonal relationships. The success of the treatment mainly involves the concerned individual’s participation and response to the standard therapies.

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