Othello syndrome is a psychotic disorder that can destroy many relationships and families. It involves a feeling of paranoid jealousy that is not supported by any rational basis. This mental illness is sometimes also referred to as alcoholic madness, although it is not entirely clear why jealousy madness is more common in individuals who consume alcohol. However, it is known to accompany the course of other mental disorders.
The name Othello syndrome comes from one of Shakespeare’s heroes who struggled with a similar problem and as a result, killed his beloved. This term was first used by English psychiatrist John Todd, who also classified the characteristics of pathological jealousy. Sexual obsession and jealousy are dangerous and most often lead to physical, psychological, and serious problems for the person living under constant accusation. Men are most commonly affected by Othello syndrome.
What is Othello syndrome?
A person with Othello syndrome is accompanied by jealousy disorders. Such a man constantly suspects his partner of cheating and does not trust her. He has all the signs of a delusional syndrome. Jealousy madness is, therefore, a delusional psychosis.
However, jealousy itself does not end there. Othello syndrome is initially quite mild and the person affected by it may seem very caring and dedicated to the relationship. Over time, anxiety changes and unfulfilled expectations cause increasing frustration, anger, and later suspicion. It is important – especially at the beginning of a relationship – to capture the moment when ordinary healthy jealousy turns into an attempt to imprison.
Another stage of Othello syndrome is when paranoia causes aggression. Its subject is not only a partner but also other people suspected of concealing the truth from the patient. A person struggling with Othello syndrome cannot control their emotions and often uses alcohol and other drugs to escape problems, which only worsens the problem. A person suffering from Othello syndrome will not avoid looking at personal things, text messages, or even installing cameras. They often neglect their daily work, domestic activities and pursue their partner, take pictures of them, or hire detectives. They try to prove their truth at all costs.
Is Othello Syndrome hereditary?
Othello Syndrome has various causes. It most commonly affects individuals who are:
- dependent on alcohol
- dependent on drugs and other addictive substances
- suffering from paranoid schizophrenia
- struggling with trauma from a previous relationship or extremely low self-esteem.
Othello Syndrome is also known as alcohol-induced psychosis, and it may seem that this substance is the main cause of its development. However, not everyone who consumes alcohol develops this condition. The greater likelihood of developing Othello Syndrome is associated with a patient’s paranoid personality accompanied by disorders related to suspicion. Therefore, the essence of the syndrome is deeper, and alcohol triggers it only as a catalyst.
So, is Othello Syndrome hereditary or is it an acquired condition? It is not genetically transmitted by itself, but it can be a consequence of mental illnesses that we can inherit from our ancestors. Genetic factors are important, for example, in paranoid schizophrenia associated with Othello Syndrome.
It should also be noted that according to many therapists, the cause of Othello Syndrome may be an unconscious fear of abandonment and betrayal. Such a person involuntarily starts projecting their fears onto their surroundings, in this case, onto their close partner. Every behavior, glance, and word is interpreted as evidence of infidelity, which is reflected in the feelings of hurt and accusation.
Othello Syndrome and mandatory treatment – is it a good solution?
Certainly, it is better when a person who needs help realizes it and wants to change something in their life. However, paranoid individuals usually resist therapy, believing that they are healthy and that only the external world bothers them. Even if a person suffering from Othello Syndrome goes to therapy under the pressure of losing a loved one, it does not necessarily mean improvement. Abstinence from alcohol and withdrawal symptoms often worsen symptoms of jealousy to insanity, and if there is also a refusal to take antipsychotic medications, the problem will worsen again.
Psychiatric help is necessary, especially for aggressive individuals. If a sick person becomes dangerous, physical violence or psychological terror against a partner, children, and other persons may arise, and based on a court order, they may be subjected to compulsory treatment. The process, both psychotherapeutic and pharmacotherapeutic, is lengthy, and its effects are uncertain. Sometimes only partial improvement is achieved.