Othello Syndrome

March 10, 2016

 Jealousy is a part of the human experience – an emotion we all experience from time to time. There are times when people let jealousy get the better of them. In extreme cases jealousy can consume a person completely, destroying their very perception of reality. Such morbid jealousy can be related to mental illnesses. The most common form of morbid jealousy is when one is unduly worried of being cheated by their spouse.


Aditya (32) and Prachi (29) had been married for a few years and were very happy in each other’s company. Good looking, well-educated and wealthy, they were compatible with each other at all levels. Recently Aditya had heard distressing news of people being fired at his company and had become a little insecure. Although well qualified, he knew it would be a tough time finding another job. As time passed his behaviour got strange. He began to treat his wife in strange ways. Where he was earlier confident enough to let her be her own person, he now seemed to become judgmental about everything she did – the clothes she wore, the people she met, and so on. The more insecure he became about himself, the more inquisitive he became about her life. He started to listen in on her phone conversations, read her texts, etc. He forbade her from going out with friends or spending time outside office or home.


In his mind he thought Prachi was cheating on him, although he had no proof or reason to be suspicious. His insecurity about job also got worse. Things came to a head when he started being verbally and physically abusive towards his wife. Prachi had seen this kind of behaviour play out in numerous movies and TV shows.


This condition, when a person thinks their spouse is cheating on them even if they are not, is called Othello syndrome. Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and it is from this play that the syndrome takes its name. In the play, Othello comes to believe that his wife, Desdemona, is cheating on him even though she was innocent of the deed. In a fit of rage and jealousy he kills her. Othello eventually learns of his mistake and kills himself.


Prachi thought it prudent to get help, for herself and for Aditya, but he was adamant and refused. With the help of friends and family she finally managed to take him to a psychiatrist. As treatment progressed, Aditya was able to get over the suspicious feelings. Meanwhile he got a job and gradually life returned to normal. 2 years into treatment, Aditya still continues to take medical treatment and is in regular touch with his psychiatrist.

Please note that the information in this case study should not be considered as medical advice for an individual’s condition. If anyone shows or feel symptoms of a possible medical condition, we strongly encourage you to seek advice from your primary physician or a mental health professional for an evaluation as soon as possible.


The names been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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