The Physical Effects Of Jealousy In A Relationship

Although it doesn't have the best reputation, jealousy is a normal human emotion that everyone has felt at one point or another. Whether it's been experienced in a relationship, a friendship, or with that coworker who got the promotion you were hoping for, feeling jealous happens. Even those who don't see themselves as the jealous type can still feel waves of jealousy in certain situations.


"Jealousy is hard-wired in all of us," neuroscientist Baland Jalal tells NBC News. "For example: I know it's silly for me to feel jealous of my partner spending time with a member of the opposite sex on the job, but I can't seem to help myself." But while jealousy is part of the human condition, the way it physically affects us can be detrimental to our health. And, if you've ever had an adverse gut reaction to jealousy, you know what it feels like.

Enter: the latest TikTok trend. Even if you're not on TikTok, if you've listened to Taylor Swift's song, "Hits Different," then you've probably heard the lyrics: "I pictured you with other girls in love / Then threw up on the street." The lines have inspired TikTok users to play the song while posting their own stories of how they've found out something about an ex that has made them jealous enough to have a physical reaction. "Our emotions are ... physical," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., tells Elite Daily. "We experience emotions because of complex releases of neurochemicals in our brains. These go on to impact every type of bodily functioning." And more than one bodily function to boot. Here are the physical effects that jealousy in a relationship — or should you think about your ex — have on you.


It raises your blood pressure and gives your heart a jolt

If you've felt your heart skip a beat when you see something or someone that excites you, or experienced what it feels like to have your heart plummet into your stomach after a tragedy, then you already know emotions can really mess with your cardiovascular system — even leading to heart failure if they're not managed (via Cleveland Clinic). So it should be no surprise that jealousy can do a number on heart rate and blood pressure, too.


"Jealousy is a complex emotional mix of fear, stress and anger," London-based general practitioner Dr. Jane Flemming tells Independent. "These three states trigger the fight-or-flight response, usually in quite an intense way. Someone in the grip of jealousy will suffer raised blood pressure, heart-rate and adrenalin levels, weakened immunity, anxiety and probably insomnia."

While these intense feelings may emotionally exhaust you, they can also keep you up at night. So now your heart is pounding, your immunity system is on the fritz, and you can't even get some proper shut-eye.

It makes you sick to your stomach

Because jealousy can bring with it feelings of fear that are so intense that your body doesn't know what it's supposed to do with itself, it activates the amygdala in the brain, which causes a gut reaction. Literally. It's an instinctual punch to the stomach, forcing you to make a decision about what you're feeling.


"[Feeling jealous] is associated with increased muscle tension, flushing, [and] increased gastrointestinal motility," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., tells Elite Daily. "The physiological processes associated with the emotion of jealousy can include vomiting. So, we may get nauseous when we are jealous because of intense anger, fear, or anxiety."

If you find yourself throwing up on the street like T. Swift the next time you see an ex with someone new, or you think your partner is cheating — anything that induces severe jealousy — now you know why: it's your amygdala trying to tell you something. 

It can blind you

Research by cognitive psychologist Steven Most and specialist in social relationships Jean-Philippe Laurenceau found that blindness can be "emotion-induced" (via American Psychological Association). Because jealousy, too, can have such a huge effect on our anxiety and stress levels, it can also lead to blindness. So, while the eyes are still working as they should, the brain takes over.


"There's plenty of examples, especially in auto accidents, where someone is looking right at something, and yet they don't see it," Most tells ABC News. "The eyes are working just fine, but there's something about the visual system in the brain that has a little hiccup ... The brain seems to be wired to prioritize emotional information. If there's something that's inherently emotional right in front of us, our brain says pay attention to this regardless of whether you want to or not, and the consequence is that we don't see something that comes right afterward."

Before you freak out, it should be noted this type of blindness is temporary and similar to hysterical blindness, which is often caused by massive stress and anxiety and doesn't usually last more than a few minutes. So, "blinded by jealousy" isn't just a saying because jealousy can actually leave you functionally blind, according to the research.


It keeps you from concentrating

While it makes sense that the obsessive thoughts that often come with jealousy can distract you from concentrating on just about everything, the jealousy itself stands in the way of your ability to focus.


Research has found that jealousy and envy can disrupt cognitive ability (via American Psychological Association). As a 2011 study found, these strong emotions "play an important role in attention and memory systems and deplete limited self-regulatory resources available for acts of volition." This means that not only is your concentration affected, but so are your memory and your ability to make decisions. It just throws the whole cognitive process for a loop.

While this cognitive interruption won't alter your memory enough to pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on your brain or eliminate why you're feeling jealous or even the ability to feel jealousy, it can make your workday more difficult if you can't remember basic information ... or where you parked your car when it's time to go home. 


It can make you dislike yourself

Not only are you throwing up in the street with your blood pressure through the roof, suffering from functional blindness, haven't slept in weeks, and have completely forgotten how to get home, but you also don't like yourself. While all of these reasons may lead to some heavy self-loathing on their own, once you add the biological effect jealousy has on your self-esteem into this very potent mix, you're on a whole other level.


"Imagine that all of your thoughts each and every day only focus on how terrible you are, and how badly others think of you," licensed marriage and family therapist Kati Morton tells Elite Daily. "Jealousy can really harm our mental health because when we feel jealous, we are only having negative conversations about ourselves and the world around us." Oof.

The grand takeaway is that jealousy is horrendous on the body. It just wiggles its way into your brain and decides to throw everything off course. And, if you're someone who menstruates, your jealousy is amplified during the ovulation phase of your cycle — because everything else wasn't enough, right?

Although we can take steps to not be jealous, it doesn't mean that those steps always work. Instead, what we can do is try to expect the possible side effects of jealousy and manage them when they do arrive. Breathing and counting to 10, for example, is a good start, as is taking a step back from the situation that's causing the jealousy. It won't cure your physical reactions to jealousy, but it will give you a moment to try to calm yourself down. No one wants to be that person who throws up in the street. Not even Taylor.