In this article, we will answer the following question: Are control freaks mentally ill? We will explain what is behind the obsessive need for control, and highlight 7 clear signs of a control freak.
Are control freaks mentally ill?
Control freaks are not mentally ill, however, a “control freak” behavior that changes one’s life in a detrimental way, can be considered a symptom of a mental disorder. People who suffer from this obsession develop serious emotional or psychological problems over time.
From anxiety to depression, obsession with control can upset your life. If you could accept that you can’t organize everything and everyone, you could have a chance to lead a normal life.
People who show a high need for control are those who constantly correct others. Whether it’s the way the rest express themselves or analyze and dismantle their reasoning, they will always try to rectify something to other people.
Obviously, it is natural to tell someone when you think they are behaving inappropriately. Especially since the manifestations of the other can be offensive or disrespectful either to you or to others.
The tendency to constantly do this and to correct even behaviors that, perhaps for reasons that are too unjustified, you do not like, denotes a great need for control. An increase in control over our lives, which coincides with giving up our self, can only bring us suffering because affection and security are already resources that are part of our lives.
We believe that affection and security are external resources, but they are part of the most hidden and intimate place of our being. Paradoxically, believing that if we give up control of ourselves just to become what others want us to be, we will give up affection and security.
Wrong! Why? Because these two resources have been part of ourselves since we were in our mother’s womb. The so-called freedom that we believe we will enjoy if we mold our personality according to the desires of others is, in fact, the most elaborate form of captivity we have the misfortune to enter.
What hides the exaggerated need for control?
The need for control arises due to three essential things:
- Out of fear. People experience all kinds of fears during life, but the most common are: fear of losing, fear of not corresponding, fear of not considering oneself good enough, capable, intelligent, beautiful, fear of losing sympathy, affection, safety, or fear of suffering.
Fear is a natural process, which springs from our survival instinct, so it has the role of protecting us, but if this instinct is constantly activated, even when there is no real danger, it can become harmful to us.
- From the need to understand things. Sometimes we are so obsessed with understanding what is going on around us that we waste our time and energy in directions that are far too demanding for us. We rationalize insignificant details so much that we practically give up self-control.
There are things that are rationalized and things that are felt, and we tend to make major confusion between simply feeling and rationalizing that feeling.
- From a defective parental model. If we had a parent in the family who had an exaggerated tendency to control, then we will also develop this tendency, which we will pass on to our children.
This vicious circle can be broken with the help of a psychologist or a specialist in neuro-linguistic programming for example, by applying a series of therapeutic techniques designed to change and detach from this tendency.
We have the illusory feeling that if we control the way we look, present ourselves, play roles in relation to others, we will be able to keep everything intact in our lives. On the contrary! The more we cling to these aspects, the more we become sure captives in the trap of our own reasoning or fears.
On the other hand, the more we give up control over aspects of our lives, the more time, energy, and attention we have left to simply enjoy life. So, just when we give up control, we can live a real and beneficial control over our lives.
Control of external events
Even if we can have a certain influence on external events, total control does not exist, and obtaining it is an exhausting and futile experience. For example, we can to some extent prevent a serious illness through a healthy lifestyle, but we cannot control whether or not we will have that illness.
Moreover, the chances of facing health problems at some point are very high, so trying to control this completely creates more anxiety than help. Going further, some people want to get a guarantee that they will not face death, a guarantee that practically does not exist.
In the face of an event that we will meet sooner or later, the desire to know for sure that we will not die can make us minimize the importance of the certainty that now, in the present moment, we are alive.
Control of internal experiences
Your own emotions, thoughts, sensations or internal experiences cannot be completely controlled. This can scare us and amplify our moods when we face emotions such as anxiety, sadness or panic.
Failure to accept internal experiences often leads us to resort to unhealthy methods of avoiding them (such as alcohol, drugs, seeking reinsurance, compulsions, or other harmful behaviors in the long run) and to label ourselves as “weak” or “inferior.”
Waiting to control all our thoughts, emotions or feelings is unrealistic and prevents us from relating healthily to our moods. For example, in obsessive-compulsive disorder, the belief that “I should control my thoughts” maintains obsessions, gives them more power over the one who experiences them, and can trigger strong fear or guilt.
The need for exaggerated control can manifest itself in relation to oneself so that some of us want very much to have perfect behavior, to leave a good impression on everyone, and to make sure that there is nothing to complain about ourselves.
Even if through this control we sometimes manage to avoid painful experiences, such as confronting the image I have of myself as being imperfect, the strategy of looking perfect can consume us extremely much and often makes us lose authenticity.
For example, in social anxiety, the fear of not being judged or criticized can lead to rigidity and lack of authenticity, leaving little room for naturalness. As the French philosopher, François de la Rochefoucauld said, “Nothing prevented us from being more natural than the desire to look like we are.“
Control of others
If one’s own behavior can be manipulated and controlled to some extent, when it comes to controlling the behaviors of others, this is much more difficult to achieve. Some of us try to make sure that the other will behave according to our own needs and desires and it is difficult for us to tolerate situations when this does not happen.
Interpersonal relationships have suffered so much, unhealthy strategies such as threats, manipulation, or violent behavior can be used and in the long run, the need for control has more costs than benefits.
For example, a jealous partner will calm down when he forbids his loved one to see others or when he reads her messages, but in the long run, the relationship will become more and more unsatisfactory.
The 7 clear signs that you are a control freak
Experts quoted by Psychology Today suggest that most people who focus on things they cannot control develop psychological disorders that are difficult to cure. How do you know if you haven’t realized by now that you’re suffering from an obsession with control?
An example is the concern about what others think and think about you. Or trying to change those around you. The following signs will confirm if you are a control obsessed person:
- You don’t work well in a team: Working with a team means losing control. After all, you can’t oversee everything that happens when you’re responsible for only part of the outcome. Many people obsessed with control prefer to work alone and when they join a team they begin to dictate the behavior of all teammates.
- You think you can succeed in anything: If you are obsessed with control, the chances of you strongly believing that you can do anything with enough effort and certain skills are high. You probably don’t believe in luck, chance, or the right moment, but only in yourself.
Most of the time, people who want to have absolute control believe that failure is not an option and become critical of themselves when things go differently than they planned.
- You dream of changing those around you: Most of those who want to have absolute control feel that they know what is best for others and try to persuade them to do otherwise.
Whether they start giving advice over advice, whether they become aggressive, whether they manipulate, or direct from the shadows, the goal is the same: to make those around them act in a certain way.
- You have a hard time getting into a relationship: No one will ever say, “Do you know how much I like being a control-obsessed person?” This is because these people ask a lot of things from others and give unsolicited advice. Consequence? They are never surrounded by many friends and cannot maintain long-term relationships.
- You consume yourself by finding solutions to problems that do not exist: Instead of educating themselves to control their emotions and reactions in difficult situations, people obsessed with control want to stop everything, even if they know they can’t. In this way, they waste energy and time hoping that negative things will not happen; most doubt their ability to handle the hardships of life.
- You cannot share work tasks: A person obsessed with control thinks that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. He or she usually refuses to delegate tasks, as she is convinced that the result will eventually lead to even more time invested. Why?
Because the delegate will surely make a mistake and thus the person obsessed with control will have to solve the task. If he still delegates, he will try to attend every step of a certain project.
- You are ruthless with those who make mistakes: Because people obsessed with control believe that success is the result of talent and personal effort, they lack compassion for those who still strive. A person obsessed with control will see mistakes as signs of laziness or stupidity and will believe that everyone must achieve success, regardless of the circumstances.
What are your results?
The bottom line
We call control freaks those persons who are obsessed with controlling everything and everyone around them, which we know, it’s just impossible.
Control freaks hate – and they try to avoid it by all means – feeling weak or showing fragility precisely because deep down, this is how they think: they have low self-esteem, even though they do everything possible to hide it so much themselves as well as others.
Although control freaks are not mentally ill, people who suffer from this obsession develop serious emotional or psychological problems over time.
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FAQ on Are control freaks mentally ill?
Is a control freak a mental disorder?
Being a control freak is not a mental disorder, however, in the long run, it can affect one’s mental being. From anxiety and depression to OCD or narcissism.
What are control freaks afraid of?
Control freaks are afraid of being vulnerable. They hate to feel exposed, weak, or showing fragility. They have low self-esteem, even though they do everything possible to hide it so much themselves as well as others.
Are control freaks narcissists?
Most control freaks are narcissists. Control freaks are those people who can’t stand the idea of someone doing things other than to their advantage. This type of person needs to continually receive the admiration of others and exclusive and unique treatment; they are obsessed with their opinion. If they are not recognized or criticized, they get angry or defensive, experiencing very intense, even reaching violence and aggression.
Are OCD people control freaks?
People with OCD are obsessed with control, more exactly, they need control because they fear that without it, their lives would fall apart.