13 Signs Of A Control Freak and How To Stop Being One

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Signs Of A Control Freak and How To Stop Being One

Are you a control freak? Do you have the signs of a control freak? Are you a perfectionist and extremely effective? Do you micromanage everything? Then you just might be a control freak. But how can you know for sure? 

It’s only natural to want to control things (and people) as it gives people a sense of security, a way to cope with fear, But sometime’s it can get overbearing for others. Although there are some benefits of being a control freak, it can also leave you feeling stressed and anxious, and depressed. The need for control can stem from deeper psychological issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, or personality disorders. But there are ways to slow down the obsessive behavior to control.

Here are a few telltale signs of a control freak and how you can stop.

Who is a control freak?

Control freak refers to high-control individuals who behave in certain controlling and demanding ways that may cause feelings of resentment and frustration in others. Control freaks usually undermine people and have controlling behavior. They tend to dictate others and tell everyone what needs to be done in a professional or social scenario.

They need to get everything done the way they feel is right and have a strong need to have complete control over every aspect of their lives. They don’t feel they are doing anything wrong and often justify their controlling behavior. One of the signs of a control freak is that they tend to establish the rules and order for others and demand perfection from everyone, including themselves.

Read 9 Warning Signs Of A Controlling Boyfriend

In Psychology Today post, clinical psychologist Seth Meyers, Psy.D. writes, “Control seekers are often obsessive-compulsive, angry (either overt or passive-aggressive), phobic, or even mood-disordered. These people need control because, without it, they fear things would spiral out of control and their lives would fall apart.

For control freaks, control means security, that they are okay, and their lives are under control. That stimulates the need to constantly be in control. The idea of losing control implies that they will be harmed in some way, something will go wrong, or they will suffer consequences for not taking charge,” says licensed mental health counselor GinaMarie Guarino in a post.

It’s a personality disorder

Control freaks are usually individuals who suffer from Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), also known as an anankastic personality disorder. However, OCPD should not be confused with OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder as these are not the same.

Read 5 Signs You Might Have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

People with OCPD have an obsessive need to dominate and control people and situations. This type of a personality disorder is often related with antisocial personality disorder. They also have a preoccupation with perfectionism, mental control, interpersonal control and orderliness. They also tend to believe that they know better than others, even when they are evidently wrong. They are also very judgmental and manipulative. 

As control freaks don’t believe they are doing anything wrong, it can be very hard to spot a control freak. So how can you identify a high-control person with OCPD?

13 Signs of a control freak

Signs Of A Control Freak

Clinical psychologist Erika Martinez explains “As humans, we all have a need to feel loved and as though we belong to a partner, a family, a circle of friends, etc. Being a control freak or perfectionist is one means of ensuring that needs get met.”  

Wondering if you’re a control freak? Here are a few signs of a control freak that will help you find out if you have OCPD and love controlling everything around you:

  1. They are perfectionists and do not believe in the concept of imperfection. Moreover, they also think that others should pursue perfection as well.
  2. They have difficulty coping with uncertainty. Control freaks feel very uncomfortable in ambiguous situations where they don’t know or are unable to control the outcome.
  3. They always correct others whenever they can. They will point out even the tiniest mistake and get into an unnecessary argument. 
  4. They are bad at delegating tasks as they believe they can do it best. They think they are the most qualified and can complete it perfectly. They have a hard time trusting others.
  5. They have a difficult time being a part of a team as it means distributing the power of control equally among all team members. They are bad team players and will always seek opportunity to become the leader.
  6. Control freaks can be very moody and often feel stressed and anxious due to their own mental issues. Moodiness, stress, and frustration are some of the most common signs of a control freak.
  7. They never admit their mistakes. Control freaks never accept their own faults and they will never admit that they can be wrong, no matter how small the issue is. They always put the blame on others.
  8. Control freaks love to judge and criticize others. They will always comment about how you should dress, behave, act and live your life. And if you don’t act according to their wishes, they will resort to criticizing you a lot.
  9. They are master manipulators and will use fear or pleasure to manipulate anyone to get things their way. They gain the trust of others solely with the aim of dominating and controlling them.
  10. They try to micromanage everything as they think they know what’s best for everyone. They will look into everything and tell everyone how something needs to be done. They might even become very aggressive if they don’t get things done their way.
  11. They think they know everything. Control freaks believe themselves to be highly intelligent, knowledgeable and practical. Hence, they will always have the last word and try their best to win an argument.
  12. They want everything to go according to their schedule and they tend to lose their temper even at the slightest modifications in their schedules.
  13. They have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. As they try to manage and control every aspect of their romantic partner, they tend to be dominating in the relationship. This leads to an unhealthy and toxic relationship.

Read Your Partner Can Control Your Brain, Science Explains

If you can relate with most of these signs of a control freak then you probably have Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Once you have recognized yourself as a control freak, it’s necessary that you take some steps to overcome your controlling and dominating behavior. But why should you change?

What’s wrong with being a control freak?

Being a control freak isn’t all bad,explains Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen. She adds “If you’re a control freak, you’re probably super competent and super-efficient. You have high standards. You’re a go-getter. You get things done right the first time.” But like everything else in life, too much of anything can be bad. 

Dr. Hendriksen writes “But of course, there’s a dark side to control. Complete control can never be achieved, so you can never relax… No one else can reach your standards, which leaves you lonely. And when forced to collaborate, without quite meaning to, you use a collection of sharp, pointy tools – criticism, judgment, and micromanaging—to keep your anxiety at bay.

control freak

Of course, being able to control situations and be certain of others’ behavior makes us feel safe and secure. So why is there a problem with that? Psychotherapist and counselor Sharon Martin, LCSW explainsWell, the problem is it’s not possible. Most things are outside of your control and trying to bend them to your will only create more resistance, stress, and conflict.

Consistently demanding perfection from yourself and from others can be exhausting, both mentally and emotionally. It can leave you feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious. Moreover, it can also lead to various physical and mental health issues like –

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Insomnia
  • Neck or back pain
  • Headaches 
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anger or irritability 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Being controlling and demanding perfection can also affect our professional and personal relationships.

As we become more judgmental and critical of others it leads to arguments and emotional distance. Psychologist Monica Ramirez Basco writesThe reach for perfection can be painful because it is often driven by both a desire to do well and a fear of the consequences of not doing well. This is the double-edged sword of perfectionism.

Read The Perfectionist’s Trap

In a paper, University of Minnesota psychologist Glenn Hirsch explains “Expecting yourself to be perfect sets you up for all kinds of uncomfortable and unsuccessful experiences.

The fact is, being a perfectionist and having signs of a control freak can create a lot of unnecessary problems in your life and it’s crucial that you start taking some steps to stop being a control freak

How to stop being a control freak

Giving up a little bit of control can help you to a great extent. Not only will it be beneficial for your mental health, when you try to stop being a control freak, you will also save a lot of time and energy as well. In a Forbes article, international bestselling author & psychotherapist Amy Morin explains “Consider how much time and energy you waste on things that are completely beyond your control. Then, imagine how much you could accomplish if you put your efforts into things you have control over.

She suggests to “Practice controlling your emotions, rather than controlling everything around you. Build confidence in your ability to deal with discomfort—and practice accepting that not all things will go as planned. With a concerted effort, you can regain control over yourself.And perhaps that is the only thing that actually matters – having control over ourselves, our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and actions.

Read 6 Ways To Control Your Unwanted Emotions In Any Situation

If you have certain signs of being a control freak and if you wish to transform yourself, then here are some tips that you can help you stop:

1. Bring awareness

To get started, begin by becoming aware of your controlling behavior. Observe yourself when you become dominating, controlling, micromanaging, being overly critical and showing tendencies of a perfectionist. This will help you identify triggers and situations that might make you controlling. Psychotherapist Sharon Martin, LCSW believes this can help you “plan an alternate response.

According to an article by Erin L. Olivo, PhD, Asst. Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, “In order to change any behavior, you have to recognize that you’re doing it. Becoming a more mindful witness to your own behavior is the first step to making any behavioral change.” 

2. Understand your emotions

Identifying what emotions, feelings and fears are driving your controlling behavior is a crucial second step. This will help you understand the underlying reasons. Sharon Martin writes “Start by asking yourself: What fears are driving my controlling behavior? When emotions are high, they can distort our thoughts.” But you also need to ask yourself if these fears are “rational.”

Asst. Professor Erin L. Olivo, PhD, explains “In order to change your behavior, you have to identify which emotion you’re struggling with. The emotion usually behind controlling behavior is fear. In order to feel less fearful and more in control, you try controlling everything around you.” Simply by understanding our fears and emotions, we can make it weaker and start changing our behavior.

3. Change your thought patterns

After you have identified your fears, you need to change your “fear-based thinking” with “calmer, more grounded thoughts,” believes Sharon. Challenging your thoughts and fears “can help you expand your thoughts,” she says.

Moreover, “Often realizing that you’re using emotional reasoning instead of logical reasoning can change your perspective, reduce the intensity of the emotion you’re feeling and help you resist the urge to engage in a controlling behavior,” adds Erin.

4. Surrender and accept

Unconditional acceptance is the key to giving up control. It is perhaps the hardest thing you will ever do, but it will bring you infinite inner peace and joy. According to an article by Christine Carter, Ph.D., author and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, “The opposite of perfectionism is acceptance. Not resignation, but surrender…to whatever is happening in the present moment.”

She adds “You may have heard the truism that what we resist, persists… Perfectionism is a form of resistance to whatever is actually happening in the present moment. At its foundation, it is a rejection of the current reality.Studies reveal that resistance leads to stress and anxiety while self-compassion and acceptance lead to happiness. Christine adds “Behavioral science and great wisdom traditions both point us towards acceptance. It is strangely effective to simply accept that which we cannot control, especially if we are in a difficult or painful situation.

Sharon Martin explains “Acceptance means that we distinguish what’s in our control and what’s not and stop giving unwanted advice and pushing situations to be something they aren’t.” she further writes “Part of acceptance is acknowledging that none of us are perfect – we make mistakes, forget things, make poor decisions, and so on.

Control yourself & let go

Being controlling is not a terrible thing to do. Having signs of a control freak doesn’t necessarily make you evil. We should all take charge of our lives and take initiative to come up with solutions to steer our lives and take our business forward. We should also step up to help those in need and motivate others to move ahead. 

Read 6 Science Based Tips To Control Your Emotions

But when our intention to control and take charge is based on fear and self-centered reasons, we need to take notice and practice acceptance and compassion. 

Author Christine Carter, Ph.D. concludes “Trust that if I’m still here, still breathing, everything is okay. Trust that even if I don’t give specific instructions, if I back off from trying to control everyone and everything, life will continue to unfold just as it’s meant to.” 

Here’s an interesting video on letting go that you may find helpful:

13 Signs Of A Control Freak and How To Stop Being One
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13 Signs Of A Control Freak And How To Stop Being One

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  1. Ryan Avatar
    Ryan

    Theo,
    Thanks for contributing such a well written, thorough & informative article.
    I’ve found myself dealing with the controlling type a lot in recent years and this article has helped me gain better perspective.

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