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Control Issues

Control issues are characterized by a person’s need to micromanage and orchestrate the actions and behaviors of others. Control is most often a reaction to fear. People who struggle with the need to be in control often fear being at the mercy of others. Control issues can develop from traumatic events that created a feeling of helplessness and chaos, thus causing a person to crave control in a disproportionate and unhealthy manner. In some cases, control issues may be a result of being neglected or abused. If a child is abused physically, verbally, or sexually, they may reach a point at which they feel the need to regain control. Many survivors of abuse do not control their abusers, but lash out in anger or hostility, or use confining and restricting emotional strategies, to psychologically control others in their lives. The need to control is an often overwhelming and exhausting need that can wreak havoc on relationships, careers, and overall quality of life. Discovering the source of the fear is the key to confronting the control issue. By understanding why a person needs to feel empowered and in charge of situations or people in their lives, they can begin to see that their fears, although real at the time of their loss or abuse, are distorted and unrealistic in their present lives.

What Can Cause Control Issues?

Reasons for control issues may be related to number of different things including:

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  • Traumatic or abusive life experiences
  • Failed or failing relationships
  • Low or damaged self-esteem
  • A person's beliefs, values, and faith

Men and Control Issues

Men can exhibit control over others in their lives as a method for coping with their own fears and insecurities. Men who are abusive, whether verbally, physically, sexually, or psychologically, use that as a weapon to inflict pain on the ones they love because they themselves are in pain. In order to maintain power, a gender stereotype most men associate with, they cannot feel weaker, or more vulnerable, than others in their lives. Even though their pain may be emotional and well-hidden, they are still aware of it and feel the need to exert control over others in order to transfer their emotional pain onto others. Some men will physically control their partners, not permitting them to see or talk to certain people. Others will dictate what clothes their partners wear. All of these behaviors are controlling and provide the man with the sense of power he craves.

Women and Control Issues

Women can exhibit control over various things in their lives as a way to feel empowered. Women who were victims may begin abusing others to reclaim their sense of control. Abuse, addiction, trust issues, neglect, and abandonment can cause some women to experience intense emotional turmoil. When a person is unable to control her inner emotional state, she may turn to her external world in order to find things she can control. Many women struggle with control issues that manifest as food or body image issues, jealousy, guilt, over-protectiveness, anxiety, or even self-harm or addiction. In order to be able to relinquish external control, a woman must first become aware of the internal problems that cause the controlling behavior.

How Does Fear Influence Control Issues?

Control issues may be enhanced by the fear and possibility of any or all of the following:

  • Losing self-esteem
  • Experiencing emotional heartache and pain
  • Failing
  • Losing a loved one
  • Being blamed
  • Any other vulnerable and painful feeling

How Can Psychotherapy Help Control Issues?

In psychotherapy, client and therapist work together to understand the emotional base(s) for the painful and controlling requirements directed by self and others. In determining the emotion(s) behind each issue and need for control, it is possible to recover from self-damage and rebuild and strengthen relationships damaged by the control. As control is rooted in fear, the fear(s) associated with each issue may be addressed and coping and recovery may begin.

How Can Control Issues Affect Health?

Control issues may cause a number of different health problems. Physically, worry and anxiety may deteriorate the body's ability to function properly and well and health issues may arise. Emotionally and mentally, that same worry and anxiety may lead to undue stress and depression. Physical health issues may be treated with medication and other treatments deemed necessary by a physician. Mental health issues may require psychiatric care and treatment.


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Last updated: 04-01-2014


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