11 Signs That You May Be a Control Freak—and How to Cope

Adobe Stock / ArtFamily

Control Freak

Adobe Stock / ArtFamily

Theresa Lawrence
Theresa Lawrence10
Do you think delivering perfect work makes you an ideal employee? Think again. If your perfectionist tendencies take over projects or deliverables and dominate your personal life, too, then you may be a control freak.

What causes a person to be controlling?

There are multiple ways and degrees the need for control can manifest, ranging from simply not relating well to other people to being a “clean freak” to even having a personality disorder. Control has more to do with conflicts at a deeper level than with managing outcomes for the sake of good results, according to Jennifer Hains, a licensed clinical professional counselor. Control can be linked to subconscious issues related to self-esteem, fear of failure, and previous anxiety-provoking or judgmental childhood environments and experiences.

What are the signs of a control freak?

To determine whether your need for control is having too adverse of an impact on your life, there are a few signs to spot it. They include:
1. Dominating projects because you think that if you want it done right, you need to do it yourself
2. Suffering from the conviction that there is one right way to do something
3. Redoing the work of others to fit your way
4. Offering unsolicited advice about how others can improve their work, life, etc.
5. Judging the behavior or work of other people
6. Taking the lead (or plain taking over) in meetings or conversations
7. Getting irritated or anxious if your environment isn’t just the way you want it
8. Struggling to let go or ruminating about the tiniest details
9. Berating yourself for minute errors
10. Struggling to maintain relationships with a partner, coworkers, or friends because of your need to control people and events
11. Exhibiting many of the above behaviors
If more than a few of these behaviors sound like you, it may be time to find the balance between holding on and letting go and getting to the root of your controlling nature.

Is control freak a personality disorder?

While control freak is not a diagnosable personality disorder, if some of these tendencies are part of a larger problem, you may want to seek the help of a mental health professional.
Unlike leadership qualities that are geared to help coach and develop new leaders, controlling tendencies are more about yourself and a reflection of self-judgment that can result in higher levels of stress, anxiety, and health risks, like high blood pressure, ulcers, immune system breakdowns, and depression. Especially if you're a boss, these selfish micromanaging instincts can wreak havoc on your team, leading employees to feel overly scrutinized and unsafe to take risks.

How do you deal with a control freak?

If you're dealing with a control freak, you first need to recognize that his or her behavior is coming from a place of anxiety. Be direct about behaviors that bother you, while approaching the situation with compassion. It may be annoying to have to work around someone else's already annoying tendencies, but this is a necessary step if you want to make progress. You should also establish your own limits and boundaries before going down a potential rabbit hole.

How do you cope with your own controlling behavior?

Self-awareness is the first step in healing controlling behavior. But true perfectionists don’t take well to having their overpowering actions pointed out. They are prone to reacting defensively to criticism. They don’t tolerate imperfection, especially in themselves, although they would be the last person to admit it. A control freak may need to suffer some hard breaks before realizing they may be flawed. 
Once admitting to themselves the adverse situations, feelings, and turmoil they inflict upon themselves and others, control freaks can dig in to better understand what drives their controlling propensities, which is likely linked to fear. But that doesn’t mean that have to get to the bottom of the cause before creating better effects. They can take small steps to let go and practice being okay with not performing to perfectionists’ unrealistic ideals. 
Husbands and partners often don’t complete tasks the same way. Most men won’t fold towels, make a bed, or even parent to the satisfaction of their mate. A controlling personality can begin by letting go of the small, less critical things by shifting to a mindset of gratitude for the other person and his/her attempt to complete a task.

Letting go of control

Nothing is perfect, not in nature nor in humans. Viewing our environments and those in it — including ourselves — with an eye of simple appreciation rather than judgment can aid in acceptance, an important aspect of letting go. 
Control freaks may find it difficult to relax and unwind. However, learning to be quiet and even do nothing can cultivate greater awareness. Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and walking with deliberate attention to one’s environment can help calm the controlling mind, establish more balance, and lead to inner insights. And these insights will aid you greatly in improving your situation, quitting micromanaging, healing your relationships, and devoting more time to being thankful.
Theresa is a writer and the co-founder and Chief Marketing & Customer Officer for a job search technology company. She’s passionate about discovering and sharing life and career hacks for women.

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up!