I tend to be a bit of a control freak. Nine times out of ten this is a good characteristic. My house stays clean and my closet stays organized. However, sometimes it gets out of hand. Just the other day my friend picked up a vase of mine that I really like and suddenly, all I could think was that my friend might drop it and break it.
Without consciously realizing it, I reached out and took the vase from my friend and set it back down on the table. My friend was shocked and called me out on the behavior. It was embarrassing to say the least. I don’t like it when my “controlling” behavior makes other people uncomfortable. Do you have any advice for me?
Dear Control ItAll,
Although order and organization are great qualities to have in life, it sounds like you may be struggling with compulsive tendencies. The diagnostic criteria for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the DSM-5, includes the following:
A. Presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both
Obsessions are defined by (1) and (2)
1) Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive or unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
2) The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., performing a compulsion)
If you feel that your behavior fits these criteria, it might be helpful to discuss it with a professional counselor or licensed therapist. Sometimes, when we are under stress, even if it’s positive, our underlying issues may come to the surface.
Our “weakest link” tends to come out when we are struggling with new circumstances or challenges. Have you recently had a change in your life? New job? New house? New relationship? The birth of a child? The loss of a loved one?
If so, any of these circumstances may trigger OCD behaviors. Ultimately, the desire to control comes from a place of fear. I would suggest making time for self-soothing behaviors: meditation, journaling, deep breathing, a hot bath. It may even help to DE-stress through physical exercise like kickboxing or weight training and process through your anxiety. In the future, if you find yourself engaging in behaviors that seem irrational, take a moment to reflect on the compulsion before you act. In the meantime, finding a counselor who specializes in CBT or hypnosis would be your best bet for working on this problem.
Thanks for writing and good luck,
Contact Laura Ryan to schedule a therapy appointment.