lightwavemedia/Shutterstock
Source: lightwavemedia/Shutterstock

The term "control freak" is obviously not a clinical one, but it has meaning nonetheless because the term so clearly defines a problem: Men and women who have a high need for control can often be too extreme, giving rise to the notion that these individuals are abnormal or "freakish."

What kind of disorder might this type of person have? 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.

How can you spot a high-control person? You can spot these types in every walk of life, in settings from home to work to social outings. Do high-control people think of themselves as control freaks? Because these individuals need a high level of control, they also need to control their image, and so while they will usually acknowledge that they need a lot of control in situations, they will reject the "freak" part of the label—the association that there is something wrong with them or that they need too much control. In fact, many high-control men and women will often justify their need for control in the following ways: "I have to be this way to do as much as I do"; "People need people like me because so many people are actually incompetent"; "Things would fall apart without me."

Needing a high level of control in situations is often not psychologically healthy because so much in life is beyond our control. If you need total control even though you and everyone else knows that it is impossible to achieve, then you are going to have more anxiety because of the bar you have set for yourself. Consider the signs below and you may find yourself in some of the examples.

1. Correcting people when they're wrong

People with a high need for control often feel the need to correct others when they're wrong. They correct someone due to an irrational argument; they correct spelling or pronunciation; they correct details of what happened in the past; they correct bad manners; or they correct people when they do something wrong or inappropriate. It's important to understand, though, that underneath the motivation to correct others is the belief that they are usually—or always—right.

2. Always trying to win the argument or have the last word

High-control men and women are difficult to have relationships with because they like to set the rules—and subsequently enforce them. They act superior to others, and are determined to show everyone that they are the most practical, logical, and intelligent one in any crowd. 

3. Refusal to admit when they're wrong

Hands down, one of the traits that most annoys friends, romantic partners and colleagues is the refusal on the part of high-control men and women to admit when they are wrong. It could be the smallest, simplest issue, but high-control people don't care—they just want to make sure they don't admit they were wrong. Their thinking is distorted to the point that they believe others may use their admitting they were wrong against them, or will perceive them as incompetent or foolish because of one simple error. As a rule, these individuals present all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking; dealing with anything in between is uncomfortable for them.

4. Judging or criticizing others

Some of the most judgmental individuals you will ever meet are men and women with a high need for control. They are highly principled, with opinions on everything from how people should hold their fork to...how people should live their entire lives. These men and women have an answer for everything, and they come across as sanctimonious or hypocritical to those who know them well.

5. Driving with rage

People with a high need for control often get very frustrated while driving. They believe they are the only ones who know how to drive correctly. They often put other drivers down, make nasty faces at some, or even curse or issue profanities when someone on the road does something that bothers them. Yet the most common problem with high-control men and women on the road is their own impatience. They get annoyed because drivers go too slow or too fast. They treat pedestrians as an interference getting in the way of their accomplishing their goals. Again, in the mind of these individuals, it's all about them and they don't spend time trying to imagine what anyone else thinks or feels in the same situation.

The takeaway

High-control men and women, the people we call "control freaks," engage in a series of behaviors that frustrate and cause resentment in others. These individuals operate the way they do because they believe that they need to in order to meet their needs and accomplish their goals. If you see yourself in some of these high-control behaviors, take a step back and ask yourself whether you are exhausted from always trying to control everything. If you see someone you love in these behaviors, it's time to have a chat about what bothers you, so that your resentments don't get worse, jeopardizing the future of the relationship. If you point out to a high-control man or woman that you have a problem with them, give them a few concrete examples of what they do that bothers you—and give them time to work on changing. 

Feel free to explore my book on dysfunctional relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve, or follow me on Twitter.

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