Is Anxiety Really About Having Control Issues?

February 22, 2012 Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Anxiety makes us feel out of control, provoking anxious thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. Here are ways to manage those anxious thoughts.

Yes, control issues can cause anxiety, but it is much more complicated than that. Anxiety has us feel like we are “out of control.” This is one of its biggest tricks it has to stay in power over us. It is important for us to see how it makes us feel “out of control,” because once it is visible we can do something about it.

Nasty Things Anxiety Says to You

  1. You are weak because you have anxiety.
  2. Something bad is going to happen.
  3. You don’t have the skills to feel better.
  4. You are not going to be able to handle it.
  5. You will freak out.
  6. You will be so uncomfortable.
  7. You can’t do it.
  8. You will always feel this way.

These are lies of anxiety!

With Anxiety, Lies Become Your Truths

But, if you have a problem with anxiety, these have a truth status in your mind. You believe them. Probably because you believed them for a long, long time. Or, maybe it started after something bad happened to you. Don’t beat yourself, we all feel this way.

The good news is that we can change these beliefs.

  1. Anxiety can make you feel out of control, like you're falling off a cliff.You are not weak because you have anxiety, is it a biological survival reflex. We all have it.
  2. Bad things sometimes happen, but Anxiety uses this threat evasively. “If you go there something bad will happen.” I always tell people, to ask the Anxiety, “What bad will happen?” and Anxiety never has a more specific answer. That is because it is lying.
  3. You totally have the skills to feel better, and are probably already using them, but anxiety is undermining them and making them invisible. Notice them, they will be more accessible to you.
  4. You CAN handle it. You always survive through it and eventually calm again. ASk yourself what it means not to handle it. (I usually imagine myself going off some crazy cliff ne’er to return. This never happens.)
  5. We freak out all the time to different degrees and we always recover, but we never freak out as bad as the anxiety tells us we will. We have amazing powers to keep in control.
  6. Thinking that we cannot do something is our biggest obstacle to not doing it. Anxiety knows this, that’s why it uses this dirty trick. You can do so much more than you think if you had to.
  7. We are not wired for anxiety permanently, we can change this because it is just changing some beliefs.

What false beliefs is Anxiety telling you?

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APA Reference
Lobozzo, J. (2012, February 22). Is Anxiety Really About Having Control Issues?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Muhammad Zyad Haq
July, 13 2017 at 10:37 am

My anxiety is about ''What will happen if I get nervous or burst into tears in front of people'' .. This is what I get when I ask my anxiety, 'what's the worst that can happen?'. Could you offer me any helpful suggestions.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 16 2017 at 8:36 am

Hi Muhammad,
Reflecting on the worst thing that could happen can be a helpful thing to do because it can help people see that the "worst thing" is really something they can deal with. Sometimes, thought, thinking about the worst thing can do more harm than good, causing anxiety to increase even more because that worst thing can have many negative consequences. It sounds like you discovered that the "worst that could happen" produces even more stress and anxiety. Feel free to put that question aside. Don't judge yourself for it; simply acknowledge that that question isn't relevant to you or your anxiety. Now you know that this concern is serious to you, so you can focus on taking very specific action to overcome it. There are different questions you can ask yourself that will lead you in the direction of overcoming anxiety. Some come from a healing approach called solution-focused therapy and are discussed here:…. Check it out and see if it's something that could be helpful in moving forward.

July, 22 2015 at 4:23 am

I have never really felt anxiety about anything.
However, I have been on the receiving end of anxiety issues rather regularly.
Seems to me that, as with most of these problems, people get into a loop where they do something that sets up an anxiety response and the feeling of anxiety causes them to do more of the "something" and the more "something" they do then the more anxiety they feel.
FOR EXAMPLE: let's say a person does not communicate with their partner well. And their partner's behavior causes anxiety. And the feeling of anxiety causes the person to communicate with their partner less. Then their partners behavior causes more anxiety, which causes less communication and more anxiety. etc.
Many people in the above seem to try to suppress their feeling of anxiety. Maybe the solution is to improve communication.
Another example: Let's say children live in a house and like to move people's valuables around from time to time to get attention. The parent respond by giving the children attention (which the children want) and becoming anxious about their valuables. The children respond by moving more valuables around, get more attention and cause more anxiety, etc.
Many people in the above respond by trying to control the kids more. Maybe the better response if for the parent to act responsibly by moving their valuables to a more appropriate place.
my 2 cents.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 22 2015 at 11:11 am

Hello Mike,
Thank you for sharing your valuable two cents. While anxiety is complex and both causes and solutions vary, what you describe is a legitimate contributor to some anxieties, and improved communication and interaction goes a long way toward alleviating the anxiety (causes, symptoms, behaviors, etc.). In cases like this, therapists work with people to improve communication skills. Your thoughts are very insightful, and many readers will likely appreciate this perspective.

Melissa miller
June, 25 2013 at 9:52 pm

Ive had anxiety for 7 years. Its gotten worst and worst everyday. My stomach hurt all the time like imma throw up or have diahrea. Sometimes i do have diahrea and idk how to stop this and get control agian. I keep thinking i cant do it, i cant win, i wont get better, it wont go away. Help me figure out how to stop it please!!!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 26 2013 at 5:29 am

Keep reading there are tons of good tips here for you! Click on my links if you ever wanted to schedule a phone session.

December, 8 2012 at 5:28 pm

A lot of these aren't entirely irrational/untrue for me....
okay, I guess I should back up. I think I've had ADHD my entire life, and it seemed that anytime I didn't hold myself, back, I'd get in trouble--almost like I thought too fast for people. For example in 1st grade, our teacher was asking us to identify a dinosaur or something, at one point I was like "A T-Rex!...." everyone looked at me, the teacher heard me and was like "who just shouted out the answer before anyone else had a chance??"
By then I was used to getting in trouble thanks to other classmates, and I raised my hand (pretty much automatically) basically to rat myself out before the rest of the class did it for me.... I'm in college and I still tend to have this idea that my ideas/thoughts are too quick, I need to sit and really consider what I want to say before I say it. I end up afraid to participate at all, or do anything at all. LOL.
I've had similar experiences with..sort of emotional/angry outbursts, anytime I "let go" (of controlling my behavior) I did something...kinda violent, that scared adults (usu. hurt other kids)--that only happened a few times but that was enough for me to be like "don't act on impulse."
I still have these same problems..mostly when there are other people around, which has led me to withdraw socially to try to deal with all this myself.
I think I eventually wore myself down trying to control my behaviors/emotions so that I wouldn't get into serious trouble. I felt victimized by all this because it's like anytime I was "myself" (once I started inhibiting these things everything felt unnatural..robotic..) I got myself in trouble. So that became "something is wrong with me."
I ended up getting sent to shrinks and social workers anyways, but not for any of this---for anxiety!
Anxiety that probably was also very unnatural for me, which made it just continue to get worse and worse....
(b/c I didn't know what to do w/ it--it was so unfamiliar, it was almost like "this isn't me!!") It was self-protective. Deal with my emotions internally so I don't hurt everyone around me (which was happening more and more frequently anyways...more guilt, depression, anxiety, etc...)
Any time something I wanted or would do of my own initiative became externalized (i.e. school assignments) they felt obligatory, my whole being automatically was like "don't do it, you don't need these rules, you're not here to please anyone!"--also got me into trouble, was always told I was being oppositional/defiant/etc...but I had no conscious control over that response. So there's where the "no control" part comes from....
Obviously as a kid you're rarely (if ever) expected to just take on big tasks/challenges on your own initiative, so basically without that, I never had motivation to do anything at all. It felt like I was always doing others favors, validating their egos with my "intelligence" (I was "smart" according to almost 100% of everyone around me...oh, until I wasn't.) So to avoid screwing myself over started to feel like "I have to fake it to not get myself in trouble..(with the law?)" lol...
No one ever gave me "space" to deal with all this--really it turned into "I don't have the space to deal with myself", I started feeling like I was "too demanding", "high-maintenance", "too complicated", etc. Hid myself from people even more...
got labeled even more... ("socially anxious", "possible Asperger's", and so on.)
The fact everyone was always so wrong about all this, with EVERY label they placed on me, meanwhile saying none of this is accusational (oh but when I said things I was being offensive and insensitive!!)--made it even WORSE... AGAIN!
haha now I'm in college and I'm trying to deal with/get through all this before I go to grad school carrying all this baggage...some of it is about as old as I am.. :(
So yeah it's about control issues, I think in my case it's that I felt like I thought too quickly for my own good, started to protect my thoughts, ideas, feelings, expressing myself at all...etc...from others...
ugh. all so frustrating....
I need some sort of vacation on a mountain in the middle of nowhere by now or something.
Another completely unreasonable "demand" that turns into me having to compromise anytime I have to deal with another human being! >:( LOL.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 9 2012 at 12:00 am

You can take time to think of your response and use that brilliant mind of yours to decide what to do. Trust yourself!

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September, 12 2012 at 2:32 pm

The control issue aspect is an interesting one. I've suffered with anxiety probably since I entered the world ... though, in those early years wouldn't call it exactly that. Control, in order to feel safe, does factor in. Yet, I know people with huge control issues who don't deal with panic ... and assume they don't have the genetic predisposition that gets the adrenaline pumping.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 13 2012 at 11:20 am

They have the control issue, but I would assume there is anxiety there. Anxiety shows itself in all sorts of ways, and sometimes you would never know it is what someone else feels. The use control to hold it at bay... Hope this helps clarify!

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April, 9 2012 at 8:06 pm

Anxiety dictates to me that I am always going to have someone disappointed in me; no matter if I do things that are best for me or for those I care about. Anxiety dictates how I respond to people; how little I tell them and how much I grow to dislike myself which I project onto them.
Anxiety is what rules that.
The anxiety of me letting others down because to do that makes me a failure and that is the one thing I am the most anxious about.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 11 2012 at 5:45 am

Carey, You are right about "anxiety dictates". This is far from the truth. Anxiety is the most insidious liar.

March, 20 2012 at 10:59 am

My 19 year old son has severe depression and anxiety. He refuses counseling, and will only take his medication when he is rock bottom. He has only one friend. One of my biggest problems right now is that in order for me to keep things on an even keel I give in to him constantly. I am starting to see (I think) that his need to control me and his younger brother may stem from his feeling unable to control anything else in his life. I need to break this. I am at a loss. It is scary and painful.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 21 2012 at 2:57 am

HI Mary,
I have a huge response, which I think will be mostly included in my post on my home blog tomorrow. I think you are right about him wanting to control you since he feels he has no control in his life, but this is a perception, we have to teach him where he does have control. (Having it over you is not helpful to him, his brother, or you!)

March, 5 2012 at 11:37 am

My chronic anxiety did not come about as described in this blog. It was caused by depression. Medicate the depression and the chronic anxiety goes away.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 5 2012 at 1:21 pm

Anxiety can come out of many contexts, including depression, when it expresses a dis pleasure with feeling depressed. Wanting to be other than you are, and a bit of worry that you are unable to be. Once the depression is gone the context is gone! Yay! For you! What a relief! There are more than one way to get rid of depression, medication is one way, I am so glad it worked so well for you! Thank you for sharing!

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Dr Musli Ferati
March, 2 2012 at 3:28 am

My common and preferable statement to psychiatric patient with anxiety disorder is: everyone has got anxiety difficulties, bat You have got uncontrolable anxiety. This one is in according with Your intellegent suggestion that anxiety is a "biological survival refelx". Principally matter is if this discern has any relation with daily life circumstances or it is unreasonable explanation. In first occassion the anxiety is of neurotic nature. In second one it is psychotic disorder that should to treat as associate symtom of psychosis. In both instances untreatment anxiety lead to depression as most difficult complication of course to anxiety. Whereas, the appropriete treatment is psychiatric one by last psychiatric recommendations.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 7 2012 at 3:27 am

Thanks Dr. Ferati, I respectfully disagree about having no control. It seems to be out of control, but isn’t really. We have to be real careful what words we use, because they link to beliefs and beliefs link to making or breaking problems.
Thanks so much for commenting!

February, 24 2012 at 10:43 am

Great Article! I used to have panic attacks frequently. After talking to experts and following some simple steps such as relaxing and breathing, I feel like I have more control of my panic attacks. :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2012 at 11:39 am

What a relief, right Jane?

February, 23 2012 at 9:01 pm

I've had some pretty bad anxiety attacks since I moved out. Usually I feel like/do throw up or dry heave for sometimes up to an hour unless I do what my mind want. They've gotten fewer and father between within the last month mostly because I've started forcing myself to go to work telling myself we have to do this so I can't chiken out but the physical symptoms hit me before even my mind gets going.My pinched nerve in my shoulder has become a good indicator cus it acts up when I'm getting stressed. I wish I could stop the instant panic..

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2012 at 3:35 am

Hi Tirihashi,
I am so glad you keep going to work! A routine is very helpful. Some people stop working or take time off and their anxiety gets worse. Unless of course the work context is what is stressing them out. It sounds like it is getting less and less.

February, 23 2012 at 7:57 pm

I have had anxiety/panic for as long as I can remember. In my 20's it was bad, and in my 30's it became unbearable and I was forced to begin daily medication to prevent/control it. I have tried every self help tip out there,and tried every herbal/natural/over the counter product out there. None help at all. Now at age 41 I have not been taking my mediaction for almost 2 months, And I can not ever remember feeling this much anxiety/panic And unfortunately feel I will have to begin them again :(

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2012 at 2:36 am

Have you tried CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy? This challenges the thoughts that lie behind anxious feelings and subsequent avoidant behaviour and can be very effective. I know this from personal experience.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2012 at 3:36 am

Thanks Mindy, CBT is among many excellent treatment methods!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 24 2012 at 3:33 am

HI Patti, Thanks for the comment! There are lots of ways to get over panic. Medicine can be your buoy while you are working to get yourself across the raging river of anxiety. Many other things can be your buoy and help you across. You have done so much research and efforts, I appreciate what you have done for yourself! You might also ask a doctor that you trust if this your body responding to coming off the medicine. You have the tools, from all your years of effort. Just right now you feel like none of them are going to work. It is the trust in yourself that is missing. Try to trust. Thanks so much for the comment!

February, 22 2012 at 3:45 pm

understanding that you are having a panic attack is half the battle to recovery. I came through mine and have since created my website to help others.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 22 2012 at 6:52 pm

Awesome Jenny! I agree you can get through it! Great message!

February, 22 2012 at 12:13 pm

Anxiety has been controlling my life for as long as i can remember, always saying and repeating the same things:
1- you don't deserve to be loved however you are trying.
2- You will keep losing the ones you love.
3- don't let anyone get close and know you because if they do, they will leave.
4- You will die alone and no one will notice
5- You're not good enough, God is not happy.
6- you keep upsetting, bothering, annoying people around you
7- you're good at nothing, especially not a good mother and your kids would certainly be better without you.
and a lot more, on a daily basis, but I can now, only since the last 3 or 4 months, stop those thoughts, and tell anxiety to just :shut up!!! But it is still controlling my body. I don't know how i can stop the physical symptoms it gives :(

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 22 2012 at 6:56 pm

Our body is dense. Not meaning stupid just thick matter, it is the last to heal. You are doing well and there is hope! None of these are true! I am glad you now know in your spiritual, mental and emotional bodies. Now the physical.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Carol Johnson
February, 23 2012 at 6:14 pm

I know with you listing those things....they are so much like I feel so often. I read somewhere that we should wake up and start thinking positive thoughts about ourselves. Over and over again repeat good the good thoughts...even if we don't feel that way, it is a good way to make yourself listen to the positive talking so that the negative thoughts can't control your mind. It helps me a lot! Thanks for your post.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 23 2012 at 8:14 pm

This works most of the time, but in times it doesn't it is because they are not believed. Affirmations only work if you believe them. So you have to start small. Say something you believe. 'you might be able to handle this' then grow it to 'you can handle this' as your belief in yourself grows! Great tip!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

mark seydel
December, 5 2013 at 9:44 pm

Yes. "Fake it 'till you make it!"

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 5 2012 at 12:31 pm

OMG! You are describing exactly how I feel every single day. I thought I was the only one who has these feelings. I've had anxiety for about 5 yrs now and my family doesn't understand it. They think I'm crazy or at least that's how I think they feel. When I try to talk to them they don't listen or understand or even try to understand. I'm on medication and it helps but sometimes all I need is someone to talk to. I so wish I could talk to you since your feeling the same feelings I am.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 12 2012 at 3:53 pm

i feel exactly the same way....word for word even.thank you for letting me know that im not the only one to feel these exact things

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 13 2012 at 11:18 am

I am so glad that I can give you this relief. Feeling alone just makes everything else worse, doesn't it? Well, there is a community here!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jacque Small (@jacquebig)
September, 13 2012 at 6:05 pm

Anxiety can be released from the body quite quickly. Our body is like a battery and holds this anxious energy in it. See this free report on the Emotional Hot Button Removal techniques to be able to let go of this energy.

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