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Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Uncertainty and need to be in control?


Hello! I'm a male in my mid-twenties. I think I might have some problems with uncertainty, obsessive-thinking and feeling the need to be in control.

If I for example have a crush on a girl and if I think that she might feel the same way, I might then socialize with her and afterward speculate and obsess that will she like me anymore etc. I might also speculate whether she will have another one etc. This obsessive thinking is very rough on me 'cause it goes on an on and its also very depressing. Even if I come to on conclusion somehow, it starts again after few moments.

And this happens on other aspects in life as well, I'm obsessing about my health and other stuff, it's the uncertainty that somehow keeps the cycle of obsession going and I cant stop that. If I cant control things or if I'm not 100% sure about a certain thing, I get anxious and start to think about all the different scenarios how a certain thing could go or might be (and this thinking is usually very negative).

So could you maybe give me some pointers or teach me some simple coping skills what I should do to learn to function in spite of the uncertainty that I will definitely experience in life, how to try to stop the obsessive thinking and stop the need to be in control.

I understand that I should consider therapy and I will. The problem is that in my country it might get a while to get to therapy if you don't go to a private practice. Private practice is very expensive and I can't afford it. I'm asking these coping skills and help just for first-aid 'cause I feel so anxious most of the time.

Thanks a lot for your answer!

From your English, Samuel, I would not have taken you for a foreigner.

If you do pursue psychotherapy, I'd suggest a clinical psychologist versed in behavioral-cognitive therapy. It should not require many sessions, as the emphasis is on finding, as you alluded to, strategies for coping. When the demand exceeds the supply, some practitioners offer group sessions that increase the client/therapist ratio (and greatly reduces the cost for the participants). An alternate specialty that would work for this is "T-group" [training] therapy.

As for managing on your own, the anxiety might be constitutional (you are simply an anxious person) but more likely it's situational, because many young people, especially before they're established, are troubled by feelings of anxiety.  And show me a lad who doesn't get anxious in the girl department and I'll show you a psychopath.

The need to feel in control could also be age-related and even a reaction to the anxiety. In that case, well, being 25 is a common problem, but I promise you that it's a totally self-limiting condition. However, if this is free-standing or constitutional, it could be more ominous. I'll put it this way. Anxious people have a certain charm -- think, for instance, of Woody Allen. But controlling ones are not.  However, nothing you said indicates you are a controller, rather, just that uncertainty makes you uncomfortable, which is quite normal and OK psychologically.  

My advice is to let the anxiety take care of itself.  If it runs its course, fine. If not, that's simply who and what you are, and that's not a bad thing unless you opt for a career in the military and are assigned to bomb disposal. But remain alert to and work on your controlling side insofar as it spills over into the need to control everything, especially other people.   

I can't really address the obsessing. On one hand, what troubles you troubles everyone, making your reaction understandable and normal. On the other, if you have a clinically obsessive personality, it can usually be helped by medication, therapy, and improving the situation. You seem perceptive and intuitive enough to be able to decide which applies to you, and deal with it accordingly.

Hope that helps a bit. The best of luck to you, and feel free if you have a follow-up.


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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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