LivingWhat drives our control habits?

What drives our control habits?

Most of us when we go to sleep, we suddenly think, “Wait, did I close the front door?” (And we even check it several times). For some people this may be a completely normal act, but for others it may be evidence of an anxiety disorder. According to experts, the turning point is in fear of losing control.

If we imagine a person who checks that the door of their house is closed a dozen times and goes around the house several times to be completely sure that everything is fine, we are probably dealing with a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) , a type of anxiety disorder characterized by a tremendous obsession with control – trying to control the uncontrollable – and with recurring and negative thoughts about it.

Yet many of us are exposed to sudden bursts of uncertainty. Should we turn off the gas before we go on our vacation? Do we close all the windows in the house? Or even worse, did we forget one of the little ones at home?

Distractions and the rush to get to where we need to go on time result in these memory lapses and the sudden shock when we realize that we are not sure if we did everything we should have done.

New research from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada suggests that fear of losing control can result in recurring control behavior (obsession with control). This, experts say, can be at the core of many anxiety disorders, including OCD.

“We have shown that people who believe they are going to lose control are significantly more likely to display controlling behavior more frequently, ” says Adam Radomsky, a co-author of the paper in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

“When we treat OCD in the clinic, we can try to reduce [patients’] beliefs about losing control and that should reduce their symptoms,” says Radomsky.

The experiment


The experts had
133 participants recruited from the cohort of undergraduate students who were given false EEGs – used to measure the electrical activity of the brain – randomly assigning false comments that they had a low or high risk of losing control over your thoughts and actions.

Once the volunteers were convinced that they had complete control over themselves or were at risk of losing control, the scientists asked them to complete a computer task that required “controlling the pace of the images” by making them disappear before they disappeared from the picture. screen.

What the participants didn’t know, however, was that they had no real control over the images, which were programmed to move in and out of their sight at specific times.

The scientists found that participants who were convinced that they were at higher risk of losing control of their actions engaged in more meticulous controlling behavior than their other peers, who were told that they would likely remain in control.


The findings verified the researchers’ initial working hypothesis. “People’s fears and beliefs about losing control can put them at risk for a wide variety of problems, including panic disorder, social phobia, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and others,” Radomsky says.

According to Radomsky, “This work has the potential to vastly improve our ability to understand and treat the full range of anxiety-related problems.”

Thus, controlling behavior would amount to less desire for control.

Reference: Manipulating beliefs about losing control causes checking behavior. Jean-Philippe Gagné, Adam S. Radomsky Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders 2017 DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.jocrd.2017.08.013

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