The Fear Of Losing Control

What is the fear of losing control?

The fear of losing control is a psychological condition characterised by an overwhelming sense of anxiety or panic that occurs when an individual feels like they have lost their ability to control their environment, circumstances, or life in general. This fear can manifest in a variety of ways, including fear of losing control over one’s emotions, thoughts, or physical actions.

Those who experience the fear of losing control may have a strong need for order and structure in their lives, and they may struggle with situations that feel chaotic or unpredictable. They may also experience a heightened sense of vigilance or hyper-vigilance, constantly scanning their environment for potential threats or dangers that could disrupt their sense of control. This fear can be triggered by a variety of situations, including stress, trauma, anxiety, or phobias. It can also be a symptom of certain mental health disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

The sense of losing control can trigger an innate stress response, leading to a compelling urge to flee from situations that cause anxiety or apprehension. This response stems from feeling powerless and incapable of managing the situation, which intensifies the fear of losing control over one’s thoughts and actions. This fear is often initiated by a particular circumstance or thought, disrupting the brain’s natural ability to process information rationally in real-time. It’s crucial to acknowledge that the fear of losing control frequently stems from a conditioned fear rather than medical or behavioural evidence. Although it may seem like losing control of one’s actions or causing public humiliation is inevitable, the reality is that you always retain control over your thoughts and behaviours.

It is THE FEAR of losing control that creates the stress response, not the actual loss of control.

How to overcome the fear of losing control?

One way to overcome this fear is to interrupt the thought pattern that triggers the stress response. By acknowledging that this fear is a learned response and not based on actual evidence, you can begin to change your thinking and reduce the stress response.

Changing the terminology around fear can also be helpful. Instead of thinking that you lack the ability to do something, consider reframing it as a fear of losing control in certain situations. By recognising this fear, you can then begin to practice facing these situations rather than avoiding them.

It’s also important to consider the source of the fear. If you fear losing control, ask yourself if it’s based on an actual experience of losing control or a perceived fear. If there’s no evidence to support that you have actually ever lost control, it’s possible that you may have perceived the situation incorrectly.



Driving in unfamiliar areas or in heavy traffic be a source of anxiety for many people. For those that have been involved in or witnessed an accident of some kind, the fear can escalate leading to panic attacks, avoidance, or even phobias. 

Contra evidence: 

  • Vehicles are made from heavy metal and protect us from impact in case of an accident.
  • They bring comfort, reliability and convenience to our lives when getting us from A to B. 
  • We have the reassurance of gadgets such as GPS to guide us on unfamiliar routes.



Travelling can also be an important trigger in the fear of losing control. Being in an unfamiliar environment, dealing with language barriers, and navigating transportation can contribute enormously to travel anxiety.  

Contra evidence:

  • Statistically, travelling is safer than many everyday activities.
  • Millions of people travel safely around the world every year. 
  • The majority of people who travel have positive experiences.
  • Getting out of your routine, experiencing new things, and taking a break from stress can all have positive effects on your mental health.
  • Many people who have overcome their fears of travelling have reported feeling more confident, independent, and fulfilled as a result.


Work Situations

You are not alone if you fear losing control as you try to balance components of your working life, particularly in high-pressure situations or when dealing with difficult coworkers or clients. This can be especially true if you feel like you’re not performing well, not meeting expectations, if you’re worried about making mistakes or being criticised by others. 

Contra evidence:

  • Many workplaces offer support for employees with anxiety. This might include flexible schedules, telecommuting options, or additional training and resources. If your workplace doesn’t, perhaps it’s about time they did.
  • How many times have you actually lost control at work and what happened?


Events/Social Situations

Attending public events or social situations can be overwhelming for some people, particularly those with social anxiety. The fear of losing control in these situations can create a fear of behaving in an embarrassing or humiliating way, which can lead to panic attacks and even avoidance of such situations. 

Contra evidence:

  • Social interaction is a natural and necessary part of human life. It helps us connect with others, form relationships, and build a sense of community.
  • Social situations can be enjoyable and rewarding. They provide opportunities to learn new things, explore new interests, and have fun with others.
  • Though you may imagine that everyone’s focus is on you, the fact is everyone’s thoughts are usually on their own appearance and how they are coming across.
  • Avoiding social situations can lead to isolation and loneliness, which can have negative effects on your mental and physical health. By facing your fears and engaging in social activities, you can improve your overall well-being and quality of life.


Public Speaking

Public speaking can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people, particularly when speaking in front of a large audience. The fear of losing control, such as forgetting what to say or stumbling over words, can lead to debilitating anxiety and even avoidance. 

Contra evidence:

  • Speaking in front of a group helps build confidence and self-assurance. This increased confidence can translate into other areas of your life as well.
  • Public speaking skills can be an asset in the workplace, helping you to advance your career and take on leadership roles. Being able to give presentations, lead meetings, and communicate effectively with colleagues can be important for success in many jobs.
  • When you are able to speak out in public and communicate effectively, you have the power to influence and inspire others. Whether it’s in a professional or personal setting, being able to deliver a powerful message can make a real difference in the world.

To manage the fear of losing control, it is important to identify when and why the fear began. Is it based on actual experience or a perceived fear? If you have no evidence to support that you have actually ever lost control, you will need to change your perception by developing strategies and taking small steps to change your belief. 

Remember, anxiety in context is completely normal, but it’s important not to let fear hold you back from living your life to the fullest. You can overcome this fear and live a more fulfilling life because you are always in control of your thoughts and actions, and the fear of losing control is just that – a fear, it is not a reality.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms and they are interfering with your daily life, you might like to consider chatting with one of our trained mentors here at Trauma Research UK. Find out more here…