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What Are Delusions of Control?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A delusion of control is the false yet firm belief that someone or something is controlling the person suffering from the delusion. The control can include not just the affected person's actions, but also his thoughts and feelings. For instance, a person might believe that his local or national government is controlling his actions or that spiritual beings have control over his limbs. He may even believe the beings in control of him can listen to his thoughts and watch him no matter where he goes or what he does.

When a person has delusions of control, he typically believes his thoughts, movements, or words are not his own. An individual who is suffering from this type of delusion usually believes a person, a being, a group of people or beings, an organization, or a device is in control of him and that his will is not completely his own. For example, he might believe an alien device is causing him to move a certain way or take particular actions, or that evil beings are planting thoughts in his brain.

Besides believing a being or device is planting thoughts in his brain, a person with delusions of control may have many other false beliefs along the same lines. For example, he might believe a person, alien, group, organization, or device is listening to his thoughts or removing certain thoughts from his brain. He could even believe that after planting or removing some of his thoughts, the controllers are causing him to say things he normally wouldn't. Interestingly, it is not always an individual, group of people, terrorist organization, or alien life form an affected person blames for this; sometimes a person may even blame his own government for listening to and controlling his thoughts.

Some delusions of control involve physical actions and behavior rather than thoughts. An affected person may think he has to twirl around in a circle repeatedly because someone or something is controlling him and causing him to do so. If he decides to walk, run, or skip into another room, he might consider a controlling force the cause of this action as well. Additionally, a person who has delusions of control may even commit violent acts as a result of his disorder. For example, he may stab someone with a deadly weapon, yet firmly believe another party has full control of his arm and hand while he is doing so.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Apr 19, 2014

@ZipLine-- Your post reminds me of John Forbes Nash Jr., the famous American mathematician who suffered from delusions. There was even a film made about his life called A Beautiful Mind. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. In the film, he appeared to have a combination of paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

I don't think he thought that anyone was controlling him, but he believed that there was a conspiracy against him. So I guess he wasn't suffering from delusions of control in the conventional sense but he did believe that he was being watched, followed, etc.

By ZipLine — On Apr 18, 2014

@candyquilt-- Yes, delusions of control are common in schizophrenia. These delusions are usually also supported by auditory or visual hallucinations. For example, someone may believe that the government is listening to him or watching him and may experience hallucinations that support this belief. For example, he may hallucinate someone peeping into his home or he may hear voices talking about him and attribute all of it to government control.

Many different varieties of these delusions may occur as the article described, such as alien control, spirit control and so forth.

By candyquilt — On Apr 18, 2014

Do delusions of control usually occur in schizophrenia?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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