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Some individuals are organized and plan things far in advance. This is a necessary skill in many professions, but how does someone know if they’ve gone too far? Can the need for control extend to other areas of somebody’s life? Anxiety disorders can cause a person to exert power over outcomes, even if they are insignificant or a waste of time. This can be an endless cycle of putting in the effort but never being satisfied with the result. In order to cope with relentless insecurities, some turn to drugs and alcohol.  

What Does It Mean to Over-Plan?

Planning for a future event sometimes requires a deep consideration of the details. If the activity requires coordinating multiple steps over an extended time period, it will be useful for a person to be highly organized and detail-oriented. However, the line between being a strategic planner and an over-planner is drawn from what is necessary to complete the task in a timely and focused manner. On the surface, an individual may seem like they’re on top of their game, but in reality, they may struggle to get things done.

The following are some clear warning signs that a person’s behavior has become unproductive, the very opposite of what they are intending:

  • Setting unrealistic goals 
  • Focusing too much on minor details 
  • Not feeling satisfied, even if plans succeed
  • Overthinking decisions to the point of paralysis 
  • Having a mental breakdown when the schedule is disrupted 
  • Being unable to complete projects in a reasonable time frame 
  • Feeling drained from attending so many events and then crashing
  • Trying to make plans perfect by preparing for every possible mishap
  • Adhering to a strict timeline or sequence of events when flexibility is needed

Why Does This Happen? 

The need to plan out every detail can stem from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can cause someone to feel lost and unsettled without something to anchor themselves to. Overplanning gives them an imaginary sense of control so they can limit anxiety and panic. This controlling behavior is also a symptom of a number of personality disorders.

Childhood History

Anxiety disorders can develop as a result of the environmental and social conditions a person encountered in early life. Children learn how to treat others, in part, by how their parents treated them. If their parents were hyper-fixated on the details of their life, the child might have learned that this behavior is normal. 

Alternatively, their living situation could have been chaotic or unsafe. At an early age, the child may have discovered they must behave a certain way to survive and perhaps get out of that environment. If they could not depend on their caregiver to provide them with emotional, physical, and financial security, they would need to exert control in these areas of their life to guarantee their well-being. 

When Is It Time to Get Help?

Being in a hyperaroused state of worry and fear is exhausting. Anxiety can wreak havoc on a person’s self-confidence and ability to do well in their career. Relationships can break down as friends and relatives lose patience with their loved one’s nerves. The individual might want to loosen the grips of control, but they don’t know how. Worse, they may be terrified of what would happen if they did. Using drugs and alcohol may be the only pastime that sets them free.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

When drugs and alcohol enter the scene, it is a clear sign that the person is unable to cope with the thoughts and emotions they are experiencing. A glass of wine after work can turn into two or three. Happy hour at the bar with colleagues can be an excuse to upgrade to something stronger like liquor. As a new lifestyle sets in, someone might find themselves experimenting with drugs on a regular basis. 

How Can Treatment Change Things?

Getting help for disorders that occur simultaneously is called dual diagnosis treatment. Anxiety disorders and addiction can both be addressed in the same program. The same core therapies can be used, but therapists may apply different techniques to achieve different outcomes. 

For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can assist clients in finding the links between their anxious thoughts and emotions and how that leads to compulsive behaviors like overplanning and drinking. One technique is to focus on the big picture and positive aspects of an occurrence when a client finds themself narrowing their focus to a tiny flaw. Another technique is to keep track of negative emotions associated with what someone believes is going to happen. Doing this allows them to recognize the irrationality of certain thoughts and how it impacts the way they plan their life.

To address psychological dependence, CBT enables clients to become more aware of emotions or environments that may prompt them to drink. Instead of engaging, they can use thought exercises to control their urges and make healthier decisions.

Overplanning can be a side effect of an anxiety disorder that developed in early life. This need for control is often a survival mechanism for those who had unstable childhoods. Although this behavior may have served its purpose in the past, overplanning can be detrimental in adulthood. Controlling behaviors can permeate into other areas of someone’s life, deteriorating their psychological and social well-being. West Coast Recovery Centers is a substance abuse treatment center for adults who also struggle with co-occurring disorders like anxiety. We understand how difficult it can be to let go of control. Uncertainty can be torturous. We also understand that people turn to drugs and alcohol to block out anxious thoughts. This starts a dangerous cycle that requires professional care to manage both anxiety and cravings. Call (760) 492-6509 today to learn how you can benefit from outpatient treatment in Oceanside, CA. 

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