A boy comforting his upset friend by putting with his hand on his shoulder while they sit in a park.

A guide for young people Feeling out of control

When life gets overwhelming we can start to feel out of control. This can be very scary and stressful. But if you’re feeling this way, you are not alone and you can get through it. We have advice and tips that can really help.

Why do I feel out of control?

There are many different ways we might feel out of control.

You might find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do over and over again. Even though you want to stop doing these things, you may find that you just can’t seem to stop. This could look like:

  • performing rituals over and over again because they make you feel safe and you experience extreme anxiety if you don’t do them (this can be a sign of OCD)
  • addiction to anything – like drugs, alcohol, gaming, social media, sex
  • self-harming
  • binge-eating or changing your eating habits 
  • over-exercising

Usually we get into this cycle because we are trying to avoid a difficult feeling. Sometimes when it feels like we don't have any power in our lives or control over our circumstances, we can focus extra hard on the things we can control. This can give us a way to cope in a world where we might not be getting the support we need. 

These habits or addictions can give us a sense of relief or a way to avoid difficult feelings. But this relief is only temporary, because sooner or later those difficult feelings come back and we feel like we need to do that thing again. This cycle can feel hard to break out of, but with the right support you can get through this.

Artwork by thetypewriterdaily. A hand holds a sketchbook open to show a drawing that represents what happens when we hold back our feelings.

Artwork by @thetypewriterdaily. A hand holds a sketchbook open to show a drawing that represents what happens when we hold back our feelings. The left-hand page has a drawing of a person with red thread scrambled up in their chest. The right-hand page has the red thread spread across the person like a spider web. The text reads, 'feelings that you hold back, become feelings that hold you back - Mansi.'

Tips and advice that can help

If you are feeling out of control, you might be struggling with one of these things. Our advice and information can help you get through this.

If you're having unusual experiences

You might be going through something that feels very strange, out of the ordinary, and possibly quite frightening. For example:

  • not being sure what is real and what isn’t - for example, hallucinating, hearing voices or feeling like someone else is controlling your body (these can be signs of psychosis)
  • experiencing extreme mood swings (this can be a sign of bipolar disorder)
  • having manic episodes, which can involve talking a lot, racing thoughts, over-confidence and increased activity
  • uncontrollable urges to self-harm, or to harm other people
close up of a boy wearing grey hoodie listening to an advice of his teacher in front of him

Sometimes feeling out of control can be very frightening, especially if we are worried that we might harm ourselves or others. Remember, what you are going through is nothing to be ashamed of.

We all react differently to life’s challenges and the way we react to things when we are unwell can seem confusing to other people. But just because you are experiencing something that feels strange does not make you ‘crazy’.

If your experiences and behaviours mean that you might be in danger of harm, or harming others, you might have to go into hospital for treatment.

We know this can be scary, but we have lots of information and advice that may help.

Read about psychosis

Things that can help you feel more in control

  • Talk to someone

    Let someone know if you feel unsafe or you start to feel like you are out of control. They can help ground you and talk through how you are feeling.

  • Speak to your GP

    Your GP can discuss different things you can do to get better, like having counselling or taking medication, and they can arrange for you to get the help you need.

  • Find creative ways to express yourself

    Sometimes it can be hard to express ourselves in words. If you’re struggling to say what you’re feeling, it can help to try expressing yourself in other ways, like through art or dance.

Be kind to yourself – It’s always important to look after ourselves, but that’s especially the case when we’re going through a tough time. Try to make time to do things you enjoy, and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.

Advice on inpatient care

If things get really tough for you, you might have to go into a hospital so that you can get better. This might seem daunting, but we have lots of information on what to expect and what your rights are, as well as real stories from other young people who’ve been there.


Information to help you through this

What are you struggling to control in your life? We have information and advice that can support you.

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If you are in crisis right now and want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you are at risk of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your mental health, call: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

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