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  • Writer's picturerodbtdenver

What is overcontrol?

Overcontrolled clients seem to know that they are different than their peers, and many say they have known this for a long time. And they are right! Some overcontrolled clients report that their first memories are of something about their distinctiveness, and their parents report seeing overcontrolled tendencies as early as 3 and 4 years old.

For overcontrolled individuals, their biotemperament is actually atypical from the general norm of control. Overcontrol is made up of a set of 3 distinctive biologically-based set of characteristics.


High Threat Sensitivity – This means a brain that an overcontrolled brain is biologically hard-wired to see more of the negative things first, and is less of the positive things. For example, seeing the thorns and not the roses when you walk into a rose garden.


High Inhibitory Control – The is ability to stop an impulse. This might look like inhibiting emotional expression externally, restricting eating or staying for a long time to finish a tedious task even if you desire to leave.


High Attention to Detail – This is the ability to notice small details that others might miss. For example, quickly seeing a crooked book on the shelf, noticing a friend say they like something one thing one day and dislike it the next, or a detecting a discolored blue tile in a sea of uniform blue tiles.

The way you are raised by primary care givers or culture or social environment (nature) and how you cope with your biology and nutureing (coping strategies) are also factors that influences one’s place on the overcontrol spectrum.

Biotemperamental predispositions are powerful, because they happen before an individual can even recognize they are occurring. For instance, our sensory-receptors turn on at 4 milliseconds after a cue and our language and thinking starts way later around 200 milliseconds.

So you can literally NOT think your way out of biology. Biology will trump your thinking every time. This is why therapies like cognitive behavior therapy or traditional “talk therapy” don’t work on overcontrolled individuals. Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT) works with the biology of overcontrol to make changes.

If you are overcontrolled, check out RODBT. The therapy is designed to help individuals with this biotemperament live a happier, more flexible, more open and more connected life.

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