Power Incontinence

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"You know how some people and animals lose control of their bladders when they're surprised? It's like that, but for lightning."


A character's got an awesome power at their disposal, but there's a catch. Whatever granted the power didn't give the character control over it. They can't stop using their powers, even if they want to. This character suffers from Power Incontinence.

Sometimes, a character will just lose control for an episode or two, or have a few accidents while first learning how to use their powers. Extreme emotional situations may cause a loss of control though, like a pyrokinetic literally Burning with Anger.

Not everyone is so lucky. Many cases are incurable, becoming an integral part of the character. Not to worry, though, chronic power incontinence is treatable with some Applied Phlebotinum. You'll have to hold on to that phlebotinum, though, from now on. You'll have to depend on it if you want to avoid any accidents or a shorter lifespan.

Note that this is not always a bad thing for the character, since some powers are better when they don't need to be actively controlled. Having the ability to heal any wound, for example, is awesome when you don't have to consciously activate it—otherwise a severe injury might still kill you if you lost consciousness (from loss of blood, say) before switching it on. However, it is always a lack of the Required Secondary Powers that protects a character from their own powers.

Can be one of the ways a character is Blessed with Suck. Compare Restraining Bolt or Power Limiter (common methods of averting this) and Does Not Know His Own Strength (a common result of this). If combined with Shapeshifting, this may result in becoming an Involuntary Shapeshifter, depending on what triggers it and how. A character with this may also have a case of I Just Want to Be Normal. Sometimes terrifyingly applied with Reality Warping Is Not a Toy.

Examples of Power Incontinence include:


  • A Doritos advert has two people gaining cold and fire power and finding normal tasks like going the toilet and using deodorant have become problematic.

Anime and Manga

  • Miroku from Inuyasha has the Wind Tunnel, a black hole-like void in his hand that pulls in everything in front of him unless he has it covered up using his prayer beads. What's worse, eventually the void will be big enough to pull in him (and anything that happens to be around him) unless Naraku is destroyed. (It's one of the reasons he keeps asking random women to have his children. The other is that he's a Casanova Wannabe.)
    • Inuyasha also has a genetic predisposition to this problem, which his father made a magic sword to fix. After it breaks the first time, the chances of him getting extra power in a way that makes him kind of evil increase dramatically, especially if he doesn't have the sword on him. Luckily it's an awesome BFS which gets continuously upgraded to an Infinity+1 Sword, so he's not missing much, even if a compulsion to kill things didn't bother him.
      • At first you say, he fought without that sword his whole life before Volume Two, and then you remember that said sword was inside the corpse of his father inside the pearl....inside his eyeball...
  • A-Ko from Project A-ko wears bracelets to keep her Super Strength from crushing everything she touches (Which tends to happen anyway as she's kind of spazzy.)
  • Likewise, Rumiko Takahashi's Maris the Chojo wears "strength restraints" since she's a Thanatosian—she has six times the normal strength of a human being. Even with the restraints she still ends up accidentally destroying much of what she touches.
  • Kyo from Fruits Basket has to keep his prayer beads on whenever he's in human form to prevent him from instantly reverting to his demon form.
  • Kakashi from Naruto was offered a special eye from his dying friend, but can't turn its power off, so he covers it with his headband in order not to waste energy.
    • If Naruto reaches four-tails or above then he needs an outside source or daddy the Fourth Hokage to calm him down because he can't on his own, and if given enough incentive or time more tails will come out.
    • This is actually a very real concern for most jinchuuriki. If too much of the beast's will escapes with the chakra, they'll be overwhelmed and the beast will break out of the seal.
  • In Darker than Black, the superpowered "Contractors" must pay for using their powers by performing a pointless action specific to that individual shortly afterwards. Those who don't have to make such a payment are called "Moratoria", suffering from Power Incontinence. Moratoria are stated to be extremely rare, the only one shown in the series having been changed from a normal Contractor as a side effect of a contract-suppressing plant. The same person reverted back into a normal Contractor in the end, something stated to have a near-zero likelihood, but not before going on several uncontrolled rampages wherein she incinerated several people.
    • Sometimes the pointless action makes their powers very much not worth it, like having to drink the blood of children. Or being forced to smoke.
  • Mao from Code Geass has a Geass that allows him to read the mind of anyone within 500 meters. Over time, he loses the ability to control it and as a result hears the surface thoughts of anyone within range.
    • Late in the first season, the same fate befalls Lelouch's Compelling Voice Geass; he suffers a brief, debilitating headache, and doesn't realise that he's lost control over his power. He later makes a joke to Euphemia about killing all Japanese people, and realises a moment too late that he's Geassed her into doing it. In the beginning of R2, C.C. gives him a special contact lens to block it when needed.
      • C.C. claims that the contacts will eventually stop working, leaving it active all the time.
        • And speaking of C.C., she herself suffered this fate back when she had her own geass.
      • In general, anyone who receives a Geass power will eventually lose control of it.
  • Vash the Stampede of Trigun could be considered to suffer from this, when Knives releases his Angel Arm.
  • Minki the Oni from Hell Teacher Nube has incredibly destructive powers... which she loses control of and end up backfiring when she's not wearing her, um, panties.
  • The protagonists from the Hoshi no Umi no Amuri OVA, where their abilities are treated like allergies. Amuri's Reflect, causes her to repel physical objects that she touches suddenly, Suzu's Escape causes her to be moving continuously, and Perriere's Infiltrate causes her to pass through most solid objects.
  • Shaman King: both Hao and Anna have an uncontrollable ability to read minds. This leads to Hao's Start of Darkness and causing further Power Incontinence for Anna in the form of her spontaneously summoning demons.
  • Negi Springfield's Sneezes of Doom in Mahou Sensei Negima are accidental discharges of magic caused by ordinary sneezes.
    • The World Tree leaks magical energy all over Mahora's campus for a few days every year. Every 20 years or so, it becomes incredibly powerful, which can lead to some serious problems. Such as a request for a kiss turning Negi into a Determinator or The Big Bad using the energy to power her magic robot army.
    • His Black Magic ability is also acting up; it's slowly turning him into a demon and causing poisoning-like symptoms in the process, and as the poison and transformation progress, he increasingly goes into Super Mode involuntarily.
  • In Busou Renkin, the character Victor is constantly displaying a life-draining ability that he can't turn off, even if he wanted to... And so is protagonist Kazuki, who in the later part of the series, begins to turn into a being just like Victor.
    • Justified in that it is a vital life function, Victor compares it to breathing.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a variant with Apachai, as he's extremely powerful and is physically incapable of holding back when he fights. As such, he undergoes special training so that he won't accidentally kill Kenichi during training.
  • Several people in A Certain Magical Index. Touma can't turn his right arm off, so he constantly cancels his own luck and interferes with any magic in the vicinity. Aisa Himegame constantly draws in vampires and kills them en masse. Accelerator suspects that he has such an abnormal appearance because his power deflects sunlight off him, but isn't really sure. Index has no control over her John's Pen mode. Aureolus Izzard needs intense focus to control his alchemist abilities and appears to rely on some type of acupuncture for it, and it still turns on him. As the final major example, the angel that gets sucked down from Heaven really can't help the fact that it has to return and that in doing so it will cause a major catastrophe. It doesn't seem very thrilled about the idea.
  • Yoshiki, a high school student in Boogiepop Phantom, gains an incontinent ability to hear peoples' thoughts in episode nine, "You'll Never Be Young Twice". He promptly discovers that all of his friends dislike him, only sticking around to leech his money. He then gives his mind away to a bad guy out of desperation.
  • Tetsuo of Akira starts losing control of his powers following the battle with Kaneda, which manifests as his body starting to mutate around the metal arm he built with them after losing the original to SOL. Eventually, his body starts mutating out of control, leading to the most horrific scene of the movie.
  • Clow Reed of Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, and ×××HOLiC caused the plots of all three series with his power incontinence. He caused the first two by needing to run a Gambit Roulette to get rid of his predicting the future abilities (he couldn't turn them off), and he caused the latter two by accidentally turning someone into a zombie by wishing to himself that she wasn't dying. The entire multiverse gets fucked up and screwed over several times trying to fix that booboo.
  • Joshua Christopher from Chrono Crusade has the power to read minds after he's given the horns of a powerful demon. However, he can't control the power, so it quickly drives him insane.
  • Ageha, Frederica, and Shao from Psyren all have this as a result of their PSI powers being fueled by emotion instead of focus of thought.
  • In One Piece, Coby developed the ability to use Haki (specifically, the Color of Observation) during the war at Marineford. However, his ability to hear voices disappear as people die can't seem to be controlled, and it seriously takes a toll on him during said war.
    • Luffy had the same problem when he developed Color of the Supreme King Haki, he ended up knocking out everyone in the general vicinity whenever he lost his temper. after the Time Skip, he has full control over it.
    • After stealing them Whitebeard's from his corpse, Blackbeard had a test run of his new Gura Gura Fruit powers and accidentally sent a tsunami at Sabaody Archipeligo.
  • The eponymous creations in Neon Genesis Evangelion might count. True, Evas are Empathic Weapons of the Humongous Mecha variant but still, if they go berserk, the only thing you can do is running away until they run out of power. If, however, the Eva in question is Unit 01, chances are it may not stop even without power so just keep running.
  • Goku in Saiyuki. When his power limiter breaks or is taken off and he reverts to his true form he will try to kill anything that moves including his friends. He'll probably be reasonably successful as he's immensely powerful in this form. When it breaks the limiter can only be recreated by the gods or Sanzo. Hakkai also has to wear his power limiters although the risk of him losing himself and going berserk when he removes them is only because of the minus wave and when he has been shown to remove them he remains in sane(ish) mind and can put them back on to revert to human form. But he's currently at risk when taking them off, probably.
  • Translucent is a gentle Slice of Life manga about a girl who's slowly turning invisible. This is presented as a documented medical syndrome, not a special power; at least one adult she knows is permanently invisible. The girl appears more solid when she's feeling self-confident, but will eventually have to learn to find a happy life and accept her condition.
  • Sket Dance introduces Koma-chan, a ladylike and desperately shy Huge Schoolgirl who is not able to control her enormous strength whenever she's embarrassed.
  • Amuri, Suzu, and Perrier, the three heroines of Amuri in Star Ocean, all suffer from this problem with their powers. They were all born as mutants called 'Adapters', and each of them had a different 'Allergy' that made normal life impossible. Though their powers differ in nature, they are all involuntary reactions that prevent them from making physical contact with most of their environment and even other people.
  • Coyote Starrk from Bleach was so powerful that he inadvertently killed anything that came near him with his reiatsu alone. After wandering the endless desert of Hueco Mundo for ages, begging for friends, he gladly joined Sousuke Aizen, as he was the first person strong enough to come near him without being harmed.
    • Early on in the series, Ichigo is pretty much the embodiment of this trope. He has a ton of reiatsu and has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how to control it, and while it doesn't pose much of a problem usually, it has proved to be a pain in certain occasions, such as when he and Uryu battle a Menos Grande, and once he defeats it he loses control of his power. He would have burnt himself out were it not for Uryu, who had to stand on Ichigo, absorb all his spare power and fire it into the air. He gets better at it, though.
  • In Is This a Zombie?, it's revealed that Eucliwood Hellscythe's magic is extremely powerful and unstable to the point that she has to constantly remain emotionless, never speak, and wear magic-suppressing armor in order to control it. Even worse, whenever the words she says become magical, she experiences something equivalent to Mind Rape. Even more worse, provoking her enough for her to lose control of her emotions for one moment will have very disastrous results.
  • Kotetsu starts showing the first signs of Power Incontinence when his powers starts going haywire in episode 14 of Tiger and Bunny - increasing in strength dramatically (jumping manages to cause a sonic boom) but also shutting on and off seemingly at random.
    • It's revealed that he is slowly losing his power, a very rare thing among NEXT, and that his powers going haywire is like a candle flickering before it goes out.
    • Also the case for his daughter Kaede when she starts to develop her NEXT power. Her power is to copy the ability of the last Next she touches. She can't easily control the first couple of powers she copies, but when Kaede gets Karina's ability she can use it in a variety of ways, probably because she knew what she was dealing with by that point.
  • Black Mage Zeref of Fairy Tail cannot control his magic if he cares for the lives of others. This is very bad since he has Death magic, and Power Incontinence turns him into an Enemy to All Living Things.
    • At first, Juvia couldn't control her water magic, meaning it rains wherever she is. After her fight with Gray tires her out, the rain finally stops and she sees the sun for the first time in her life.
    • Bixlow and Evergreen both have powerful eye magic, which neither of them can fully shut off. (Soul stealing and turning others to stone, respectively.) In order to make sure they don't hurt the people around them, Bixlow covers the upper half of his face with a knight's visor and Evergreen just uses a pair of eyeglasses.
  • In one story from the Miles Edgeworth Case Book manga for the Ace Attorney series, Maya's spiritual powers have developed to the point at which she can unconsciously the spirit of her dead older sister Mia merely by thinking about her in her sleep. At the end of the same story, Pearl shows the same ability.
  • Asa Shigure from SHUFFLE!, as the demonic powers that she inherited from her mom Ama start awakening. She refuses to use them, however, to not break Ama's already damaged heart, and they start to flow so strongly that her life comes to risk. Rin has to force her to use them so Asa won't die due to this trope, taking a knife and slitting his wrists open so Asa will have to heal his nearly fatal injuries.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Aki had this problem initially, unable to control her psychic Reality Warping powers. Unbeknownst to her, this was due to Divine, who was purposely making it worse while claiming to help her control them, with his goal being to mold her into a Person of Mass Destruction. After the Dark Signer Arc - with him out of the way - she started to gain more control over them, and eventually full control.

Comic Books

  • Many X-Men suffer from this:
    • Rogue drains the powers of anyone she touches, so she wears gloves and skin-concealing outfits to avoid accidental physical contact with others.
    • Cyclops, without his trademark visor he wears as part of his costume, or a pair of ruby quartz glasses out of costume, would be firing his Eye Beams 24/7. (In fact, he is firing them 24/7, they're just being blocked.)
      • This limitation was recently revealed to be a mental block, and was fixed by Emma Frost.
      • Used to be from having hit his head in the accident that killed his parents.
      • There was a throwaway scene in one of the comics shortly after Wolverine lost his Adamantium (and briefly regressed to a neanderthallic state) where Cyclops hit his head in some kind of rune-covered pit, and a caption stated, "A subtle change is worked in an area of his brain damaged so long ago", so it's possible both explanations are correct.
    • Wither has skin secretions that dissolve any organic matter he touches. Including his father. Good thing he was born into an age of polyester.
      • Somewhere an organic chemist is crying.
        • Hardly "Organic Matter" in this case means "stuff that is/was alive" as his body decay it through some unexplained method. Synthetic polyester (which is the type he uses) isn't organic matter in this definition.
    • Leech's power to turn off other mutants' powers is always on.
    • Cyclops' brother Havok originally required a special containment suit to control his powers.
      • Interestingly enough, Cyclops and Havok are immune to each other's powers.
    • When Jean Grey (Marvel Girl, Phoenix) was a child, she couldn't control her telepathic ability and ended up in a catatonic state. Later on she had a similar problem with the Phoenix Force.
    • One of the residents of the all-mutant neighborhood District X was a woman who could spontaneously burst into flames. Unfortunately, unlike other mutants with similar powers, she was not immune to fire...
    • Omega Red showed even bad guys suffer from this as he had to drain people's life energy to survive and temporarily had to release the death spores his body built up or they would kill him. Even after he found a cure that allowed him to survive without other people's life he stole it anyway and would probably do the same with his death spores.
    • Chamber's power is always on, and in fact destroyed half his face and some of his internal organs (heart and lungs) when he first used it. This is what happens if a mutant isn't immune to his or her own powers.
      • Though it has been established that the fire is actually his true form and his human body is more of a "shell" (or, one might say, a 'chamber') that he doesn't really need, so no real harm done (at least, physically. Half your face being missing tends to put a cramp in one's social life.)
    • As Gamemaster's omnipathy destroyed his sanity by exposing his mind to the constant horror of 6 BILLION minds all at once all the time, he inserted computer chips into his brain to help regulate his mental activity so he doesn't fry his own brain.
    • Kitty Pryde became stuck in her intangible phase in the aftermath of an extended period spent hurtling through space inside a giant, ever-hardening bullet that she had phased through the Earth.
      • She was also stuck in intangible mode once after being hit with an energy harpoon during the Mutant Massacre but was restored to normal with the help of Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom.
  • Bruce Banner transforms into The Incredible Hulk whenever someone makes him too angry, and once he's in that form he has no control over his actions.
    • Joe Fix-It (a smaller, gray-skinned variant) had a brief story line where he always came out at night and generally did things Bruce did not approve of.
  • Citizen Steel, one of the newer members of the Justice Society of America, gained the powers of super-strength and Nigh Invulnerability through exposure to liquid metal blood. The exposure removed his ability to register temperatures, textures, and (more importantly) how much strength he's exerting. He goes around in a steel costume he's literally welded into to keep him from accidentally crushing anyone.
    • Another member, Lightning, can't touch anything electrical otherwise she causes it and the the surrounding area to short out, her being a teenage girl who had a popular social life makes it worse for her.
  • Wundarr absorbed ambient energy constantly, and if it wasn't burned off by occasional acts of Super Strength or dampened by special SHIELD equipment, he tended to explosively regurgitate it periodically. Later, as Aquarius, his power is modified to neutralize all energy above a certain threshold near him, whether he wants it to or not.
    • Similarly, Strong Guy of X-Factor has the power to absorb kinetic energy and redistribute it as super strength, but if he doesn't let it out soon enough, it has effects on his physiology (which is the reason for his... unique appearance).
  • In the Hellboy/BPRD comics, Liz Sherman has a great deal of difficulty controlling her pyrokinetic powers. Some of this is due to the nature of her abilities, but some of it is also due to psychological trauma related to her first manifestation (at age 11 she destroyed her entire family and 30 other people) and the institutionalized upbringing that followed.
  • Ghost Rider originally suffered from this, but gained control over his powers eventually.
  • The character whose murder starts off the plot for Rising Stars is physically invulnerable, but that results in him being unable to have any sense of touch at all. He becomes an obese couch potato because without physical sensation he can't experience any form of physical pleasure except for the taste of food. His murder is carried out when he falls asleep in his chair and he's unable to feel that he's being bound to it by the murderer (who asphyxiates him with a plastic bag).
  • The Sentry has the problem that he is literally his own worst enemy. Due to a Mind Rape by the old Mastermind, Sentry is completely unbalanced, and displays any number of psychological problems on any given day. He also has some undefined psionic ability to periodically make everyone in the world forget he exists. His biggest problem is that every time he tries to do good with his vast power, he manifests his own arch-nemesis, The Void. The Void then proceeds to do as much evil as the Sentry does good. Which one is working with Norman Osborn?
  • Zeitgeist, the original leader and Sacrificial Lamb of the revamped X-Force in Marvel Comics. While this didn't carry on for very long, when his powers (vomiting acid) first manifested, he accidentally killed the girl he was drunkenly making out with on the beach.
    • Guy Smith, aka Orphan and Mister Sensitive, led the team thereafter, including when it became X-Statix. His superhuman senses meant that any irritation to his skin caused him great pain. Attempting to block out the pain with mental exercises didn't work; eventually Professor X designed him a special suit.
    • Phat, one of the members of X-Force/X-Statix under the Orphan, has the power to fill his body with extradimensional gunk, causing it to balloon to grotesque proportions but increasing his strength exponentially. Prior to discovering he was a mutant, he experienced severe fluctuations in weight.
  • In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan is tricked into thinking he has this problem.
  • Mind**** in Empowered can only speak and see using her psychic powers, which makes her unable to lie, because her brother removed her tongue and eyes so she'd be forced to rely on her powers more and reads the minds of everyone nearby; since most of those people are superheroes and most of them are jerkasses, she can't really handle being in groups for long and spends most of her time on their space station alone, which she hates.
  • The new Superman limited series Secret Origin shows Clark Kent's heat vision going off involuntarily when his emotions are stirred up. The first time fire shoots out is when Lana Lang kisses him, which is... suggestive. At this early point in his life, his glasses serve much the same purpose as Cyclops' shades.
  • Like Ghost Rider, the first Spider Woman was at first unable to keep her pheromones in check, causing guys to be attracted to her and woman repulsed at her. She learns to control it, eventually.
  • Black Bolt of the Inhumans has vast energy powers, comparable or exceeding a Herald of Galactus. Sadly, the region of the brain that controls them is the same that controls his voice. The net effect: he can't open his mouth without unleashing devastation. ( Which often gets mistaken for a sonic attack )
  • Most of the cast of DP7.
  • The League of Supermen, a far future team in Superman Annual #8 all suffer from variants of this, due to each having one of Superman's powers (and their artificial nature, as they are all humans genetically modified to simulate Kryptonian powers). Heat has to fire his heat vision every 15 minutes, or he'll burn up from the inside; See-Through has to wear a lead-lined visor when not using his powers; Flyboy has to be tethered to stop him drifting away if he doesn't concentrate; Pounder Does Not Know His Own Strength; and Shield can't feel anything. New recruits Tempest and Speed are given Power Armor that simulates the powers rather than genetic modification; they still have disadvantages (Tempest can't breathe in too sharply; Speed needs to constantly replenish her energy) but at least they can turn them off.
  • Suntop in Elf Quest has a version of this. Since his power is extreme empathy, he's able to feel the anguish of any elf strong enough to communicate it magically. Even pain from thousands of years into the future. He can't help it, since he's just a child for most of the main plot.
  • In Ultimate X-Men Gambit joined the evil Fenris corporation because they helped cure his Power Incontinence. He tells Rogue that his energy charging powers had gone out of control and he couldn't even eat—any food he tried to touch would explode.
  • Superman villain Parasite is a little worse off than Rogue stealing life force from anyone near him and being constantly hungry for more.
  • After being restored to full power on his return from death, Superman's powers started slowly increasing which was welcome at first but eventually lead to his powers being out of control and his body physically warped. Eventually cured by having Parasite leech his excess power and the strange element with it that was causing the problem. This also justified an art shift for Parasite from basically looking like a bald man with purple skin to his current more monstrous appearance.
  • In Finder, Jaeger's healing factor makes him near impossible to kill, but is so robust he has to get injured regularly to avoid becoming ill.
  • Negative Man from the Doom Patrol is perpetually radioactive, needing to wear head-to-foot specially treated bandages to contain his condition. This is just one example of the sort of Disability Superpower typical of the team.

Fan Works

  • Paul in With Strings Attached. At his highest level of strength, he's so powerful that he can barely move without causing chaos. He has practiced literally day and night to get to the point where he can at least walk around, but he has to keep constant watch on himself, keep his arms at his sides, etc. And to revert to his more manageable lower level of strength, he has to explode, creating a large glassy crater and pretty much wiping out everything around him. But even at "low" strength he has to fiercely regulate his behavior.
  • Shinji and Warhammer40K. When Shinji's psychic powers first appear, he's reluctant to depend on them during battle since they interfere with his syncing capabilities. When he does it anyway to win a battle, he has no idea how to turn them off and as such, is booted from NERV. To solve the situation, he embarks on a pilgrimage to Javaal where he learns how to suppress his abilities enough for him to continue piloting and still have enough psychic power to vaporize a human-sized target from a few meters.
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Haruhi's powers were like this until Nagato started filtering them, though she has to get rid of the junk data every night. Later on, closed space stops being produced, removing the other incontinence Haruhi had.
  • The Homestuck fanfic "four titles" interprets Rose's "mind" powers as giving her permanent, uncontrollable telepathy;

there's no way for you to ignore a complex and varied stream of input save doing it consciously. Unfortunately, you can't ignore it consciously; the thoughts of others reach into your mind and fill it with thoughts, tales, ideas.

  • In "Miracle Child", Gamzee can't control the fear-producing chucklevoodoos well because his lifelong habit of sopor slime consumption stopped them from developing normally. This does not endear him to the other trolls.
  • The "Jareth's cold" arc of the Mega Crossover fancomic Roommates is made of this trope. Every time poor guy sneezed something random magic happened, he even managed to sneeze the creator into the comic.
  • In Touhou Tonari this is a serious problem for Yuyuko due to her power to invoke death on others and forced her to isolate herself.


  • In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle's character Berthold is an extreme super speedster. He wears heavy leg irons to stop himself from dashing all over the place. Similarly, Adolphus, a super sniper with vision that reaches beyond the horizon, wears thick glasses so he can see things nearby; talk about farsighted.
  • Two Words: Burning Godzilla.
    • Likewise, Larva Battra had no control whatsoever over his eye-beams.
  • Scanners starts with the hero Mind Raping somebody by accident. So there you go. It's no fun being a scanner. And hearing the thoughts of everyone around you does weird things to your childhood: Vale has no personality, Benjamin Pierce tried to murder his entire family, and Darryl Revok went nuts, drilled a hole in his forehead, and has since gone from self-destructive to simply destructive.
  • In The Specials, former villain Amok tells of an incident where he lost control of his power to generate anti-matter particles during an... intimate moment, and in his words, "...next thing I know, I'm holding half an ass!"
  • Happens in the Inspector Gadget movie. "Go-go stop!"
  • In X-Men: First Class, Alex Summers can emit powerful energy blasts, but he can't control their direction. This problem is solved by a special harness, which he even refers to as his "energy diaper" in a deleted scene.


  • A good number of the Aces and Jokers in Wild Cards have powers that are always on.
    • Digger Downs' ability to identify Aces or well-disguised Jokers by smell is always on. But so are most normal senses, and they aren't considered incontinent either.
    • The Amazing Bubbles' ability to absorb kinetic energy and store it as fat is always on. She can't control losing the weight when she fires the bubbles full of energy either.
    • Bloat's Wall, a surrounding mile-wide field of psychic energy that can only be passed by an intense act of will, and can't be shut off. As Bloat grows, the Wall expands (also against his will) until it reaches parts of the mainland, driving out residents.
    • Whenever Water Lily as exposed to highly ionized air, she made it "rain". Also whenever she's, um, excited.
  • "Lucky" from Hidden Talents by David Lubar can't stop hearing voices from lost objects. In the sequel, he goes crazy from this and ends up in a hospital, but gets better with the help of some Applied Phlebotinum to suppress his powers.
  • Rae, the main character of the series Fingerprints, can't control her Psychic Powers, and the sudden onslaught of other people's thoughts when her ability first manifests causes her to freak out in public and get committed to a mental institution for a year. She later starts putting wax on her fingers as a sort of makeshift Power Limiter. There's one other character who also can't turn off their psychic ability, but any difficulties they might have aren't directly addressed in the story.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The title character's cursed scar that gives him insight into Voldemort's thoughts.
    • Not to mention what usually happens to child wizards - they make strange things happen when they're angry or scared. This is evidenced by Harry removing the protective glass keeping a large python inside its cage at the zoo, which made Dudley tumble into said cage.
    • This even carries over into adolescence.
    • This was the reason why Ariana Dumbledore was locked up at home. After whatever-those-boys did to her she was unable to control her magic and was close to blowing up the house every other day.
  • Flinx, of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series, has a strong empathic talent that turns itself on and off at seemingly random intervals. While the ability grows more sensitive and powerful over the years, it's still maddeningly unpredictable. In addition, when sorely provoked he sometimes erupts in uncontrolled telekinetic detonations, making him a Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Mat Cauthon from The Wheel of Time is extremely lucky. Especially in totally random things-like dice. In fact, he wins so much that people frequently suspect him of cheating and he's forced to leave the scene quickly (sometimes, his luck is kind enough to make him lose to avoid this). Anything and anyone he comes across by random selection will turn out to be important, even when he would much rather avoid trouble.
    • Several character who can channel (most notably Rand) had trouble keeping a lid on their powers when they were learning the basics. And thanks to a nasty curse, males who learn how to channel end up getting power incontinence all over again since With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
    • Aes Sedai can muffle their psychic link with their Warders, but the Warders apparently have no such ability and must rely on the Aes Sedai to do it for them. When Rand and Elayne finally have sex late in the series after several other people are bonded to them, they forget to muffle the bond, resulting in much embarrassment and a near ass-kicking by Birgitte, Elayne's other Warder.
  • In Animorphs, after Rachel acquires a crocodile morph, she morphs involuntarily whenever she is feeling strong emotion. There are two reasons why this is a bad thing. The first is that houses are not built to support the weight of an adult African elephant. The second is that when you have a conspiracy of mind-controlling aliens whose only obstacles to taking over the world are the morph-capable "Andalite bandits", it is not a good idea to reveal that you can turn into animals. It turns out that Rachel is "allergic" to the crocodile morph, and once she expels it, she goes back to normal. Except for the fact that she is now standing next to a very confused crocodile...
  • Janie in Lisa McMann's Wake Trilogy (Wake, Fade, and Gone). Janie has the power to be in other people's dreams. The only problem is, she passes out in the real world and she can't control it. She actually almost gets in a car accident because she got sucked into the dream of a kid on a school bus and passes out and nearly hits the bus.
  • Gazo Kovacs is a victim of this in the Evil Genius Trilogy: he possesses a powerful and seemingly uncontrollable stench that can knock out just about any human being within thirty paces, and has to wear a hazmat suit to stop it from harming those around him. However, by the third novel, he's managed to get his power under control through various forms of therapy, and is now capable of using it to save lives.
  • In Firestarter, Charlie McGee's pyrokinetic power first arose when she was a infant, and more than once it nearly kills her and her parents; as she grows older, she does gain some control over it, but this doesn't stop the Government Conspiracy hunting her from fearing that she could become a Person of Mass Destruction unless she's given the appropriate training.
  • In A Lee Martinez' Monster, the main character of the same name has hundreds of different superpowers, including flight, invulnerability, super-strength, laser-sight, and invisibility. Unfortunately, each one is tied to Monster's skin colour, which changes every day: at the beginning of the story, Monster's skin is blue, granting him invulnerability; the next day, it's purple, giving him the inability to smell anything. However, when he steals the Cosmic Keystone from Lotus close to the end of the story, he gains a temporarily measure of control over his power, resulting in many a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Henry, from The Time Traveler's Wife, has no control over his time-jumping ability, which complicates his life as one might imagine, and also leads to some Nightmare Fuel when his offspring inherit the ability - while still in the womb, with usually fatal results.
  • The Confessors in the Sword of Truth series have to keep conscious control of their power at all times to avoid unleashing it on anyone they touch.
  • When Colin wakes up after Dahak's " minor improvements" to his body in the first Empire From the Ashes book, he very nearly goes insane from the sensory overload and sensation of an alien presence in his mind. It takes some extended Training from Hell before Colin gets completely used to his new powers.
  • In the Ethshar universe warlocks experience this with increasing severity as they develop their powers. Unlike other magical schools, warlocks rely simply on exerting their own will to bend reality; the source of their power does not require bargains, prayers, or rituals to obey them. However, with the passage of time they become increasingly attuned with their powers and so exercise them without conscious thought, often against their own will.
    • This is a bad thing because the more a warlock uses their power, the more they become attuned to the whispers that accompany it. Unless killed naturally, warlocks are eventually drawn to the source of those whispers against their will; the Calling is one of the greatest concerns of their guild.
  • This is a big plot point in Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan.
  • In Brightly Burning, Lavan Firestorm's gift of Firestarting was provoked into action by bullies at the Merchant's School. He can't control it himself. His Companion and lifebond, Kalira, controls his power. When Kalira is killed in the final battle with Karse, Lavan has neither the means nor the desire to control his gift further. He incinerates the entire region, including the Karsite army, the surrounding forest and grounds, and himself.
  • Trisana Chandler was abandoned by her family due to the unnatural weather phenomena that tended to occur around her, which was caused by her magic getting away from her.
    • Mages in general in the series have minor Harry Potter-style leakage until they learn to control it. The worst affected character is Zhegorz, a man who was assumed to be plain old insane for having visions and hearing voices and was locked up in a Bedlam House until he really did develop paranoid schizophrenia or something like it.
  • A mild case of this occurs in the Lonely Werewolf Girl books with the fire demons tending to set things alight or shoot sparks when they get emotional.
    • Kalix also tends to lose control of her werewolf powers when she transforms, cue Unstoppable Rage.
  • Many of the mutants in Gone (novel) have this. Sam accidentally burned his step-father's hand off. Bette made her hands glow and then couldn't get them to stop glowing. Hunter accidentally killed one of his friends when he becomes a human microwave. Astrid and Diana seem to "read" people by touching their hands, whether they want to or not. Duck accidentally sunk through the bottom of a swimming pool. Lana got lucky and healed herself and her wounded dog without realizing it. Orsay sees people's dreams whenever she's near a sleeping person, no matter who it is, which causes some Nightmare Fuel when she gets stuck in Drake's head. Jack has accidentally broken a lot of things. Bug spends most of his time invisible. Brianna gets sick and ends up coughing in Super Speed. A lot of the more powerful characters eventually learn to use their powers, but not all. It seems that control is one of the variables in the Random Power Ranking.
  • Discussed in The Dresden Files, where just about all mortal wizards have difficulty using technology because their magic "leaks" out into the surrounding environment, generating a "Murphyonic field" (as one character describes it) that disrupts delicate electronics. Simply turning on a phone or computer in the presence of a wizard will cause it to go haywire, and if a wizard is powerful, emotional, or both, it can cause an entire building's worth of electronics to blow out.
  • In The Eyes of Kid Midas, Kevin Midas gradually loses control of his Reality Warping powers, causing his subconscious thoughts to bleed into reality.
  • In the prequel trilogy, his problem was that he couldn't figure out how to use his magical powers. But in The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the title character has the opposite problem: lashing out with increasingly ferocious discharges every time he's in pain (which, given that he is a character in a Stephen Donaldson novel, is All. The. Time.) Towards the end of the trilogy, he's in danger of destroying the entire fantasy world, which was of course Lord Foul's plan all along.
  • Due to a chemical accident, the title character in Confessions of Super-Mom has a warped right hand from which she can spray a mysterious fluid. Not only is she incapable of completely stopping it from dripping, she discovers during a sexual encounter that she . . . well, sprays at the moment of climax.
  • In the Lord Darcy stories, prescience is one of the few Talents which has yet to be understood by magical science, and thus, is subject to this trope. Commander Lord Ashley from Too Many Magicians can see a few seconds into the future, but only intermittently when he's under stress.
  • Thick, in the Tawny Man trilogy, is somewhat mentally handicapped, but incredibly strong in The Skill (a form of mental magic). He often has difficulty not broadcasting strong emotions to everyone within miles of him (and forcing them to feel an echo of what he does).
  • In the third book of the Knight and Rogue Series Michael has had magic long enough that his powers have adjusted to him and began to trigger on their own, though he's still capable to shutting them down once he notices he's using them.
  • In MelodyAndThePierToForever, Mathematicians who are untrained may experience power incontinence. In Book 1, Melody struggles to control the Aecxis of Rage and suffers explosions of unintentional or poorly directed aecxal power on multiple occasions.
  • Labyrinths of Echo magical tradition has a few downsides that become very unfortunate near the Heart of the World where it's practised, as magic power is too readily available. Spells tend to "finish themselves", and several possible spells can start the same way. Thus a spell needs focus more to make sure it will not "turn sideways" than anything; what's worse, anyone who managed to cast a given spell once may repeat this even in a dream, unless trained long and hard to avoid such problems. The magical Orders devised all sorts of tricks to make it more survivable for the beginners, and many taught basics of control over one's dreams (though there are more aggressive uses of that). Of those we know, Sevenleaf also gives the apprentices tiny sleeping cells with just a mattress, so there's not much they can do accidentally, while Holey Chalice conducted training under power boosts, so normally apprentices had less power than they used to handle.

Live-Action TV

  • Power Incontinence is the whole premise driving The Greatest American Hero. It's somewhat self-inflicted: the aliens who gave Ralph Hinkley his power-giving super suit also gave him the instruction manual for it, but he promptly lost it (because this is a comedy and hilarity must ensue). And when he got another copy of the manual, he almost immediately lost it again trying out one of the powers described. Hilarity Ensues as he and his FBI agent side-kick make attempts to determine how to activate the suit's various abilities while fighting crime.
  • On Smallville, Clark Kent had trouble finding the "off-switch" to his newly discovered eye beams. (or as Chloe snarked, "Premature ignition".)
    • And he later suffered from Super Breath sneezes.
    • And earlier, from dream-floating (even though he technically "can't fly" due to producers' mandate).
    • He also had to learn to filter out noise to avoid being overwhelmed from his super hearing, which required about thirty seconds of training.
    • There was also an episode where solar flares caused his powers to alternatively super-charge without control and cut out. At one point, he ended up running all the way to Reno by trying to jog... only to end up having to take the bus back.
  • Many of the characters on Heroes deal with Power Incontinence in some form or other (and intelligence incontinence at times, but that's a separate rant).
    • A major plot point in the first season dealt with Peter Petrelli having to learn to control the powers he absorbs.
      • Power Incontinence seems to be a long-term, almost systemic problem for Peter. When he's under pressure, he seems to get some power, but it's never exactly what he needs (unless he's used it in the past few minutes). If he has time to work at it, though, he can call up a specific power.
    • Also, Ted, a character with the power to create radioactive energy in his hands cannot control his powers, which caused his wife's cancer and subsequent death.
    • Maya, who accidentally kills everyone around her whenever she gets upset or separated from her brother.
    • Dale Smithers had to constantly blast loud Rap music to keep her super-hearing in check.
    • Sylar is willingly power-incontinent and kills people to get their power. He's regretful afterwards, but can't stop.
    • Elle, in her second appearance in Volume 3. Sylar apparently cures her with The Power of Love.
    • Meredith, when she gets injected with adrenalin and can't stop using her fire power.
    • Mohinder established that the seat of all these powers is the adrenal gland so pretty much any "hero" going through stress or trauma is potentially prone to this.
  • On The 4400, After taking the promicin shot, Danny gets the ability to spread promicin through the air. He can't stop it without dying himself, and he ends up killing an enormous amount of non-promicin-tolerant people.
  • Kitazaki from Kamen Rider 555 turns people to ash by touching them. Gaining this horrible power at such a young age (the actor was 15, Kitazaki presumably the same) is probably among the reasons why he has become such a raving madman.
  • Until he learned to control it somewhat, Chuck suffered from this with the Intersect. Even now in the fourth season, where he pretty much has a handle on it, he will still flash involuntarily on non-combat Intersect entries, i.e. his flashing on Heather Chandler, Sarah's Alpha Bitch in 'Chuck vs. the Cubic Z.'
    • The flashing is always involuntary. However, he's gained enough control over it able to hide it from people who don't know he's the Intersect, whereas at first he would automatically blurt out whatever he flashed on, then try to cover it up.
  • Ned in Pushing Daisies suffers from this. It doesn't cause many problems in regard to actually bringing stuff back to life, but it does mean he can never directly touch his dog or his girlfriend or they'll die.
    • Well, he's also forced to be vegetarian, for somewhat squicky reasons. And he can't eat his own pies. And there was the incident with the bearskin rug. But the "not touching his girlfriend" thing is the worst of it.
  • Tommy Dawkins from Big Wolf on Campus falls under this trope. The poor guy has no control whatsoever over when he transforms into a werewolf whether it be from emotional stress, a full moon, or extreme pain.
    • Although, he can transform at will to fight evil. He just has a bit harder time changing-back.
  • Ea, the eponymous heroine of the Dating-Sim story turned TV Miniseries Toumei Shoujo Ea ("Invisible Girl Ea") was turned invisible by the Random Men in Black before the series starts. This would be a pretty awesome power, except for the fact that she cannot turn it off and several common things both disable it and cause her pain—including static electricity, bright light being reflected off a mirror, and being touched (like, say, by clothes). Trying to find a way to remove her powers so she can live a normal life is a focus of the series.
  • When the title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is accidentally infected with a demon's telepathic powers and can't stop reading minds, she nearly goes insane.
  • Illyria from Angel initially has full control over her time manipulation powers, but the mortal body she's in isn't strong enough to contain them, so she eventually loses control and comes Unstuck in Time. She has to be depowered to prevent her from exploding and taking out at least the entirety of Los Angeles.
    • Also Gwen, who has the power to channel electricity, but unfortunately, lacks the power to not channel electricity.
    • Also Angel himself, when in Pylea - he gets stuck as a supervampire due to the different laws of physics of that dimension.
  • In True Blood, it takes a great deal of effort for Sookie Stackhouse to block her telepathic powers.
  • Sherlock: Although not a magical or superpower, Sherlock's constant deductions about his surroundings cause trouble for him in The Reichenbach Fall. After he is thrown out of a courtroom for contempt because he annoyed the judge by analyzing the jury and refused to stop commenting on the lawyers' questions before they asked them, John tells Sherlock that he told him "not to be clever." Sherlock irritably replies that he can't just turn it on and off.
  • A major problem that Firefly's River Tam suffers from is a complete inability to control her empathic Psychic Powers. Coupled with a physical inability to control her emotions thanks to her amygdala being stripped out, horrific mental scarring from what was done to her at the Academy, and mind-breaking secrets she picked up from government officials, the poor girl is more or less a complete mental wreck.
  • Kamen Rider Stronger, being the first Kamen Rider with an alternate form, could use his Charge Up to become significantly more powerful - However, he must use the extra energy up within a minute, or else he will explode.
  • Happens to every villainous protagonist during an episode of the season 2 of Flanders Company, which has the effect to temporarily unlock Docteur Parker's evil Jekyll and Hyde personality.
  • Bewitched had Esmeralda. When she sneezed, strange objects would temporarily appear, and hilarity would ensure. Also, when she became nervous (and she was nervous a lot), she would become invisible.
  • One major reason mundane humans distrust telepaths in Babylon 5 is not only that said telepaths can theoretically pry into your mind - they also cannot turn off those abilities. While a deep scan (memories, subconsciousness etc.) requires a deliberate effort, telepaths are constantly, unconsciously surface scanning, i.e. snapping up what people are currently thinking. The only way to avoid is for telepaths to constantly occupy and distract their minds with other stuff. In season five, Byron's renegade telepaths explicitly reject that as an oppressive measure forced on telepaths by mundanes.
  • Phoebe of Charmed is practically the queen of this trope (not that the other sisters are entirely innocent): She doesn't have any sort of control over her premonitions until ~season 6 (and even then she never learns how to turn it off), the flying power she accidentally stole from the dragon in season 2 was unreliable to say the least and she never learned to control her empathy power ever. In act neither did Prue when she [temporarily] became an empath. Also happened to Piper "Exit Strategy", where her ability to freeze time is upgraded to Stuff Blowing Up too. Plus, Paige has struggled with this in her orbing ever since she was a high-schooler.
  • If you think it's tough to break up with someone, just imagine what it's like for Curtis of Misfits, whose power is to rewind time every time he feels guilty. So he has to constantly find a way to break up with his girlfriend in a way that prevents her from pulling his guilt strings.
    • Then there's Kelly. Uncontrollable telepathy + poor self-esteem + poor impulse control = hitting people who think bad things about you for no apparent reason.
  • In Mahou Sentai Magiranger, after obtaining their Legend Modes, the siblings experience an overflow of power while in their civilian forms, which is resolved by the end of the episode.

Tabletop Games

  • Psykers (psychically sensitive humans) in Warhammer 40,000 generally can't control their powers... which leads to them usually being hunted down as witches and burned at the stake. Believe it or not, the alternative is actually worse.
    • Ork pskyers, or Weirdboyz, have even less control of their psychic abilities. They generally live apart from the other boyz because the gestalt Waaagh! energy that pervades the Orkish race ends up being vented through the Weirdboy, with negative effects for those around him. In game terms, this means that Weirdboyz must use a psychic power each turn, and the exact ability used is determined randomly.
      • And the power appears randomly, sometimes taking other orks around the weirdboy off.
  • In GURPS Supers (the rule supplement that fleshed out superpowers), the point cost to buy individual powers can be reduced if the player accepts limitations on them, for example "Always On" or "Uncontrollable", or takes specific disadvantages linked to it. "Body of Fire, Always On" means the character is a walking fire elemental. "Uncontrollable Telekinesis" manifests as poltergeist phenomena. Telepaths who cannot shut their telepathy off suffer massive distraction and headaches if they are in a crowd. Teleporters may find they're not sleepwalking, but sleepteleporting, with embarrassing or life-threatening results.
    • Many other point-based systems allow that as well, such as Mutants and Masterminds or Big Eyes, Small Mouth.
    • "Uncontrollable" comes with a even worse version of this trope where your power is actively malicious toward you.
  • The psionics rules for Dungeons & Dragons include a psychic disease known as Cascade Flu, which causes those infected to manifest all their powers, one after another, with random targets. This can be amusing if you have nothing but, say, the powers that create (but not shoot) arrows out of thin air and let you jump really well, but it can be outright deadly if you happen to have more than one attack power.
  • Cthulhu Tech has this sort of thing with its psychics. Run out of magic points? Don't worry, you can still Cast from Hit Points. You just have a chance of Burning for hours afterwards.
  • In Ars Magica, this is treated as a fairly ordinary quirk of apprenticeship in the Order of Hermes, especially if the apprentice in question has an affinity for say, fire magic, or, in the case of Bjornaer magi, if they have a particularly ornery or excitable heart-beast form and haven't learned to shift properly yet.
  • The 'broken' creeds of Hunter: The Reckoning, Hermits and Waywards, suffer from this, among other things. Waywards have their "second sight" always on, meaning they can /always/ see any monsters around them, non-stop, 24/7. Given that every Wayward is on a personal mission to eliminate the supernatural from the world, this does /not/ do much to help their mental stability. Hermits have a constant connection to the Powers That Be; unfortunately, the human mind wasn't meant to maintain that kind of connection, so the Hermits end up a little unbalanced, as well.
  • Plenty of Mega-Heroes from Heroes Unlimited have some problem controlling their powers. For example: Hazmat has the powers to control radiation and transform into living plasma. The problem? He can't transform back, meaning he has to permanently stay in a specially designed Hazmat Suit.
  • This can be a problem with one's party if you get the wrong aura effects in Gamma World. Hi-larity will ensue as your party draws and quarters your character for killing Dave The Robot Demon the hundreth time.


  • In the MMO City of Heroes, an accident suffered during the Rikti War caused the hero Positron's nuclear powers to run constantly, forcing him to spend all his time in his containment suit out of fear of nuking everyone around him. As of Issue 10, though, his powers have gone back to normal, since he was killed when the Rikti invaded again and a teammate resurrected him.
  • While they aren't specifically superheroes, the Terran Ghosts in StarCraft suffer from being unable to not read thoughts of those around them. At least the superficial stuff.
    • And Protoss, especially the higher-level ones, sometimes suffer from extreme excess of psychic energy. High Templar units, for example, are in the manual mentioned to go through conditioning so as to not make heads randomly explode in their presence due to extreme psychic power (and relaxing these mental blocks is the basis for their devastating Psionic Storm ability).
  • Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid is constantly reading the minds of those around him unless he wears his gas mask.
    • The popular explanation (which was used in The Last Days of Foxhound as well) is that the mask itself doesn't do anything. Rather, it serves as a sort of crutch, like a security blanket or a lucky charm or Magic Feather or something, that allows Mantis to filter out undesirable thoughts.
  • Nethack characters may acquire (either from certain magic items or from eating corpses) the ability to polymorph or teleport... but at random times, uncontrollably. If you're polymorphed into a strong monster during a tough combat or teleported away from danger, good for you! If you're polymorphed into a sewer rat on dungeon level 15, that's a different matter...
    • And in Ancient Domains of Mystery, may the gods help you if you accidentally teleport out of a shop without paying. Shopkeepers have absolutely no sense of humor.
  • Freedom Force has Man-Bot, whose Energy-X mutation is much less desirable than those of his teammates. His body constantly builds up volatile Energy-X. He wears a suit of Powered Armor that contains it-without it, he randomly suffers powerful energy discharges that nuke anything in the immediate vicinity... like his brother. It carries over to gameplay as well-even with the armor, any attack that strikes Man-Bot has a small chance of triggering an explosion that damages Man-Bot and anyone close to him. This can be either very good or very bad, depending on whether he's in the middle of the enemy or the team.
  • Metroid Prime 3 has this as a side effect of using Hyper Mode. Sometimes the power meter starts charging on its own, causing a Nonstandard Game Over if it fills. While the usual "treatment" is an Unstoppable Rage, Samus can opt for A-Team Firing if there are no targets nearby.
  • The Carson Extreme Hot Rod in Burnout Paradise. Infinite boost is a pretty sweet deal... too bad there's no way to turn it off. If you can master it, though, it's one of the fastest and most fun cars in the game.
  • In Famous' Cole McGrath can't control his ability to Shock and Awe enough to hold a gun, ride in a car, or even swim.
  • This is why Ballos is the way he is in Cave Story.
    • The Doctor also experiences it, supplying the Laconic page's text in the process.
  • K' from The King of Fighters has to wear a special glove to control the flame powers given to him by the Kusanagi DNA, otherwise he can cause explosions without trying. A similar character, Nameless, also has to wear a special glove to control his flame powers: at one point in his backstory he killed somebody accidentally by tapping them on the shoulder.
  • With its vast and varied Superpower Lottery, Touhou naturally has a few examples of this.
    • Cirno constantly cools the area around her, and among other things is prone to give people who touch her frostbite.
    • Satori Komeiji reads the hearts and minds of anyone and everyone, and it impacted her to such an extent that she willfully exiled herself to the Underground with other undesired youkai.
      • Her sister Koishi, who had the same power, sealed it off permanently to keep the same thing happening.
    • Hina is a curse goddess who is actually benevolent and absorbs misfortune instead of spreading it, however she has a tendency to... leak misfortune.
    • Miko can't turn off her super-hearing and wears earmuffs to try to deal with it.
    • Akyuu can't forget anything, at least until the next time she dies.
    • Yamame probably can't help but infect everyone, but she doesn't really like humans either, so we're not entirely sure.
  • One variant of the "Disease" item in Bomberman causes him to uncontrollably drop bombs.
    • With the charming in-game name of bomb diarrhea.
  • Two important examples in Da Capo, though only one really minds. Sakura's magic is highly dependent on her emotions and acts out in ways she wouldn't normally. As a child, her magic would accidentally break people's arms. In the main story, a girl gets a branch dropped on her head in Sakura's route and there are implications that she is accidentally responsible for Nemu's sickness in that route. Kotori is the other example, who often feels fatigued and ill due to constantly reading the minds of others, especially their more negative thoughts or ones in which she is the school idol, not a person.
  • David, the autistic mathematical genius introduced in the Mass Effect DLC Overlord can understand the Geth and talk in their language. Once plugged in the Geth neural network however, he can't block out any of their constant chattering.

Visual Novels

  • Shiki of Tsukihime sees lines of death on everything, allowing him to destroy nearly anything with even a butterknife. Shortly after acquiring this effect, he started having nightmares of the world falling apart at its seams and would have gone insane if he had not been given indestructible glasses that block this effect. Using this power anyway puts a strain on his brain and usually gives him headaches when he takes off the glasses.
    • In the manga, he also kills things with a tree branch and his finger nails.
    • On a lighter note, Seo Akira can see the future... sometimes. With the amazing control to know that Shiki will decide on impulse to invite her to chat after lunch. On a plus note, seeing the future doesn't lock it in place for her like most forms of clairvoyance, which also means that the above chat after lunch doesn't necessarily ever happen.
  • Likewise, in Fate/stay night, Rider wears a eye visor constantly, not just to hide that she's Medusa, but also the fact that her petrification ability from her eye cannot be restrained. Or if she's in her normal mode, she wears a pair of glasses, probably the same as Shiki's.
    • The exact same style of glasses actually - they're called Magangoroshi (Mystic Eye Killer) glasses. Seeing as Aozaki Touko is one of the few connections between the Tsukihime and Fate timelines, as she's the one who makes Shirou his artificial body, it's very likely she also made Rider's glasses, as she made Shiki's as well.

Web Comics

  • Zimmy from Gunnerkrigg Court has Reality Warper powers. They tend to spontaneously manifest by making her nightmarish hallucinations become real.
    • Either that or the power only has one setting; it's really not clear at all how it works, or if the hallucinations are caused by the power or merely coexist with it. Although the point still stands that she can't control it. The closest she can come to controlling it is by sticking close to a Power Nullifier, which is far from a perfect solution. (Especially since her Power Nullifier of choice is subject to human needs like sleep.)
    • When Parley's teleportation ability first manifested, she accidentally transported herself and the group with her into her bedroom. She was not amused.
  • Elliot and Ellen from El Goonish Shive experience what is perhaps one of the most literal forms of this possible; to the extent that Elliot is instructed to use his transformation powers in the privacy of a bathroom at every opportunity so as to prevent "accidents." In fact, anyone who gains their magical powers "improperly" will have some form of Power Incontinence until their magic power stabilizes.
  • Jigsaw Forte from Last Res0rt learns about her Vampiric powers the hard way, right down to having to either learn to control her temper or risk letting her more... visual aspects manifest themselves.
    • She can't turn her mind-reading off, either, which makes her have panic attacks around crowds.
  • Witches in Serenity Rose have good control over their powers for the most part, but can conjure up creatures in their sleep. Sera creates a monstrous version of a girl she once knew, which results in a hiker losing his arm, and later results in the violent dismemberment of many of the soldiers sent to stop it. Another witch, who never consciously used his powers at all, supposedly created 100 giant fire-breathing metal horses to crush Napoleon's army. He was of course burned alive, being a witch in the 19th century and all.
  • Summer Mighty in Everyday Heroes has trouble controlling her eye beams.
  • Faen in Drowtales has the ability to feel the emotions of those around her, and at times can control those emotions. Which would be pretty awesome if a) she could turn it off, b) she didn't live in a Crapsack World, or c) she weren't essentially Purity Personified. Eventually, the constant Mind Rape drives her slightly nuts, she accidentally kills off a significant number of people, and she ends up fleeing to the surface world, at which point the main character follows her.
  • Raccoon #1 just can't control her Eye Beams.
  • Kili of The Dragon Doctors has such powerful spiritual senses that they went totally out of control when she was a child; she's been branded with magical marks on her face and body that suppress her spiritual vision to keep her from going insane. What remains of her power is still immense, since it turns out these tattoos completely negate the powers of ordinary shamans.
  • DMFA: In the world that DMFA is set in there exists the authors own design of what incubai and succubai are, essentially a race of shape shifting empaths who feed off emotions more than they do souls. Unfortunately for those individuals who mature to a point where this function becomes active without someone in the know to instruct them, these individuals may suffer from crushing migrains due to the influx of constant emotional downpour around them. Thankfully this can be for the most part filtered to allow only the desired emotional energies to flow through 'but' recently it's been revealed that despite this the cubi in question will always be 'very' susceptible to the emotions around them such that whatever emotion they may be experiencing at any given time will be kicked into overdrive so that even the slightest bit of anger becomes blinding rage for those who lack restraint.
  • The Chosen Four shows Ness loses control of his PSI as a result of emotional trauma, becoming an Unstoppable Rage. Department Store Spook learned that the hard way.
  • Brian from Think Before You Think can't turn off his mind-reading ability.
  • One subplot in Wapsi Square involves Shelly's inability to control her sphinx side. She's partially shapeshifting whenever she feels strong emotions, and her instincts are interfering with everyday life.
  • Gail in When She Was Bad does not have a stable set of powers aside from Super Strength.

Web Originals

  • Hawthorne dorm at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe has a bunch of people with this problem - it's what the dorm is for. Frostbite manipulates any water around her and freezes it, but isn't immune to the cold she creates. Diz has a PK field that has a force of over eight tons - and she can't stop it. Everything she touches get hit with eight tons of force. She has to take liquid food (and presumably air) through a special deviser-built nano-tube straw because her forcefield keeps everything out, so she hasn't had solid food since her powers came on.
  • Moist from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. He has the power of being absurdly sweaty, and can't turn it off.
  • Trinton Chronicles brings us several mentioned but non-obvious examples; the biggest is Sara who has fire generating powers with the power to ignite and burn whole towns; the catch...she can only control it while awake normally so when she sleeps or is knocked out everything burns.
    • There are others who have power problems, although mostly minor or often background mentions, the Undergrounder's who have powers that either do not fit, make them difficult to live with, or out right monsters. A main character who suffers from this is Boris who's power of super digging comes from his huge and very sharp claws..which he can't retract or hide in anyway.

Western Animation

  • The "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene from Fantasia has Mickey Mouse trying on his master's hat, using his newfound magical powers to animate his broom, and... you know...
  • Teen Titans: Raven's and Terra's powers fluctuate according to their level of emotional stability.
  • The title character of Danny Phantom has this problem, especially at first. Even later, hormones and extreme emotion cause his powers to bleed over to his human form, although limited to glowing eyes (when angry) or bouts of invisibility/phasing (particularly when around an attractive girl). He also had a hard time learning to duplicate.
    • His two strongest powers repeatedly gave him problems. His Ghostly Wail would use up all his ghostly energy and cause him to revert back to his human form after using. When he first manifested his ice powers, they caused him to feel like he was freezing, to the point where he eventually was. All of these problems were solved by the end of the series and he was in complete control of his powers.
  • A second season episode of WITCH, "U is for Undivided", had Cornelia's younger sister Lillian began to manifest her Heart of Earth powers, making her as powerful as Elyon. Without even knowing it, she gave her cat Napoleon the ability to speak, and transformed her family's apartment building into a medieval castle. The girls and Matt had to arrange a complex Plan to get Lillian to unknowingly pass off her powers to Matt, Mr. Huggles, and Napoleon, keeping the girl Locked Out of the Loop about her abilities until she reached the age where she'd be able to handle her powers responsibly.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Villain Of The Week Max Dillon gets zapped by lab equipment and thrown into a tank of electric eels; this being a version of the Marvel Universe, he starts constantly emitting electricity, and has to wear a protective suit at all times so other people won't be hurt. Even so, his power leaks out - he can't watch TV, lighting arcs out of his hands when he's upset - and he can't even eat without zapping something. By the time he gets into a supervillain teamup, of course, he's managed more control.
  • In the first episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold, Blue Beetle has trouble controlling his suit and accidentally creates a wormhole.
  • Occurs in Transformers Animated when Sari gets in touch with her heritage and ends up with more power than her system and low level of control can safely handle, causing her to go on a rampage. It was even lampshaded.

Bulkhead: Maybe you should try holding it in!

    • She tried, then damn near exploded. Lose/lose.
  • Batman Beyond
    • Ian Peek from the episode "Sneak Peek" gets his hands on an experimental belt that allows him to pass through walls. Repeated use renders the belt unnecessary, but unfortunately for Ian, without the belt he's not up to the task of regulating when and what he passes through. Guess what happens.
    • Derek Powers AKA Blight, the Big Bad for season 1. Powers became a Walking Wasteland in the show's beginning. He managed to pass for human by applying a fake skin; however, it degraded after time. Anyways, as Batman continuously foils his schemes, Powers undergoes a season-long Villainous Breakdown which causes the fake skin to degrade even faster; eventually, his temper means that the skin wastes away too quickly for him to continue running his corporation. He then undergoes a rather literal Superpower Meltdown, though its implied he might've survived.
  • In the "Only a Dream" episode of Justice League, John Dee aka Doctor Destiny traps several members of the Justice League in their worst nightmares. Three of them have nightmares related to Power Incontinence. The Flash gets stuck in Super Speed mode so that Time Stands Still for him. John Stewart's concerns that his new powers as a Green Lantern have permanently altered and isolated him from humanity are taken to an extreme (poor guy literally cracks up as Green light bursts out of his body!). The worst is Superman. His powers go out of control and he accidentally kills the people closest to him.

The Flash: I've always been afraid this would happen. I'm gonna live out my whole life in the time it takes you to tie your shoelaces! Somebody! Say something! (curls up in a fetal position)
Green Lantern: Come back! Why are you all running? What are you afraid of? (as his friends and neighbors all run away when they see him)
Superman: I started out with no power at all. Then I kept getting more. What if it never stops?

    • On a side note, Dee didn't do this to Hawkgirl. He just took advantage of her claustrophobia and trapped her in a nightmare where she was Buried Alive.
    • In a later episode, Flash pushes his powers to the limit to take down a particularly tough foe (who's just wiped the floor with the rest of the League)... and then discovers he can't slow down. If not for The Power of Friendship, he'd have been lost in the Speed Force forever, and says outright that he can never do that again.
    • Likewise, J'onn tries to extend his telepathy to all of Metropolis in order to do a quick scan for Lex Luthor in "Tabula Rasa." He finds him... and then gets flooded with the private thoughts of all of Metropolis, and finds he can't shut off the flow.
  • Occurs in Avatar: The Last Airbender with Aang's Sneezes of Doom, with a variety of "oops" levels including accidental blown roofing.
    • Aang also has the problem of reflexively entering the Avatar State whenever he's under emotional duress. When he does, duck and cover. Should you happen to be the focus of his wraith but you head between your knees and kiss your butt goodbye.
  • Spyke in X-Men: Evolution slowly gained this problem. In the third season, he had increasing trouble retracting his spikes, to the point where he simply couldn't do so. Then he was Put on a Bus until the fourth season, where his spikes had grown into full-blown bone armor he couldn't remove.
    • The episode "Power Surge" does this to Jean, who loses her hold on her telekinesis and telepathy.
    • Rogue went even wilder when all the personalities and powers she had absorbed resurged and caused her to flip out.
  • In Ben 10, Ben's NRG form is made of Pure Energy, with control over fire and radiation. Unfortunately he has to stay encased in a special suit of armor, or the people around him can develop radiation poisoning.
    • Ben in general himself suffers from this, as at times the Omnitrix would give Ben something other than the form he had in mind.
  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", Twilight Sparkle flashes back to her entrance exam for Princess Celestia's School For Gifted Unicorns. In the course of taking the test, she taps into her latent magic for the first time and ends up accidentally leaking magic all over the place, turning her parents into potted plants, among other things.
    • A milder example occurs in "The Ticket Master" when, accosted by a crowd of ponies who want her ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala, Twilight Sparkle unexpectedly teleports herself and Spike away to the library. Twilight is merely surprised, but Spike ends up shocked... rather literally.
    • As her Sanity Slippage gets worse in "Lesson Zero", she starts to Teleport Spam without even apparently realizing it during the picnic with her friends.
    • During "Cutie Pox" Applebloom steals some of Zecora's ingredients to brew a potion that could finally grant what she desies the most: a Cutie Mark. The problem is, the potion effect doesn't stops at one and keeps giving her an infinite number of Cutie Marks (Every new Cutie Mark gives her a new special ability, to boot) and Applebloom neither can turn them off or stop using her new abilities. Eventually, her body ends up acting on it's own, without stopping to rest or sleep while Applebloom desperately begs it to stop.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Cody Impossible has the power to turn himself into a human torch but lacks the Required Secondary Powers to either turn it off or be immune to the pain of being set on fire. Any amount of time he spends awake and in a normal oxygenated atmosphere is an unending torment of unimaginable pain.


  • In Bionicle, some Masks of Power are always active, or are simply too much for a normal being, or even a highly powerful being who lacks experience to handle and use properly. Even regular masks need time and practice, but in the case of organic masks (which are actually soft, pulsating living creatures that latch onto your face), it can take a lot of effort to shut them down, since they have their own mind. The Toa Inika still made good use of them, since the intense light radiation their heads gave off couldn't be turned down.
    • Kongu had it worst: he was never able to turn off his Mask of Telepathy (or stop reading minds around him) until he became a Toa Mahri and got another mask.
    • Then there's the Felnas, Mask of Disruption. As the name implies, it causes whomever the wearer targets to lose control of their powers. This works for the Toa's Elemental Powers, their Kanohi masks, and other species' special abilities. As shown with both Krika and Icarax, disrupting powers like intangibility and teleportation is a very efficient way of killing someone. Both met their end after Gorast did just this with the Felnas she wore.
  • As poltergeists differ much from other ghosts, usually having no apparitions and making no noises beyond the mess they cause, there is a theory in occult circles that they actually aren't ghosts, but the observable effects of uncontrolled and unconscious telekinetic ability.
  • Truth in Television with baby skunks. Adult skunks can control when they release their scent (and usually give plenty of warning before they resort to it, because it does take a lot of energy to produce). Baby skunks, however, don't have the necessary control over their scent glands yet.
  1. on the Emperor's apparent inability to stop using force lightning on himself.