Can’t make up your mind? You may have Decidophobia.

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

It is common for people to feel anxiety around making certain decisions, especially if these are high stakes decisions or they have made poor decisions in the past. In fact, a certain amount of anxiety around decision-making is healthy and can save us from acting on impulse and the possible regret of making a mistake. However, if you have significant anxiety around making low stress day-to-day decisions, like what to watch on tv or what to eat for dinner, you may be struggling with a decision-making phobia.  

Decidophobia is classified as a specific phobia which is a type of extreme fear despite any real evidence of danger. If you struggle with Decidophobia, you might lack confidence in your ability to have sensible judgment and may trust that others know better than you do. Your negative self-talk and criticism about possibly making an error in judgment can leave you feeling out of control. You prefer to procrastinate, avoid, or withdraw when you are required to make a decision to avoid the risk of criticism from yourself or others.

Symptoms of Decidophobia 

  • Doubting your instincts: You second guess yourself, collect an overwhelming amount of information, seek out other people’s opinions, and lose sight of what you really want. The process slows you down to the point of paralysis.

  • Procrastination: You find ways to avoid the discomfort of making the “wrong” decision by filling your time with unrelated tasks. This creates a perpetual cycle of anxiety since it doesn’t allow you to face the fear of making a mistake or desensitize to the perceived threats.

  • High level stress and anxiety: You have a fight-or-flight response when it comes to making decisions. You might feel nervous, jittery, have a rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, shortness of breath, brain fog, or racing thoughts.

  • Relationship difficulties: You look toward others to make decisions for you, pushing off responsibility, and creating additional pressure and possibly resentment in the other person.

  • Catastrophizing: You put too much value on the importance of each decision and assume that something terrible will happen if you do not make the correct choice. 
  • Dependency: You take a submissive role in relationships, allowing others to lead in the decisions and ultimately giving away too much control. In turn, you attract dominant and sometimes self-serving individuals, putting you at risk for emotional manipulation.

Loss of opportunities 

Decision making anxiety can cause you to be stuck in unpleasant life situations due to the fact that change would require you to make choices. Choosing jobs, schools, life partners, and homes can feel daunting and lead to a blurry perspective on the future. This risk aversion causes a lack of momentum forward in life and a general fear that you can never be happy. You would sooner give up rewarding opportunities than take a chance, make a change and regret a mistake. You come to accept that you are not equipped for change and settle for limited opportunities.

Helpful Strategies

  • Narrow down your choices: By reducing the number of options you have, you can promote quicker decision making and more confidence in your choices. 
  • Create habits: By designating specific days of the week you will cook vs order in, which days and times you go to the gym, how often and when you will devote time for socializing, how much money you will budget for vacations, you can preserve more mental energy toward making decisions.

  • Think ahead: Plan your clothes the night before, meal prep during the week, create a to-do list the night before. By planning ahead, there will be less stop and go, and less pressure to make decisions. Do more, think less. 

  • Curb Your Negative Thought Patterns: By changing the way you think about decision-making and adopting a more realistic perspective, you can feel more in control over the outcome. By identifying the distorted thought patterns, you can learn to disarm the perceived threats, and reframe the thoughts by replacing them with more positive and realistic ones.

  • Avoid procrastinating: Set in place time limits and markers on making decisions to break out of the paralysis, boost your effectiveness, and move on with your life.
  • Seek help from a mental health professional: A therapist who is skilled in CBT can teach you the proper techniques to overcome your decision-making anxiety and ultimately help you free up your energy for more meaningful things. CBT techniques require practice, dedication and repetition. Once mastered, you can break the vicious cycle of anxiety and conquer your decidophobia. 

Advanced Behavioral Health, LLP provides CBT for decision-making anxiety using scientifically-proven techniques. Call 646- 345-3010 or email Dr. Suzanne Feinstein at drfeinstein@behaviortherapynyc.com for a free 15 minute consultation to see if you qualify for treatment.

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