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    Indecision & Anxiety

    Indecision & Anxiety
    by Alicia Miller
    LiveStrong.com

    Overview
    Indecision and anxiety often go hand in hand. Many people who have anxiety disorders find it difficult to make decisions for fear of making the wrong decision or disappointing others, or they fear that their decision is unchangeable or final. Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder may have trouble making decisions to the point that it affects their daily functioning.

    Significance
    Individuals who suffer from anxiety may not necessarily fall into the category of having a disorder. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, however. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety disorders each year. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders often feel crippled by the decision-making process, which ultimately stems from the characteristic control issues that these individuals face.

    Function
    Anxiety serves a hidden function when it comes to indecision. Many people use anxiety as an excuse to avoid making a decision at all. While remaining in a state of indecision can actually cause heightened anxiety for some, it can be a source of comfort for others. The fear and doubt that one experiences when faced with having to make a major (or minor) decision is dysfunctionally preferable to many people with anxiety problems rather than having to face the finality of their decision.

    Types

    All types of anxiety disorders can set the stage for indecision. Some of the more common types of disorders are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). OCD, characterized by the Mayo Clinic as having unreasonable thoughts or fears that lead to uncontrollable repetitive actions, renders people unable to make a decision because sufferers have tried to block out all unpleasant thoughts and consequences of the decision by their repetitive actions. GAD sufferers generally suffer from chronic worry, tension, and stress, which paralyzes the decision-making process.

    Prevention/Solution
    An article in Psychology Today describes the decision-making process from the point of view of someone dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The solution recommended by this author is to try to change the decision-making framework from one of fear and doubt to one of purpose and service. In other words, try to use the decision-making process as a means of realizing a positive outcome, and mentally re-frame the decision so that you are presented with as many possible positive outcomes as possible.

    Expert Insight

    Although there are many theories as to why individuals suffer from indecision, one useful suggestion is proposed by psychologist Susan Jeffers in her book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Jeffers describes the difficulties many people have with indecision and anxiety and suggests that most people have one main fear in their lives that cripples them and renders them unable to make--or at least makes them have tremendous difficulty making--any major decisions. Jeffers suggests that indecision and anxiety can stem from a victim mentality, in which individuals struggle with the subconscious fear that any decision they make is the wrong one. Jeffers recommends that these people try to confront their inner fears, whether through self-help or professional counseling, in order to move on and lead lives that are relatively free from anxiety and indecision.

    References


    Alicia Miller is a licensed social worker and psychotherapist who began writing in 2008. She is a certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist who specializes in mental health, aromatherapy and holistic healing articles. She holds a Master of Social Work from New York University.



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    Re: Indecision & Anxiety

    Dear Therapist - The Atlantic

    ...Paralyzing ambivalence often stems from feelings that a person isn't focusing on, or even aware of. Someone who can't decide to the point of paralysis between two boyfriends or jobs or rugs from West Elm is probably conflicted about something else-perhaps trust or commitment or becoming an adult. You'll be able to move past your ambivalence once you understand the real root of it...

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    Re: Indecision & Anxiety

    This 2-Minute Breathing Exercise Can Help You Make Better Decisions, According to a New Study

    For two minutes before answering the questions, the control group relaxed while the breathing exercise group practiced breathing in a 5-2-7 pattern, according to the instructions:

    • Inhale, count to five
    • Hold breath after inhaling, count to two
    • Exhale, count to seven
    • Repeat.

    The 5-2-7 pattern breathing exercise improved decision-making performance and prevented stress under overwhelming psychological pressure.

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    Re: Indecision & Anxiety

    How to Make Hard Life Decisions

    Owning the choice and the outcomes it generates is the only way to be in control over your life. Surrendering all judgement to society, friends, family or an algorithm, may feel like it absolves you of responsibility, but you still need to live the outcome. Better to own that decision and choose bravely, then shy away and hope the outside world will make it for you.

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    Re: Indecision & Anxiety

    From a now-classic essay that appeared in The New York Times in 2011:

    Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

    Decision fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister in homage to a Freudian hypothesis. Freud speculated that the self, or ego, depended on mental activities involving the transfer of energy. He was vague about the details, though, and quite wrong about some of them (like his idea that artists “sublimate” sexual energy into their work, which would imply that adultery should be especially rare at artists’ colonies). Freud’s energy model of the self was generally ignored until the end of the century, when Baumeister began studying mental discipline in a series of experiments, first at Case Western and then at Florida State University.

    These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control...

    Once you're mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren't a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you're shopping, you're liable to look at only one dimension, like price: just give me the cheapest. Or you indulge yourself by looking at quality: I want the very best (an especially easy strategy if someone else is paying). Decision fatigue leaves you vulnerable to marketers who know how to time their sales, as Jonathan Levav, the Stanford professor, demonstrated in experiments involving tailored suits and new cars...

    Shopping can be especially tiring for the poor, who have to struggle continually with trade-offs. Most of us in America won’t spend a lot of time agonizing over whether we can afford to buy soap, but it can be a depleting choice in rural India. Dean Spears, an economist at Princeton, offered people in 20 villages in Rajasthan in northwestern India the chance to buy a couple of bars of brand-name soap for the equivalent of less than 20 cents. It was a steep discount off the regular price, yet even that sum was a strain for the people in the 10 poorest villages. Whether or not they bought the soap, the act of making the decision left them with less willpower, as measured afterward in a test of how long they could squeeze a hand grip. In the slightly more affluent villages, people’s willpower wasn’t affected significantly. Because they had more money, they didn’t have to spend as much effort weighing the merits of the soap versus, say, food or medicine.

    Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty...

    “Good decision making is not a trait of the person, in the sense that it’s always there,” Baumeister says. “It’s a state that fluctuates.” His studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

    “Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out. That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach. “The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”

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