Do you suffer from compulsive indecisiveness?

Written by Vandana Brahmasa under Dr. Anu Goel for – 5 June, 2013

Published on

Today’s globalised world not only offers us a myriad of options- from fashion to career, it instills in us a need to procure what is best – nothing less than that. Added to this potent mix are cut throat competition and need for achievement. The result? Compulsive indecisiveness.
Compulsive indecisiveness or aboulomania can disrupt many areas of life. For a majority of people, indecisiveness is an inevitable and even normal part of their lives. However, this complacence serves as a deterrent to diagnosis. It is important to seek help if one’s decision making is severely impaired or has an adverse impact on one’s life.
In clinical populations, indecisiveness is associated with depression, dependent personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. In normal populations, it is associated with depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, worry proneness and trait anxiety.Despite being a wide spread phenomena, there is very little research on indecisiveness. Simply put, indecisiveness is the inability to make decisions. According to Germeijs and DeBoeck (2002), there are eleven distinct descriptors of indecisiveness which include taking a long time to decide, perception of the decision as ‘difficult’,  not knowing how to decide, uncertainty while making decisions, delaying decisions, avoiding decisions, leaving decisions to others, changing decisions, worrying about decisions made, regretting decisions made and simply calling oneself indecisive.

People may be indecisive for various reasons, but when the inability to make decisions becomes persistent, it can lead to negative life experiences or be indicative of an underlying mental health problem.

One common reason for indecisiveness is the need for certainty – the need for being one hundred percent sure of the correctness or accuracy of the decision. While this desire for certainty is laudable in various situations, it has the potential for becoming an irrational obsession which triggers excessive worrying. One can also trace the root of indecisiveness to lack of self-trust and self-confidence. Lacking the confidence for making the right decision poses as a deterrent to decision making, and more often than not, leads to no decision being made at all. Avoidance tactics like procrastination are frequently employed by indecisive people.

Rather than possessing a set of symptoms itself, indecisiveness may be considered as a symptom of underlying psychological conditions such as depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One of the most important things to remember while experiencing difficulty in decision making is the negative impact of perfectionism.

In our quest to get things absolutely right, we end up taking a lot of stress and inordinate amount of worry. Not only does the need for perfection complicate even simple decisions, it tends to leave the person dissatisfied and worried about the validity of the decision. Also important is ‘trusting your gut’. In the face of multiple choices and options, one tends to feel overwhelmed which affects the ability to make decisions. In such a situation, one might consider trusting the gut feeling or instinct. Neurologist Antonio Demasio (1980) discovered that emotions too play a vital role in decision making.

Sometimes making smaller, less important decisions can equip one with the necessary confidence to tackle larger, more important decisions. As cognitive-behavior therapist Nando Pelusi suggests, it is important to slowly progress to decisions requiring greater risks.


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