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Almost 21 and TERRIFIED at being unable to make decisions


tigger12

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I need to learn how to make decisions (or make them better), but I can't figure out how to go about this. Does anyone have any experience or advice?

 

I have had difficulty making decisions for several years, at least four. I take FOREVER to make decisions because I am over-analyzing. It is my personality to plan everything. I plan my day and I like to know pretty much what I can expect is going to happen to me. Decisions stress me out since I look at every option and explore each option thoroughly. I think that part may not be bad necessarily, but then once I have all of the information, I have trouble acting on it. I can't decide. I don't know which option is best or there are downsides to each option. I constantly worry about making the right decision. Until I make the decision, I feel stressed and on edge almost constantly which wears me down and can be a downer for people around me. Once I do make a decision, I usually feel a RUSH of relief, and then a few hours to a few days later, I become anxious again, wondering if I did the right thing (depending on how big the decision was).

 

For example, I posted a thread about not knowing whether to drop a class or not. I've talked to all of my friends about it, made countless lists and charts, and tried to peer into the future of next year. I've been thinking about this since Tuesday and guess what? I still haven't decided. Well, I have "decided" and then changed my mind already probably ten times. This issue seems so small, and yet I am unable to make a decision.

 

This happens to me with big things like what I want to do with my life. I think everyone struggles a bit with that decision, but I have had major struggles. When I tried to decide where to go to college, I literally waited until the last minute to decide (although I had been struggling with it almost daily for months). I was sitting outside the post office the half hour before it closed on the LAST day I had to mail my acceptance of the offer to a college trying decide between two colleges. In the end, I have no idea how I chose one, but I just mailed one acceptance out and then immediately started feeling bad about it. I foresee big problems with trying to figure out graduate school or what to do after college. I'm a little worried about what this will do to my mental health when I am already busy with school and stressed with other things.

 

I don't do this with everything-- for example, picking out my clothes doesn't bother me. But I do think that I think about things longer than other people do. I can stand there for quite awhile trying to decide between two pairs of shoes or whether I should buy a pair of shoes at all. I'm sorry this is so long but I thought that after a few years this problem would go away. I'm realizing recently that I still have it, and it scares me with "the real world" and those decisions coming up. If anyone else has a problem similar, it would mean so much to me to hear from you...

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I'm very similar. I tend to overthink things that other people around me just brush off. Most days I'll wake up, have a set plan for what I'm going to do, and then if something gets in the way I get major anxiety. I can't have that ripple in my day or else it sets everything off in a backwards motion. This usually spirals into making me depressed and worrying about things like my girlfriend, what I want to do with my life, the classes I'm taking, how I look, etc...I also have a terrible time around new people. I can't be myself. I always shut off and act like a robot.

 

I hate having this feeling. It's been a burden for many years. I don't know how to get rid of it but I want you to know that you're not the only "overthinker" out there. It really, really is a pain to deal with.

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Thank you for commenting. I understand what you are saying about it being a burden. It is comforting to know I'm not alone. Sometimes I also do the thing with the "ripple in my day." I don't like when things go wrong or very differently than I expected, and it takes me a bit to adjust and react to it.

 

I think I am beginning to see that for me it is connected to feeling like things are under control and predictable. I don't mind things or people to be unpredictable as long as I know they are going to be unpredictable up front, if that makes sense. The idea of "the future" makes me very nervous because it is hard to plan for and things are obviously going to happen that I can't control.

 

I think I am also too concerned with being "right" and making the "right" choice. I worry about things going horribly wrong if I make one bad choice, and I am very scared of being stuck in situations I can't get out of.

 

Anyway, thanks for commenting and letting me know I'm not alone!

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You think quite like I do. When I make a decision, I work through all my possible outcomes, Identify the pros and cons of each, weigh the pros and cons as they pertain to what I want to do, and then I make the decision. Your problem is having the confidence in yourself to know that there IS no right or wrong decision. The only thing right or wrong is how you deal with the outcome of those decisions.

 

If you really want decision making advice though, start at the end and work your way back. Its always easier to start at the end of a maze and work your way back to the start than it is to go from the start, and try to think out every possible path and where each one will lead. Its really easy to think yourself into a corner and stress yourself out. So figure out what it is you ultimately want, start at your goal, and work from there. Work out what stands in your way, what stands in your favor, and whether or not you can work the obstacles out of your way. And if you're having trouble deciding between two variables that seem too similar to compare, take them to the extreme, its always easier to tell when the differences are bigger. I hope your stress doesn't get the better of you. Just remember, your decisions are the canvas, but how you deal with them is the paint.

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I'm not a doctor (nor do I play on on TV) but it sure sounds to me as if you have a "general anxiety disorder" or OCD type of thing. I think that it's common for people to over think decisions especially career changing type things like dropping/adding classes etc but it sure sounds like you have this in the extreme.

Perhaps you should see a doctor about this? This will only sap your energy and make everything in life alot harder than it really needs to be. I suspect you know this already.

If you are second guessing yourself AFTER you've already made the decision and followed through on it, then that is quite serious.

Perhaps some kind of medication - anti-depressents? Your doctor will know.

 

In the mean time, why not practice decisiveness on minor things, like what to have for lunch or something.

 

I used to be somewhat like this too a little bit but only on small things like restaurant menu choices. Now I just either choose the first thing that occurs to me, or order what everyone else is having or choose the same thing all the time. I also have multiple clothes that are all the same and matching sort of to ease that decision process.

 

Another thought - maybe you could craft/devise a "personal mission statement" that you could refer to whenever decision making become difficult.

 

Good luck

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If you really want decision making advice though, start at the end and work your way back. Its always easier to start at the end of a maze and work your way back to the start than it is to go from the start, and try to think out every possible path and where each one will lead. Its really easy to think yourself into a corner and stress yourself out. So figure out what it is you ultimately want, start at your goal, and work from there. Work out what stands in your way, what stands in your favor, and whether or not you can work the obstacles out of your way. QUOTE]

 

This is very good advice. I will have to try this sometime. It does seem like it would be easier to say, "Where do I hope to end up and how can I get there?" then look at the million possibilities that could result from each option.

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Clementine orange, thank you for your ideas. I will make an appointment at my school counseling center to talk to someone. At this point, I do not really want to be on any medication, but I am open to hearing what he/she has to say about it and cognitive/other techniques.

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A few thoughts about decision making:

 

- Choosing not to decide is a choice.

- I will never have all the information I need to make the sure choice.

- If I choose wrong for many things I can change my mind later.

- I learn the most about making decisions from making poor ones.

- If I can live with the possible outcome I always try to take the bigger risk, life is too short to play it totally safe. Bigger risks usually come with bigger payoffs.

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I used to be like this, too, and analyze everything to death to try to make the best decision. Then my friend put it in perspective for me. The truth is, it's impossible to figure out the best path. You can't look into the future, you can't know exactly how things will play out. For some people, the worst part of making a decision is the realization that they're stuck with it. Even after they've decided, even when they can't go back, they worry about how things could have gone, whether the other path was better. The fact is, you can't know. All you can do is speculate. You can't know for certain that you made the right choice by choosing Path A over Path B because some freak, completely unpredictable change in circumstances could turn things around. Of course, you should weigh all the information you have and make as best of a decision as you can. But realize there's no absolute best. I don't have as big of a problem with this now that I've realized 1) there is no definite best decision and 2) one decision is not going to make or break you. This is how I've dealt with it. I hope it helps.

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