Decision making can be tough for anyone, especially with the number of options we have these days. You’ve probably either heard the following conversation (or had it yourself) at some point:
Husband: What do you want for dinner?
Wife: I don’t care – you choose
Husband: Okay, how about Mexican food?
Wife: Oh, anything but Mexican food. I’m just not in the mood for it.
Husband: Alright, how about pizza then?
Wife: We just had pizza last night…
Husband (visibly frustrated): Well if you don’t want pizza or Mexican, what are you in the mood for?
Wife: I told you, I’m down for anything. You choose!
If you got a good chuckle out of that conversation, you certainly aren’t alone. Conversations like these usually go on until someone finally decides to just head to the closest, most convenient restaurant. Thousands of couples, friends, and families have this same conversation on a regular basis – but those with OCD may have this conversation in their head about a million times a day.
Avoiding Decision Making with OCD
Many people think a little like the wife from the scenario above. Rather than deal with the repercussions of actually making a decision, it’s easier to not make one at all. While it would sometimes be nice to have someone else take care of all the hard stuff, avoiding the problem isn’t the answer, especially in the case of OCD.
Instead of helping the overarching problem, avoiding decision making with OCD simply reinforces the disorder and makes it harder to make decisions in the future. One useful tactic is to narrow down the decisions in the first place – the fewer decisions available, the easier it is to choose, and the happier people are with their decisions.
Dealing with Doubt
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes individuals to constantly second guess and doubt themselves. Even if they originally think that they made the right decision, an hour later they may be stuck in a loop in their head, wondering if they could have gotten a better deal, enjoyed the food more somewhere else, etc. If an individual starts thinking about all of these outcomes before he or she makes the decision, a decision may never get made. Additionally, it may just cause undue stress and anxiety.
To help quell doubt before it becomes a problem, it’s important for individuals with OCD to have enough time to think through decisions. We all know what it’s like to make a split second decision and then regret it later. While individuals with OCD shouldn’t be given too much time, which leads to overthinking and questioning, it’s important for them to have enough time to think about the decision rationally and weigh the pros and cons.
Learning to Let Go
Making the wrong decision can feel even worse than not making a decision at all sometimes. For an individual with OCD, this is often the biggest worry. “What if I make the wrong choice?” Think about a time that you’ve wondered if you should have gone back to school to get that English degree that you wanted so badly instead of getting your MBA. Or, on an even smaller scale, remember that time you tried to decide between pizza and Mexican food? Now compound that with OCD. This seemingly small issue can quickly spiral out of control in the mind of someone with OCD, leading to a lifetime of uncertainty. Even if they are able to eventually make the decision, they can spend weeks or months agonizing over what they had for dinner on a random Tuesday night.
The best way to learn to cope with wrong decisions is to consistently make decisions – one is bound to be wrong now and again. Desensitization and an understanding that the wrong decision didn’t cause the end of the world can help individuals better handle decision making in the future. Maybe more importantly, sometimes individual with OCD (and the rest of us for that matter) need to embrace uncertainty and learn to live with it. Everyone, whether they’re dealing with a disorder like OCD or not, sometimes has an incredibly difficult time making decisions – and that’s okay!