Decision paralysis

Many of us take decision making for granted. We make thousands of decisions each day. What to eat. What to wear. What to watch or read. We likely aren't even aware that we are making a decision. But, yeah, you decided to put up that coffee and take a drink. You chose to go to the bathroom right now.

Some of these are automatic and simply responses to our bodies. My bladder is full, I go to the toilet. My mouth is dry, I take a drink. These choices are not an issue. But, the decisions that require thought and processing can be. Will even struggles with what to eat sometimes. Some meals are automatic. Will always eats an apple with almond butter or yogurt for morning snack. Lately, lunch has resulted in a frozen child unable to eat because he doesn't know which thing he wants.

Trips to the store wherein he is allowed to choose one thing within a certain budget are next to impossible. He will get stuck and unable to choose between two things. We often take a picture of one to save the idea for another time. Deciding which for now and which for later can be troublesome too. Coin flips can help, but sometimes he doesn't want to leave it to chance. Hiding them behind my back and having him choose a hand is another often used assist. However, even with those things in place, whichever chance chooses, Will still sometimes isn't happy with the outcome. Sometimes Leigh or I will choose for him. Often he accepts our choice, but he still may feel remorse about it.

Decision paralysis is common for those like Mack who struggle with ADHD, but also for those with anxiety. This article discusses some techniques for those with ADHD. Some may also work for anxiety as well. https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/analysis-paralysis-and-adhd-trouble-making-decisions/

The root of Will's struggle is that he might choose wrongly. Regardless of how many times we have told him that if he is happy, there is no "wrong", he still feels that anxiety. Will has even experienced "buyer's remorse" weeks after bringing something home or choosing a certain activity. This regret causes him to struggle in other areas of life too. When he dwells on a decision that he feels he made wrongly, he freezes will all future decisions.

We have done the following to attempt to help him rationalize decisions:


  • Pro/con lists

  • Limiting to two choices

  • Choosing for him

  • Flipping a coin

  • Hiding behind our backs and having him choose a hand

  • Long time periods for him to think about his options

  • Short time periods to think about the options

  • Research into which product or place is best

  • Practicing making decisions at home where there is nothing at stake--nothing to lose

  • Pointing out when he makes decisions independently

  • Reminding him he has control


I am sure there are more techniques I am not listing here. But I feel we have exhausted all the tools in our toolbox and we still have decision fatigue and freezing. We want to teach him to take control of his decision making abilities so he is able to more freely choose in the future when we are no longer there to catch him. He is only 11, so we have some time, but I frequently fear we won't be able to teach this skill. We have been working on it for several years already, and while sometimes he does well, we backslide often. I don't want him to give his power in his adult life and allow other people, or random chance, to make his complicated decisions for him. This can lead to others taking advantage of Will, and I don't want him to be trapped in that life. Leigh struggles with choosing more often than he would like too, and we want Will to have more tools to pull from in his future.

Usually I let you lovely readers know to reach out to me for help, but this time, I am asking you for help! If you have brilliant, outside the box decision making tools to share with me, I am ALL ears!

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