Anxiety is a common response to difficult situations, but there are times when people can feel so stressed by anxiety that it is difficult for them to make decisions, which creates even more distress . Indecision and anxiety can be quite common. Anxiety can cause such deep anguish that making any choice seems impossible. Dealing with indecision due to anxiety is a very personal experience, and it is important to approach it in a way that is more helpful than harmful.

When options get challenging

For those experiencing anxiety, indecision often revolves around feeling stressed about current conditions and fear of a negative outcome. A research study report published in April 2015 in “Nature Neuroscience” explains that under experimental conditions, highly anxious people had difficulty making decisions because they were unsure of sudden changes in their environment. 

When faced with sudden changes , these people found it difficult to assimilate new information. Because it was challenging for them to accept new information, that information could not be used to positively influence their decision making. The sudden changes made them feel even more distressed.

Biology on indecision and anxiety

Certain areas of the brain help people make decisions , even when they are unsure. The amygdala helps people process emotions, including fear and anxiety.  The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in helping people balance their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, often lending less credence to exaggerated fear or anxiety.

An article published in July 2012 in the “Society of Biological Psychiatry” explains that it is believed that these parts of the brain may function differently in people with anxiety.  People who tend to have anxiety often experience exaggerated fear or apprehension, and the dampening effects in other areas of the brain tend to be less active. This can lead to a paralysis of indecision, as fear and anxiety overwhelm the ability to weigh options and tolerate uncertainty about how the situation will end.

Individual indecision and anxiety

No two people experience anxiety and indecision who react to situations in the same way. They may not even consider the same situations to cause anxiety. For some, anxiety can affect all of their decisions, and for others , it can only affect a certain type of decision. 

For example, someone who has been in a serious car accident may have a difficult time deciding whether to go to work due to a disturbing fear of possibly having another accident. Another person who has had the same experience can jump into the driver’s seat without hesitation. None of the decisions that are made are right or wrong. The combination of indecision and anxiety is just a very personal experience, which is influenced by personality traits and experiences.

Beyond indecision and anxiety

Because people experience anxiety differently, how they are comfortable with making decisions will also vary. Developing new coping mechanisms can be helpful, and one of the first steps is to accept that uncertainties come and go for everyone. But there are times when anxiety can be so paralyzing that it is impossible to adopt a new coping mechanism without outside help. 

If you are faced with the necessary decisions, but the thought of making a decision is too difficult to bear, it may be best to ask for help from a professional who can guide you. Talk to your doctor or a mental health therapist to find the help you need right now.

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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