Depression – I Can’t Make a Decision, Everything Feels Wrong

Wednesday, July 8 2015 Natasha Tracy

When you're depressed you may have trouble making a decision because everything feels wrong. here's how to battle indecisiveness in bipolar depression.

When I’m depressed I can’t make decisions because everything feels “wrong.” I know that’s really vague but that’s how it feels. If feels like doing thing A is wrong but so is doing thing B. Doing something feels wrong and so does doing nothing. When I’m actually doing something, it feels like I should be doing something else, something more. When I’m depressed it feels like every decision is the wrong decision, every move is the wrong move. Depression makes me not able to make a decision.

Decisions and Depression

As you may know, indecisiveness is a symptom of depression. That’s right, not being able to make a decision when depressed is so common it’s recognized by doctors. I don’t think it’s something they particularly focus on, but it one of the diagnostic criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I’ve written before about how to make big decisions with depression and how to make little decisions with depression, too, but no matter what, I find make decisions extremely stressful and decisions feel wrong no matter how I slice it.

Depression – I Can’t Make a Decision

It’s 7:30 a.m.. I’ve been up for almost two hours now. I’m facing an entire day ahead of me and I just don’t know how to handle that. I have no major deadlines pending, I have no social engagements scheduled and I have nothing that I absolutely have to do. So thanks to my depression, I have no idea what to do. Considering the hour, there aren’t a whole lot of choices. I think about watching TV. Seems reasonable. But that choice feels so wrong. Watching TV is wasting time and I don’t want to do that. Then I think about cleaning the apartment up after the huge Amazon deliver I got a couple of days ago but I feel completely overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning and so that decision feels entirely wrong, too. I want to go back to sleep because I didn’t get much last night but that would be giving into the depression and isn’t good for my circadian rhythm so that’s clearly wrong as well. It seems that no matter what I consider, everything just feels wrong.

Without Depression, Do Decisions Feel Right?

I’m depressed and I’ve been some shade of depression for seemingly ever so I wonder: do decisions feel right when you’re not depressed? I think they must. I think people must make decisions because they feel right. And I think people must make these decisions without thinking about them. To me, whether to take a shower or not or open my mail or not weighs heavily on my mind while other people do it without thinking about it. I think other people don’t take decisions so seriously. Everything feels right to them so it’s okay. (Because I do fundamentally understand that these daily, tiny decisions don’t matter. They just seem to really matter to my bipolar depressed brain.)

Everything Feeling Wrong is Stressful

When you're depressed you may have trouble making a decision because everything feels wrong. here's how to battle indecisiveness in bipolar depression.

And when every decision feels wrong it is inherently stressful. Like, seriously. I sit here for ages planning what to do and am seriously stressed out about making the wrong choice. Part of it is that I don’t want to do anything that will make me feel worse. That’s a legitimate concern that I face every day and it does cause serious stress. But is sitting here and stressing out about not being able to make a decisions better than just making one and having it be the wrong one? I really don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that I can’t make a decision and I feel completely overwhelmed with even the prospect of doing it.

Depression and Decision-Making

I fundamentally don’t understand how depression – a brain disorder – could impact one’s ability to make little decisions. I honestly don’t. That fact, somewhere, doesn’t compute. But I face this problem every day so clearly is a legitimate symptom. But the thing about it not computing makes me feel even worse about not being able to do it. Like, what the heck is so wrong with me that I can’t function on a very basic level like everyone else? Why does depression touch every aspect of my life?

What I can say about depression and not being able to make a decision is this: sometimes you just have to pick a side and damn the fallout.

Like, I have errands on my list of things to do today and even though leaving the apartment feels wrong, I’m going to do them. I don’t want to do them. But I will. And after I’m done I will probably feel a sense of accomplishment and celebrate (tacitly) the little win of achieving something in spite of illness. But even though I know that, it doesn’t make the decision easier to make and nor does it feel any less wrong while sitting on my couch thinking about it.

I wish I could just relax like a normal person. Take a breath like a normal person. Calmly go about my day like a normal person. But I can’t. And I hate it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

View all posts by Natasha Tracy.

Depression – I Can’t Make a Decision, Everything Feels Wrong

Cynthia
says:
July, 8 2015 at 2:40 pm

I hate this. I hate it when my family, trying to be helpful, asks me what I want for dinner. I don't care.

R
says:
July, 8 2015 at 7:37 pm

I often find myself over thinking things and need to find a way of shutting down for a while. There's really nothing wrong with doing that so long as it doesn't become a habit. Meditation can help

For me sometimes it's just a matter of making a list of the things that need to be done so I don't forget and then doing them one by one in no particular order unless of course something urgently needs to be done, then I try my best to push through the depression and do that thing first whether I feel like it or not. I try not to let my feelings dictate my life but I'm not always so successful. Sometimes tears are shed in the process of following though because I often get quite upset and bristle against being pushed into doing anything I don't really want to do even if when it's only me doing the pushing

I try to make rest / relaxation / recreation / entertainment a reward for my work efforts and focus on what I did do as opposed to what didn't get done that way I don't feel so guilty and beat myself up for being so useless

I believe anything is healthier than staring into space or sleeping your life away all the time even though I still do that on occasion.

If I waited until I felt like doing the housework it would never get done I'm afraid. I'm such a procrastinator. When I wait too long everything becomes urgent so I pick one thing at a time, it really doesn't matter what and chip away at it a little while, then rest a bit then pick something else easier or more interesting to do if I get too tired or too bored. Of course I'm tired alot and also lose interest in most things when I'm depressed. It's just the nature of the beast, but I still try to make some sort of effort and I don't compare myself to other people who can easilier do more

Any progress is better than nothing. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and sometimes motivates me to do more. The TV or computer is always my biggest distraction...

Sabrina
says:
July, 10 2015 at 12:49 am

very informative article. this is happens with so many people and this article will help them to reduce stress

Julie
says:
July, 15 2015 at 10:33 am

I make important decisions fairly easily. But when it comes to trivial choices, I am paralyzed. You should see how I buy groceries. It takes hours. I agonize over choosing one brand of potato flakes or another; when I get home, I see that it's the same brand I picked last time - if I'm going to reach the same conclusion every time, wouldn't you think I could at least do it faster next time??

There are days when I'm so indecisive that I can't even decide when to go to the bathroom until I'm almost ready to burst. I keep thinking that it really shouldn't be so complicated, but the word "should" doesn't anything much to do with real life.

Marianne
says:
December, 19 2015 at 4:14 am

I can relate to all of that. So much that needs done and where do you begin. Or does one prioritize? What is more important; the cleaning or the laundry? Should the kitchen always be presentable? Do we spend way more time on the computer (emails, etc.,) than we should. Does this help?

Renita
says:
December, 20 2015 at 4:31 am

Unlike most people who actually like Christmas, I truly hate it. I have no husband/boyfriend or kids. So many decisions to be made ALONE and no one to HELP. It's completely overwhelming. What to buy, for whom. Where to go to find it. What if it costs too much or it's not available? Trying to create and stick to a budget. What craft can I possibly make on time to save a little money. What type of Christmas cards to buy, who to send them to. What to make for potlucks. What to wear to get togethers, what decorations to hang. What Christmas goodies to bake. Too many household chores left undone, which one to do first. How to schedule my time efficiently so I get what needs to be done yet allow enough time for sleep and so on

By the time Christmas is actually here I'm exhausted, extremely irritable and of course depressed because I am trying to figure out how I'm going to pay my regular bills... I don't feel very merry!!!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Candice Nitschke
says:
April, 15 2017 at 1:58 am

For goodness sake! Take a load off! You deserve to enjoy the occasion too! Stop buying for others and ask them not to buy for you...or just buy for kids. Vouchers or money in card only! Forget xmas cards they only get thrown out! Send a facebook message and maybe just do cards for a few close friends n family. Im a christian and celebrate christmas but have had to find ways to make it easier on myself. Having a husband and 3 kids doesnt make it any easier! Create some boundaries and rules so you can enjoy it too. Xx

Karen E.
says:
December, 22 2015 at 4:45 am

I just sent the author (Natasha) an email to personally thank her for this article! I don't have bipolar disorder, but I have suffered from depression. This symptom (difficulty making really stupid decisions) is something I've struggled with, but have never seen an article about until today.

It's really fascinating. Thanks, Natasha, for your perspective and bringing this to light. Happy holidays to you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
says:
December, 22 2015 at 4:59 am

Hi Karen,

Happy to help :)

- Natasha Tracy

Karen E.
says:
December, 22 2015 at 7:02 am

Thanks, Natasha! I passed your website / article on to some other friends who I thought might be interested. It's really fascinating!

Happy Holidays!

itm
says:
January, 18 2016 at 1:16 pm

Here's a fun one. My husband and I have decided to move away. Where? I don't know, I can't figure it out. I'm so overwhelmed by this decision, it keeps me up at night, it takes all my free time... I can't figure out where we should go, and it's making me a disaster.
Here's the scenario... we both grew up in the Midwest, we both want to get out. We have a toddler and want to make a permanent move. Where ever we go, it's going to be the new home. We don't want to move around and just "wing it". So what's the problem? I have this criteria, in which every aspect is top priority.
-area needs to have good schools
-needs to have a particular need for my husbands profession
-low or no contamination sites (have you ever looked at superfund sites and what major contamination does to people, especially children and the elderly? Go look, I'll wait)
-safe area
-AFFORDABILITY
see how I capitalized that last one? It's because I had figured it out, I was done with the search. However, when I looked up the housing market there, it was over THREE TIMES what it is here. No way could we ever afford it. The area met all requirements but we can't afford it...
Ok, so I'm getting lost as to where to go. We have our pick of the entire country, and I feel helpless. I have to make the right decision based on what we're looking for, and I have to do it soon, but I'm just... lost. I keep going back to square one and I can't get with it.

Michael
says:
April, 12 2016 at 5:29 am

So i'm not alone am I?? last year after do research for 6 months almost I finally bought a newer car. a few time I was ready to walk out the door but didn't but somehow i did. Npw Ive been looking into a better sound system for my car. i have been researching for a week now and asking my brother questions daily. i had it all planned ( i thought) on my day off to go to a stereo store to see what they would recommend and i am still sitting here in front of my computer. it's the only place i feel comfortable!! I put things off and only thing i do is sit here in my chair.

rachel
says:
July, 21 2016 at 6:17 am

Until now, I thought I was the crazy one feeling this way all by myself....the nerd that just cant get it together . Always feeling so different and inferior to everyone else, lower and beneath everyone that crosses my path. Indecisive, and hating myself for it constantly. Feeling so useless all the time. Just a trip to the store is a "big deal" for me and communicating with others is...how should I say this.....stressful and leaves me feeling ignorant . Did I act right? did I say something wrong? Are they talking about me now? Im tired of feeling so wrong in everything I do or say. Im tired of being indecisive and feeling so useless and ugly. I cant seem to get enough sleep and every decision I make I feel is wrong. Im so tired of wasting away like this. why cant I be normal like everyone one else.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Malek
says:
October, 26 2017 at 12:15 pm

Rachel -- your words echo my very every day thoughts & perturberences. I feel exactly the same as you say you feel & there's more...I would really like to speak with you (skype or email) if you're up for that, that'd be great! Been trying to figure out what in the hell is wrong with me for ages now, still trying & battling depression, anxiety, bi-polarism & other shtuff which causes what I call "mental gridlock", &, &, &......
I'd be up for chatting with any of the commenters or the original poster. Would love to talk to ppl with many of the same issues. I think we may be able to offer each other some type of food(s) for thought.

Thanks, and keep battlin'!!!

My email is glovedeath@gmail.com. Feel free to contact me.

Love & Peace

Bryan
says:
September, 1 2016 at 6:28 am

I can understand where everyone is coming from here.. I suffer depression I dont need a doc to tell me that I have depression.. Im seeing a shrink mainly for adhd as I though if i had adhd and fixed that part of things that maybe my depression would get better. Unfortunatley thats not the case, I would like to explain to everyone who does not have depression "real proper clinical depression" how it feels for me and affects me. Im a 37 year old male and i used to live a good life with friends clubs and all sorts of things. I have a good gf which I really neglect a lot mainly through depression. But anyways now you have a slight background of me heres how real clinical depression feels. Imagine never wanting to leave the house each day just because "EVERYTHING" including the things you love to do are now insignificant its like everything bores the hell out of you and you cant actually see the point in anything. You never feel truly happy even though nothing bad is going on in your life. You could literally have the perfect life but every single day would be as grey as the next.

I used to love going out with friends now I have shut myself away and they have all moved on. I still have my parents living which i hardly go see because of the first reason "EVERYTHING" is boring and it feels like you dont care.. Even doing the things you really love.. for example I used to love gaming on my pc or having a drink with friends or going on trips away and having a laugh etc.. but as you grow up and fend for yourself get a house and calm down, the feeling you used to have changed into a kind of grey veil.. its extremely hard to convey this feeling because its like a mild boredom but its much more serious than that.. Sometimes you might sit and feel useless because your not doing nothing (relating to first poster), but that feeling can stay with you day after day and tottaly mess with your head.. Not a day goes by with you knowing eventually it will all end when your gone.. but dont take that sentence wrong I dont mean suicidally I mean its like part of knowing your probably eventually going to die alone because the boring life your boxing yourself into does not attract many friends. You miss the old days cant be bothered with the new ones and when people ask you whats wrong you just say your fine but deep inside you know that you wish you were never born. Yes some people see suicide and things as an option but that is not what im getting at here im getting at the true feeling of depression and how hard it is for somone who really is truly depressed to express how that feels.

I see people around me outside close family or unknown people going about their daily lives and i sit and think "why bother" its such a debilitating illness depression and its usually so subtle that when you eventually figure out that you have clinical depression its to far down the line for you to really understand that its what you have. Some people always kind of tut and say things like snap out of it your just bored etc because they cannot actually understand how bad it is. Some days you could sit and feel unhappy or tearful thinking why do I feel this way, yet no answer comes.

Try to imagine before you had depression how the things that you found boring were so boring you did not want to even do them.. yet now the things you really loved doing make you feel this way. Trust me peeps when somone tells you they are depressed never ever shrug it away as just a phase or because they are just bored because somone who truly loved to do things who now sits every day wondering whats the point in life, could be relying on you to give them some kind of hope or comfort.. dont smash a depressed persons feelings because you think they can snap out of it.

Im sitting here knowing that just around the corner a genuine cure brought by nano technology is almost upon us so thats my hope to help make me feel happy something to cure the grey from the brain that fogs my life over every day. Yes i see a shrink and no i dont take anti depressants only adhd meds, Although in the past i have tried the meds route for depression but sadly nothing has worked. I just hope science and technology gets a move on because life the way it is these days really is not the best ive seen it everyone's face buried on their phones not communicating with anyone feels like such a lonely planet aswell.

Take care peeps I hope this post gave some insight into the terrible illness of clinical depression.. just remember nothing in life is causing depression for people like me its just the way we feel be it chemical imbalance or whatever but its horrible.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Adele
says:
June, 22 2017 at 9:45 am

Hi Bryan, Im in the same boat I'm suffering from depression also, Im 37 and can't seem to settle in life at the moment. I have moved a few times trying to find the right place and struggling financially as I don't have a job at the moment I am so indecisive I've even thought of subletting flat out for 6months to go away and work for a change of scenery I feel like nobody cares anymore in life and don't even have a lot of family I can turn to as feel that they don't understand and just feel completely hopeless with no job or anything. I've worked previously but feel like I need a change in something different that's why I would like to go and work away but even at that would need money for back up and don't want to be stuck doing the same thing that I've done all my life. I have little confidence now, put on weight and feel things have just went from bad to worse even with things not working in flat properly and just can't settle. I have also gained a lot of weight which I am in middle of getting help for just now and have been on and off antidepressants for years trying to find the right ones? I never use to be like this and feel as if I have completely lost myself somewhere along the lines and look at everyone else and think how can I not just be like them. I think there is also a lot of ignorance in the world now also. I am seeing a counselor at the moment but don't know if this is helping. I think I will go back and speak to my doc soon and maybe try and go back on tabs and stick with them for a while ?.
Thanks for reading

Rich
says:
October, 22 2016 at 10:32 am

This is what I've been going through for years. I have to make a decision on what to do with my life and whether to study a masters, and I am paralyzed by indecision. It is the big decisions that I really struggle with and as a consequence I am far behind my peers. It took me five years until I knew what to study at university, and even that wasn't a completely logical, well thought out process. Sometimes, even deciding where to go for a run in the morning can be a thought process that takes 15-30 minutes. Most of the time my mind is blank. This really is a living hell.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Frank yates
says:
April, 19 2017 at 9:18 am

I'm glad I'm not the only one! Your predicament resembles mine so much. In college I would wait till most classes were filled so I wouldn't have to decide. In my free time I have just driven around the city because I couldn't decide which store to go to or I'd end up staying at home since I couldn't decide if I wanted to go to the beach or what! Now, I inherited $ 2 yrs ago and still haven't bought a new car! I mean who takes 2 yrs to buy a car! What a crazy life I lead. But, there are others with far worse problems I tell myself, seems to help.

Ajinkya
says:
February, 24 2017 at 6:34 pm

Hi Natasha,

This is the most accurate description of how depression affects decision.
I have depression and I can totally relate all of this with me and that's why I found this post very comforting.

Thanks a lot and keep writing!

BTW, how are you now?

Best Regards,
Ajinkya.

KM
says:
April, 19 2017 at 11:21 am

I know this is an older post, but I recently learned something about myself that may be helpful for others and figured I'd put it out there. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), with the "just right" or perfectionism subtype. When I first came to learn this, I thought there's no way, I'm not a perfectionist, I fall behind in everything from answering emails to keeping my apartment clean. But a huge part of this type of OCD is avoiding things that give you anxiety. I get overwhelmed by decisions. I can't purchase things without reading every single review and even then I get paralyzed by choice. I'm getting laid off soon and I don't know what career I want to pursue. Like many of you, I also have depression, but I'm beginning to see the areas in my life where the OCD has frozen me from moving forward in different ways because no choice felt right. I'm starting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with someone who specializes in OCD treatment soon, so I'm optimistic about my mental health for the first time in a long time. For years, I just thought these symptoms were related to my ADHD, since the two can look similar on the outside. It might be worth looking into, because so many mental health problems are co-morbid with others and may be easily overlooked.

Porsha Park
says:
January, 19 2018 at 5:35 am

Thank you for this post. There are some days that I honestly can't get one thing done. My husband doesn't understand and often says "just pick something and do it!". Ugh...if only it was that easy. I think of it as having a lot of puzzles to out together. Some people can take one puzzle off the shelf, put it together, then move on to the next one, etc. I feel like my "puzzles" have all been dumped out in my brain and the boxes thrown away. I can just choose to put together one puzzle at a time because they are all there at once and I can't even sort them out.

Man
says:
January, 24 2018 at 12:54 am

Depression is not a disease. It is a by-product of PTSD. You lie about this decade in and decade out because you benefit from the system. The system is what keeps people traumatized.

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