Decision-Making Isn’t Simple with Anxiety

June 12, 2023 Laura A. Barton

Anxiety and decision-making do not go together—like, at all. Have you ever seen that meme from the movie version of The Notebook where Ryan Gosling’s character asks, “What do you want?” and Rachel McAdams' character says, “It’s not that simple!”? That’s my everyday life. I’d be lying if I said my boyfriend hasn’t quoted that dialog to me on more than one occasion.

What Does Decision-Making Anxiety Feel Like?

Decision-making anxiety applies to every decision with varying degrees of feelings of impossibility. I can decide many things for myself that are relatively simple, with only a hint of anxiety on its heels (because it’s never truly gone). But as the weight of the decision increases, so does the anxiety.

And don’t even get me started on decisions that impact others. Something as theoretically simple as deciding what to do or what to eat causes tension in my chest like no other. Panic sets in the moment someone asks me to make any choice. My mind starts running a mile a minute, going through all the potential options and how the other person will react to that decision so that I can find the least upsetting one. (Spoiler alert: My anxiety rarely finds such an option.)

You see, what most of my decision-making anxiety boils down to is how other people will react to it. Will they think it’s a good decision? A bad one? What will the consequences of a bad one be?

I was never empowered by certain key figures in my childhood to make a decision. Even when the opportunity to choose was presented to me, if what I decided wasn’t “right” or “good,” I was scolded for it. Even if there was no outright scolding, I was met with angry tones.

Being given the option to choose started to feel like a trap, a setup I learned to anticipate and avoid at all costs. Anxiety meets decision-making in that scenario.

Decision-Making Anxiety Complicates Recovery

I’ve made many, many strides when it comes to recovering from my anxiety. I can exist in social situations without feeling simultaneously frozen and on fire. I can have most conversations without going absolutely beet red and being light-headed.

Decision-making and anxiety are one area, however, where I struggle to move forward. I can’t even make a decision with the people I’m most comfortable with and feel safest with. It’s as though as soon as the task comes up, internal walls fly up, stopping me mentally and physically. I try as much as possible to get them to make the choice.

I’m well aware many people see the inability to make decisions as annoying. It’s often seen as a negative trait. That knowledge, in and of itself, causes more anxiety with decision-making. 

If only people knew what it feels like—how impossible decision-making feels because of anxiety—maybe they wouldn’t have that perception. I’d love to be able to make a decision and move on with life, but it really isn’t that simple.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2023, June 12). Decision-Making Isn’t Simple with Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Follow her writing journey and book love on Instagram, and Goodreads.

Leave a reply