Sunday, May 15, 2011

OCD A to Z: I is For Indecision

Indecision Stole My Life

Indecision OCD has eaten up a lot of time in my life. I'll get the thought that I might make a mistake, or the wrong decision, and my anxiety rises, and my compulsions consist of checking items closely for flaws, reading labels repeatedly, picking up every item, making sure I look at every rack in the store, plus mental rituals of figuring out which is the best choice, and interminable research.

I am much better at making decision now, after doing exposures, and listening to exposure scripts on my ipod, and the "high tech"(as my therapist calls it) tool of flipping a coin to make certain decisions. If I am tired or vulnerable, I am more likely to start agonizing over ordinary decisions. Yesterday, I was in the consignment store looking for t-shirts, and found myself looking at all the racks twice, even though intellectually I knew that there wasn't anything. For so many years I feared "missing something valuable or important" and it's a hard habit to break.

I remind myself to make at least one decision at the grocery store by flipping a coin--this cereal or that cereal, buy this item, or leave it on the shelf. I remember the days when I'd pace the store for 1/2 hr trying to make one decision, and how if I thought of a criteria for my choice(ie. price), I'd start to debate in my mind if that was the right criteria to use. I'd break into a sweat, my face would get hot, and whatever else I needed to do in my life was put on hold. I hated myself for wasting so much time, and I'd come home exhausted and demoralized.

OCD often is about certainty. I want to know for certain I've made the right choice, in advance, before I ever choose the item, or use it, or whether I've chosen the right action for all time. We don't get that kind of omniscience. Even in the grips of indecision, I knew that sometimes I chose something, and it sucked, even after all my compulsions, but it took encouragement from my therapist and friends to take the leap, and take my best guess, or leave something to chance, or not know an encyclopedia of information for every choice I made. We trick ourselves into believing that we can predict the future with certainty, if only we tried hard enough.


  1. I'm great at indecision. That is a great word for 'I'. Should I buy this? Should I not? Is the price okay? Is the country of origin acceptable to me today?

    And then the lovely question, What shall I eat today? I normally eat pretty much the same thing each day for breakfast and lunch, so just one meal is left up in the air... (But how much cereal should I buy at a time, and when should I buy more milk, and I only know that I like milk from this one store...)

  2. I'm SO all about indecision!!!

  3. Abigail--I am always amazed at how many variables my OCD can come up with to consider when choosing something.

    Ann--Yeah, indecision could be my middle name!

  4. Absolutely! I have to stay away form online shopping now because I will be on there hours looking for something as minor as a headband. Then after ordering I'll agonize over what could have been. If I get the item and it's not of quality I will full on break down.
    It's not fun.