The Art of Indecision

I was asked recently if it is typical for adults with ADHD to have difficulty making a decision and committing to it. I don’t know if there is any research supporting my opinion, but I believe it is true. It is consistent with my observations.

If ADHD is defined by inhibition difficulties, it makes sense that we would have trouble, not only with inhibiting attention and impulses, but with inhibiting attention to a stream of thoughts flooding our brains. Selectively focusing attention requires inhibiting attention to everything swirling around us and inside us. What we call attention “deficit” disorder may be an attention “surplus” disorder!

Here is one example of superfluous mental activity: Do I really want to accept this job offer, or am I just desperate to stop spinning about my career? Am I just settling if I take the job. Will I regret it? The thought of making the wrong decision makes me anxious. Did I over-sell myself in the other interview? What if I take the more challenging job and can’t perform as expected? What if I choose a job without being absolutely certain, and realize later that I’ve made a terrible mistake? What will I do if I make a bad decision? My anxiety is out the roof.

The director of an anxiety disorders clinic defined obsessive worry as “trying to control the future by thinking about it.” Adding more cognitive activity means more anxiety, not less, and the extra anxiety can immobilize us. 

Meditation is one way to reduce anxiety that rises from spinning thoughts. Less superfluous mental activity means more clarity. Medicine also helps inhibit attention so you can remain mindfully focused on the task at hand.

Ambivalence is not abnormal. We cannot eliminate uncertainty in life, but we can learn how to tolerate it better. Our most difficult decisions in life are ones we must make with insufficient data. Wishing to know more, to be more certain, is just wishing. 

“He prefers the security of known misery to the misery of unfamiliar insecurity.” ― Sheldon B. Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy Patients

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