Analysis Paralysis: When Anxiety Interferes with Decision Making and

If you’ve ever found yourself waffling between two (or more) decisions, tossing and turning at night as you desperately try to decide in which direction to go and which choice is the “right” one, then you may be familiar with “analysis paralysis.” According to Wikipedia, “Analysis paralysis is when the fear of either making an error or forgoing a superior solution outweighs the realistic expectation or potential value of success in a decision made in a timely manner.” In other words, it’s when anxiety and overthinking keep you stuck, unable to move in forward with a decision. And it can be downright debilitating when the worry you carry around starts to become your constant companion.

Fortunately, at Simi Psychological Group, we have highly trained anxiety therapists in Moorpark, CA, and elsewhere who can help you understand why anxiety is interfering with your ability to make a decision, and what you can do about it.

Why is it so hard?

Analysis paralysis is not an uncommon experience. Many people experience anxiety when trying to make a decision, but when it’s keeping you stuck it’s important to understand what’s at the root of it and how to overcome it.

In a nutshell, anxiety over decisions is driven by a natural tendency towards risk aversion or harm avoidance, a comfort with the status quo, and choice overload.

Risk aversion and harm avoidance simply refer to the human desire to minimize pain and discomfort. That fear of making a mistake and the fear of loss can be quite powerful. The “what if’s” dominate and keep you from moving forward. What if the decision you make turns out to be the wrong one, and you suffer as a result? Or worse, others suffer as a result? What if you lose out on an opportunity, or lose something of value? The thought of experiencing negative consequences as a result of making the wrong decision often seems unbearable.

Half face of a lady and some arrows were draw beside her

In fact, it can feel so unbearable that you’d prefer to just keep things as they are, status quo as they say. When anxiety over a decision is keeping you stuck, wroit’s easy to argue that the known (status quo) is better than the unknown (making a different choice). Humans are creatures of habit, and all too often we’d rather dance with the devil we know than risk facing a new one. If you’re avoiding making a decision because the discomfort of your present circumstance has not yet outweighed your fear of the unknown, you’re stuck in your status quo.

Finally, analysis paralysis is often the result of choice overload. How many options do you have? Does it feel like you’re stuck because there are simply too many directions you might go? Do you find yourself trying to play out every scenario in your head? Trying to anticipate what will happen and how each option will affect you (and others) is mentally and emotionally exhausting. The fact of the matter is, you simply cannot know, you can only make the best decision you can with the information you have.

While overwhelming, decision-making anxiety does not have to keep you stuck. What can you do?

When anxiety interferes with decision-making, here are 5 ways to conquer your analysis paralysis.

1. Breathe, and remember who you are.

When your anxiety is keeping you stuck, unable to move forward with a decision, it’s important to make use of healthy coping skills to manage the stress. At Simi Psychological Group, we offer therapy for anxiety where our compassionate anxiety therapists in Simi Valley provide you the tools you need to help you overcome the overwhelming cycle of feelings and thoughts. 

They will also help you process thoughts and feelings, connect with your values, and find your voice.

Making decisions becomes easier when you remember who you are and are able to base them on your core values.

What are your goals? What’s important to you? What brings you joy? These are just a few questions that can help you connect to your values and guide your decisions.

2. Make that pros and cons list.

Oh, the good ol’ pros and cons list. It sounds simple, but it works. It helps you stop ruminating  and overthinking by putting something down on paper. Seeing the advantages and disadvantages in black and white, so to speak, often helps get you unstuck.

A boy hold a card on which help is written

3. Ask around, get other perspectives.

As you are weighing your options, it’s often quite helpful to enlist the support of another ear. Talk to someone you trust about your options. Sometimes your trusted friends, colleagues, or family offer perspectives you might not have considered. Bouncing your thoughts off others gives you the chance to not only hear what they have to say, but to hear your own thoughts and feelings out loud. Anxious thoughts seem to have more power when they are bouncing around inside your head and often have much less power when you hear yourself saying them aloud.

4. Journal about it.

The act of getting something down on paper allows you the opportunity to process your thoughts and feelings as well. This is another opportunity to get curious. Write about the what ifs. Examine your fears. Ask yourself hard questions about what’s keeping you stuck.

Still stuck? Our anxiety therapists in Simi Valley can help you take that next step and work through what’s coming up for you in your journaling process.

Our Simi Valley therapists offer a variety of therapeutic services and support for anxiety and more to help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings, learn how to tolerate anxiety, go out of your comfort zone, and build the confidence you deserve to make lasting changes.

Hands of a lady write something in a dairy

5. Sleep on it.

The importance and value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Being well rested improves your ability to focus, navigate stress, and make use of healthy coping strategies by reducing stress hormones and allowing better access to the decision making part of your brain.

6. Set a deadline.

Give yourself a firm deadline as to when the decision is to be made. Remember that there is no such thing as the “perfect” decision, and imperfect action is better than inaction. Remind yourself that you are capable, and you have the skills to adjust, course correct as needed, and continue to move forward.

7. Be kind to yourself.

If you suffer from analysis paralysis, chances are you are used to being quite hard on yourself. Strive to embrace self-compassion as you move forward with the decision process. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to be imperfect, and trust in your ability to face any challenges that may arise. With Simi Psychological Group, there is peace in knowing you are no longer alone in fighting your constant worry. We offer a range of therapeutic services to keep you moving forward. Our team of qualified psychologists also offers therapy for trauma, depression, and more! For more information, contact our office at (805) 842-1994.