Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making Decisions

My Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group yesterday discussed Making Decisions. We all have difficulty making decisions sometimes, and I know that some people have great difficulty making even basic decisions.  I discovered. in my research that there is an actual name for this great difficulty: decidophobia (very creative).  It may come from decisions in the past that lead to a bad outcome, or from being ridiculed or chastised about decisions or outcomes. May also develop from low self esteem, insecurity and lack of self confidence. Symptoms include panic, feeling of impending doom, procrastination or mental paralysis regarding decisions.  Some treatments include: give yourself time, gather information needed, avoid pressure from others, be realistic about your fear, and about the decision you need to make, put things into perspective, learn to accept some discomfort of not knowing or not being certain, stop obsessive thoughts.
I listed some facts to recognize regarding making decisions. These are:
You may need to make a decision without all the info you think you need.
You may get info later that would have affected your decision. That's life, not a flaw in you or your decision making process.
Few options/decisions are perfect.
Strong emotions like fear, anger and jealousy can distort thinking and affect decisions.
Trust your gut. Decisions based on instinct are often right, decisions based on emotion seldom are.
We also discussed how having a chronic illness or chronic pain affects making decisions:
  1. Medication or the illness itself can cause “brain fog”, making clear thinking difficult.
  2. Fatigue or other symptoms can make following through with a decision difficult.
  3. If not able to work and/or living on disability, finances might be tight, decreasing options. 
  4. Chronic conditions can affect self esteem and self confidence.
  5. Being dependent on others in some areas of life can affect how they treat us in other areas. They may think we can't make our own decisions, and may try to make them for us.
  6. Living with a chronic condition requires many life altering decisions that most people don't need to face.

    I think the 'take home message' here is that it is important for us to give a decision the amount of attention it deserves. What to wear should be a much quicker decision than whether or not to have surgery. Learn to make unimportant decisions quickly, saving your energy and effort for the more important ones. If you have a time of day when you are most alert and focused, do your important decision making then. If you don't trust your own judgment, share your thoughts with someone whose judgment you do trust, and ask for feedback. Ask for help in gathering information and advise, but make your own decisions.


  1. I write down sayings that catch my attention, the ones that have meaning for me. One that I heard recently goes something like this- "There are realy only 2 questions that you have to ask yourself when making a decision and they are Why and Why not".
    If your answer to the question/decision is not illegal, immoral or will hurt anyone then the answer to your question/decision should be relatively easy if you go by the "Why and Why not" method.
    Keep in mind that this person does not have a chronic illness, the pain or the mental and physical fatigue that goes along with it.
    I try to use her method and have had a lot of sucess with it, but with chronic pain, there are a lot more things to consider.
    So I start with her method and then add my own questions to it and then make my decision.
    I have learned that family and friends are not always the best people to ask for their in-put because they don't want you to get hurt any more that you already are, be in more pain than usual or to take on too much or anything that they may think is just to risky (and that can be anything from taking a bath to sky diving).
    That is why I start my decision making process by listening to what others have to say, then go to the "Why and Why not" system and then make up my own mind and always take notes throughout the entire process.
    As long as I have my notes to look back on, it helps to clear up the "fog" in my head.
    There is always the "Pros' and Cons'" list also.
    I hope that this makes sense to someone other that me!

  2. Do not mistake your physical illness for mental weakness.
    Keep strong any way you can!

  3. To Anonymous #1- It does make sense. I like the idea or asking 'why' and 'why not'. Even when you throw pain and illness into the picture, these questions can provide much of the decision making info. Especially in the 'why not' column, with responses such as 'it would cause too much pain', or 'it would take too much energy'. The idea of taking notes is am important one. If it is a complex decision,notes can help to organize the info. And if brain fog is a factor, notes can be essential.
    To Anonymous #2- I think that we sometimes do tend to look at our physical illness as a weakness or a fault. Thanks for the reminder that it is not.