Life is full of choices that must be made. It’s not always easy to weigh your options and make a final decision, but it has to be done. For the average person, this is already a tough job. But for those with anxiety, it can seem almost impossible to make good decisions.

5 ways anxiety doesn’t help you make good decisions

If you have anxiety, you’ve probably found yourself struggling to make decisions in the past. You may wonder what is wrong with you or why this is happening. Well, your anxiety is likely to be the culprit, but how? Here are five ways anxiety affects your ability to make good decisions.

It makes you too anxious to ask questions that help you make good decisions.

One of the most inconvenient things about anxiety is that it feeds on itself. The existence of fear helps it perpetuate itself. This is because, for the most part, tensions can be reduced through open communication. However, anxiety prevents you from asking questions, as you fear judgment, threats, and other problems.

When it comes to decision making, you want to gather as much information as you can before making a decision. With anxiety, you cannot do that, especially if you need information that can only be obtained by requesting it from others.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like the biggest problem, as the internet allows for quick opinion searches and sometimes other people’s words don’t carry as much weight anyway. But this is especially damaging when it comes to things like:

  • Your finances.
  • Healthy choices.
  • Your education.
  • Finer aspects of laws and legality.
  • Personal relationships.
  • Family problems.

There are some things you should be able to ask directly from a professional who works with you specifically, such as your doctor, therapist, financial advisor, or teacher. These people have more information about your specific needs and your specific requirements, and you can’t get that information elsewhere.

And of course, when it comes to personal things, you can’t just Google the details of your interpersonal relationships. And many times, people will not know that something worries you until you express that concern, and they will not know that you need reassurance until you ask for it.

Anxiety prevents you from asking the necessary questions because you are so focused on what could go wrong. And ironically, seeing all the potential problems in a situation means that you need, more than ever, to be able to ask questions. It’s a dangerous cycle where you get stuck.

It paralyzes you in the fight or flight.

You’ve probably heard of “fight or flight” as a concept several times in your life. Many people think that this reaction only comes into play in situations of extreme danger. This is not true. The mind and body can enter this state whenever there is a threat, either imagined or precise, and anxiety turns many things into a perceived threat!

Anxiety turns on a part of the brain known as the limbic system. This system is used for the emotional responses of the brain and to derive motivation and specific aspects of memory. Meanwhile, there is another part of the brain that anxiety ignores, and that is the prefrontal cortex. This is where the brain makes all of its major decisions, and it is often referred to as the “thinking brain.”

The limbic system and the prefrontal cortex often have to fight for our brain’s attention, in some way. You probably only pay attention to one of them at a time, or at least one influences you more than the other at a time. When you’re anxious, it’s the limbic system that wins, grabbing only on the amygdala in the limbic system and throwing your prefrontal cortex into a loop.

The limbic system is quick to overcome all kinds of different fears and anxieties when you enter an anxiety-driven fight or flight mode. You start to spiral and a simple fear turns into a catastrophic worst-case visualizer.

It’s terrible for your ability to make decisions, especially since the imagined threats your limbic system screams for aren’t realistic at all. This can lead you to make irrational decisions or become too paralyzed to make any decisions.

Cause overthinking and not overthinking.

One of the strangest parts of anxiety is how it can be so contradictory in what it does to you, pushing you to both ends of a spectrum at the same time. It’s like anxiety is trying to make you feel the worst of both worlds, which is incredibly annoying when it comes to making decisions.

The behavior patterns caused by anxiety can seem totally opposite when it comes to making decisions. The act of making the right decision means that you have to think about it to some degree, but anxiety makes it difficult in all respects. That is how:

Makes you think too much

Minor and small decisions can seem vast and scary when you have anxiety. Everything seems scary and has potentially threatening repercussions. This makes you spend too much time on inconsequential decisions.

Makes you not think enough

Big decisions can be too much for you when you have anxiety. Thinking about the need to make these decisions makes you desperate to finish everything quickly, as each thought worries you more and more. So instead of giving the choice some care, you pounce on something that seems viable the moment you do. You will choose one of the first ideas that comes to mind, even if it is an unreasonable decision fueled by anxiety.

Makes you unable to think

When you think too much, don’t think enough, and are overwhelmed by decisions thanks to anxiety, you may find it impossible to think at all. With all the confused feelings mixed into one, you may decide never to decide at all, avoiding the source of your conflicting anxieties.

It distracts you from good decisions by making you feel bad.

When trying to make decisions, you usually want to focus entirely on your options. People who feel bad tend to make less wise decisions when presented with options because they cannot devote their full attention to the issue at hand.

Anxiety affects your ability to make good choices because it often manifests itself physically. Although many people may ridicule this concept by saying “it’s all in your head,” for example, the fact is that the brain and nervous system affect the entire body. It’s “all in your head” because it’s happening in your brain, but that doesn’t make you less physical, valid, or interruptible.

Here are some ways that anxiety can manifest itself into physical symptoms, some of which can even last for a long time with long-lasting effects:

About the cardiovascular system

Anxiety makes your heart race. Your heart rate is racing and pounding, and in extreme situations, that can even come with significant chest pain. Research has shown that this also carries an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions, and other coronary events.

About the digestive system

Have you ever noticed that your stomach starts to hurt when you get anxious? These aches and pains can cause a lot of discomfort when trying to make decisions, fueled by the stress of it all. Studies say that anxiety can even cause irritable bowel syndrome.

About the respiratory system

Anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack will be familiar with the shallow, fast breathing that anxiety can bring. For those with conditions like asthma, it is even more difficult to cope with. Trying to make decisions when you have trouble breathing is difficult, and if you have a respiratory illness, anxiety can put you at risk for several serious complications, according to studies.

About the immune system

The stress responses caused by anxiety cause many hormones and chemicals to leak into your body systems. These chemicals seek to focus on helping you overcome your current problem, helping you survive. However, with long-term anxiety, this means that the attention taken away from your immune system puts you at risk of getting sick more easily. If you feel bad while trying to make decisions, it could be that all that anxiety comes back to bite you and push your positive thoughts even further away.

Other aches and pains

Your central nervous system is not only responsible for handling stress and anxiety signals, it is also what transmits pain and discomfort to your brain. This means that sometimes just being anxious can cause random physical pain, such as muscle tension, general pain, and headaches. It is difficult to make good decisions when dealing with pain in random parts of your body.

Deactivate parts of the brain

Did you know that anxiety is so powerful that it can totally and completely disconnect parts of your brain? We’ve talked about how the limbic system tends to win when you go into fight or flight, but even the presence of anxiety without the fight or flight response is enough to turn an essential part of your brain off.

One study found that when anxiety exists in someone’s mind, it plays an important role in decision-making, often choosing the least positive options. This research looks at how the prefrontal cortex can be completely shut off by anxiety. As mentioned earlier, this part of the brain is necessary for decision making.

The study found the following facts about making good decisions:

You are more likely to make decision-making mistakes when faced with distractions and obstacles if you have anxiety.

Anxiety prevents the brain from ignoring potential environmental or psychological distractions.

When you’re anxious, a group of neurons in the prefrontal cortex go numb and can’t help you make decisions.

Rather than overcommitting unproductive brain circuits, anxiety may have a greater chance of simply shutting down productive ones.

It’s easy to see how losing access to a critical part of your brain can further fuel anxiety. It’s an exciting way to better understand what anxiety can cause you and how, on a neurological level, it can prevent you from making good decisions.

Final thoughts on anxiety when making decisions

Anxiety is hard to live with, and the fact that it can affect your ability to make decisions makes things feel even worse. If you have a lot of difficulty making decisions, know that your anxiety can be the root of everything. You can and should talk to a relevant doctor or mental health professional to find ways to manage this crippling anxiety.


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