OCD Indecision: Signs, Causes, and How to Manage

Rumination, fear of uncertainty, and doubt may be causes of indecision in OCD.

OCD indecision isn’t well understood but may be linked to the formal symptoms of OCD and the tendency to engage in rumination.

“OCD is also known as the ‘doubting disorder,’” explains Dr. Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist from Greenwich, Connecticut. “The cause for this doubt comes from the fact that OCD makes you obsess over certain thoughts and in the case of making decisions, may cause indecision.”

A 2016 paper about indecision in people with OCD suggests that doubt, uncertainty, and lack of confidence may have neurological underpinnings.

This means that how you process information and arrive at any decision may be already hardwired into your brain. These unique thought paths in your brain can make certain decision-making processes take longer.

Doubt

Doubt may play an important role in OCD indecision.

A 2018 study found that fear of guilt was prominent among people living with OCD and was directly related to feelings of doubt about making a choice.

In 2020, researchers found that people living with OCD often doubt the validity of their past experiences. So, even if they’ve already successfully made a decision in the past, a similar decision may require thought and evaluation each time.

Lack of clarity

If you can’t clearly foresee or anticipate the results of your actions, your brain may not be as quick to make a decision.

In a small 2015 study, researchers noted that indecision in OCD was most prevalent when decision outcomes were vague or unclear to the person making the decision. Not having a clear vision of what’s to come was linked to less choice consistency, and a lower value placed on the decision itself.

Maximization

A two-study comparison from 2018 found people living with OCD have a drive to maximize when making decisions.

Maximize refers to getting the most out of the decision. This push can ultimately keep you from making a decision, as you weigh each pro and con of your choices against one another and may constantly find a “but” or “what if.”