Exposure therapy is one of the best ways of overcoming decidophobia, but it’s important to work with a mental health professional during this process.

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Every day, we make hundreds of decisions that affect our daily lives and our futures. Some of those decisions are easier to make, such as what to wear for the day or what to eat for dinner. Other decisions are much harder, such as which college to enroll in or what career to pursue.

Decision making isn’t always easy, and for some people, the thought and act of making decisions causes extreme anxiety and distress — a condition known as decidophobia. It’s a specific phobia that causes an irrational and extreme fear of making decisions.

Below, we’ll explore everything you need to know about decidophobia, including symptoms, examples, and treatment.

Decidophobia” is a term coined by Walter Kaufmann, a Harvard professor and philosopher, in his 1973 book “Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy.”

In his book, Kaufmann describes decidophobia as “the dread of making fateful decisions.” However, in modern psychology, decidophobia is a type of specific phobia — an extreme and irrational fear of a specific object or situation.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), people with decidophobia experience the following symptoms:

  • significant fear and anxiety about the act of making decisions
  • immediate anxiety and fear when faced with decision making
  • fear and anxiety that are disproportionate to the real danger of making a decision
  • avoidance behaviors that limit situations that require decision making
  • significant daily impairment because of this avoidance, fear, and anxiety

Any situation that requires making a decision can be a trigger for someone with decidophobia. In order to avoid this anxiety and discomfort, a person with this condition typically engages in avoidance behaviors.

For example, people with decidophobia may avoid making any decisions by themselves and instead rely on others to make big life decisions for them. Or they may avoid going to places or engaging in situations where they know they might have to make a decision — even a small one.

Decidophobia statistics

Decidophobia is a relatively under-researched phobia, so there aren’t many studies that explore how common it is. But here’s what we do know about the prevalence of specific phobias.

Data from 2007 suggests that specific phobia will affect roughly 12.5% of all adults in the United States in their lifetime. And a 2010 study of more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers found that 19.3% of participants met the criteria for specific phobia.

In addition, the 2007 data suggests that females are 1.5–2 times more likely to develop specific phobia than males, although age appears to affect the difference in prevalence rates.

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One of the first — and most important — steps in overcoming decidophobia is getting a diagnosis from a trained mental health professional such as a psychiatrist.

During your appointment, your therapist or psychiatrist will review the medical and mental health history of you and your family as well as your past and recent symptoms. If you meet the DSM-5 criteria for decidophobia, you’ll receive an official diagnosis and start treatment.

Treatment for specific phobia is generally the same no matter what type of phobia you have. Common treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and, if needed, medication.

Therapy

CBT is one of the most widely used and effective treatment approaches for anxiety disorders, including specific phobias. CBT teaches you the skills necessary to recognize and change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that fuel your symptoms.

While there are a handful of CBT approaches that are helpful for treating anxiety, experts consider exposure therapy the gold-standard approach for treating phobias.

Exposure therapy is a CBT approach that focuses on gradually exposing you to your fears in a safe and supportive environment. So, if you live with decidophobia, this means gradually working up to thinking about and making decisions.

Over time, exposure therapy can help reduce your anxiety when facing decisions and increase your self-confidence around decision making.

Medication

Because exposure therapy can sometimes cause an initial increase in anxiety and symptoms, some people benefit from taking medications to help manage their symptoms.

Antidepressants are one effective medication option for treating anxiety disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are typically the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for anxiety.

Benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, and antihistamines can also help manage the acute symptoms of anxiety, such as the physical symptoms that accompany panic attacks.

Why am I scared to make decisions?

It’s completely natural to experience anxiety over making decisions from time to time — especially major life decisions that are important to you.

But if your fear of making decisions is so severe that it’s affecting your ability to function in your daily life, it’s time to consider reaching out for help. Here are some resources to get you started on connecting with a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment:

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Decidophobia is a type of specific phobia that causes extreme and irrational anxiety about making decisions. It can significantly affect your day-to-day life and your relationships with yourself and others.

If you’ve been living with the symptoms of decidophobia, you’re not alone — and help is available. Consider reaching out to a doctor or a therapist to learn more about what treatment might look like for you.