What is a “Decision Making Disorder”?


Yes, I made this up.

So, let me define a “Decision Making Disorder”. After working to bridge the gap of understanding, or lack of understanding, between clients, families, couples, for years, I realized we needed a better common language.

my clients

Clients come to because they “can’t stop fighting about money” or because they “don’t understand why she just won’t eat!” I noticed a connection, an underlying mystery driver… decisions. There are layers upon layers of thoughts and feelings that go into behaviors like eating or financial disorders. When we don’t understand these layers, we miss the hidden meaning entirely. These layers make up our “decision matrix”.

I began to discuss the following idea: What if we look at this as a decision making disorder, because everyone makes decisions.

the common factor

We make decisions all day, every day. Recent research suggests we make around 35,000 decisions each day! Imagine how your day goes if most of these decisions have the emotional intensity to either make or break your day, your year, even your life. Whether it’s a decision about food or finances - both can become external measures that can be used to manage internal shame and fear. You sit down to a meal and announce, “I am going on a diet tomorrow,” in order to passively convey to the table that you know you are making “a mistake by eating”. You walk into the store and tell your friend, “I am just going to look around,” when you know you already plan to buy new shoes. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, insecurity about how someone else will perceive our choices, can spark a lot of decision anxiety. Then, we go to great lengths to either make the “right” decision or avoid a decision completely. Until we are aware of our own decision matrix, we run through the “if this, then that” scenarios, we may puzzle ourselves as to why we are repeating behavior patterns. Therapy is the work that steps in between the “I want to do this,” and “Why did I do that again!” It provides space to identify what keeps getting in the way - because its a judgment free zone.

a universal approach to disorders

When I brought this more universal experience, decision making, to the conversation, I got head nods and “Oh! That helps make some sense of it!” This helps shift the focus from “Should he eat carbs?” or “Do I need to make a special meal for them so they will eat something at all?” to what is really going on. This can help move the conversation away from “Is debt good or bad?” or “How do I save money when I am always running out?” to the deeper issues underlying the outward questions. This helps to decrease some of the shame. It also opens space for each person’s decision matrix to be made known. It creates connection and empathy too.

This is what I mean when I say that it’s not about the money or the food. It’s so much more! Book a call today to explore your decision matrix.

wendy wright