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Let’s talk about ADHD and decision making.

Decisions, decisions, decisions… So many to make, so little time.

Let’s Talk ADHD and Decisions

I know that making a decision can be tough for anyone, neuro-typical and neuro-atypical alike. There are pros and cons to weigh out, outcomes to consider, and steps to follow through on. And if you could guess already, those three actions alone are enough to make someone with ADHD shut down and stop considering the decision altogether.

And I don’t mean only on big things either.

We can get stuck on the small stuff like “what’s for dinner?” or “should I write a blog post about making decisions?” It’s not easy to make up your mind when your mind is coming up with a million different outcomes from a simple question.

Why Is It So Hard?

There are a few reasons why having ADHD makes decision making so tough, including our tendency to overgeneralize everything, our “all or nothing” thinking patterns, as well as our ability to jump to conclusions faster than you can blink an eye.

Let’s look at these three traits in a little more detail:


“Everything sucks.” I hear you, teenage angst Matthew. With ADHD, we believe we see a pattern based on a single event, even though we all know a single data point is worthless. Or even if we do have more than one data point, we tend to make very broad conclusions, lumping everything together. Hence, two days of rain in an otherwise sunny week makes us bemoan, “It rained all week long!”

All Or Nothing

“Either I do it right, or I don’t do it at all.” 1s and 0s. Black and white. No grey zone between them. This type of thinking leads us to freeze in our tracks. There’s never any middle ground to land on, so we avoid making decisions that we find muddled, not quite sure if we agree with the outcome. Or we avoid doing activities we’ve never tried before, afraid to fail on the first attempt. But as Jake the Dog said:

Jake the Dog on a couch saying "Sucking at something is the first step toward being kind of good at something."

Jumping To Conclusions

If this were an Olympic sport, we’d come in first every time. With ADHD, we tend to think we can read people’s minds (That person I never met before gave me a weird look which means they hate me) or tell the future (If I go downhill skiing, I’ll fall and break my leg and end up having to have it amputated). Because of this, we think we know the outcome of the decision already, and have made up our minds that it’s not worth doing.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Not being able to make decisions leaves your friendly neighbourhood ADHDer in a state of paralysis. Analysis paralysis some might say. Trying to think of every little outcome that might happen gets us worked up to a point where, sooner or later, we’ll just give up and stop trying to make a decision. We might go hungry trying to think of what to eat. Maybe we miss a night out trying to decide on a movie. Could be that we fall asleep on the couch while selecting what to watch on Netflix.

There are so many decisions to be made!

Let’s Talk About Writing and Decisions

Wow, where does one start on this topic? (See this is another decision to make!)

When you are writing, be it a novel, novella, short story, or any other type of prose, you need to decide on what information to add, what to leave out, and where you want the story to go. These are all huge decisions, and can make even the best writers sit at a keyboard for days, months, even years (looking at you, G.R.R.M.) with the worse case of writer’s block they’ve ever endured.

Overgeneralizing what people with think (They’ll all hate my character’s story arc), thinking that everyone will have that same reaction to the story, and fortune telling that you’ll never sell the book are just some of the ways we get into our own heads and stop trying to make decisions. Then the story sits, unwritten, and another aspiring writer becomes a statistic.

So What Can We Do About It?

One thing I’ve learned, thanks to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), is that you can ask yourself 3 simple questions about the decision to see if you’re overthinking the whole thing or if it really will be as bad as you think.

Start by making a list.

Write out the Worst Case Scenario, the Best Case Scenario, and the Most Likely To Happen Scenario on a piece of paper.

It’s as simple as that.

Once you have them written out in front of you, you’ll probably see how much you were overthinking the decision, and how the Most Likely To Happen scenario is actually what is most likely to happen.


Should I publish this short story I just wrote about robots falling in love during springtime in Paris?

Worst Case Scenario

Everyone will hate it, my name will be ruined and I’ll never sell another story as long as I live. I’ll end up in poverty and living in a ditch, with only my unfinished manuscripts as a blanket to keep me warm at night. Who would ever want to read something as stupid as robots falling in love, in spring, in Paris?

Best Case Scenario

It’ll be an international best seller! I’ll make millions off it and be the next Stephen King! Everyone loves a good romance, and the sci-fi spin will draw in the rest. And think of the money I’ll make translating it to French. Oh-la-la!

Most Likely Scenario

Some people will like it, some people won’t. There will be a group people that want to read a love story, a group that will want to read a story about robots, and others that will want to read about springtime in Paris. Those that don’t like it, they might say something, but that’s not the audience I’m writing this story for, so I shouldn’t take their criticism seriously.

Out of all of these, which is most grounded in reality? The last one, the one that is most likely to happen.

BTW, I don’t have a story about robots falling in love in spring in Paris.


So, Don’t Let A Decision Stand In Your Way

It’s important think through a decision, especially one that is life changing or impacts another living being. But for someone with ADHD, even small decisions can be difficult and cause stress as we battle our brain while it throws all kinds of outcome scenarios at us.

So the next time you look at someone holding up a line, trying to make up their mind, and you think to yourself “just make a decision already”, remember, they might not be able to. The might be stuck in analysis paralysis.

It’s hard to understand what others are going through, so let’s be kind and patient with people.

That’s an easy decision to make.

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