Depression And The Inability To Make Decisions

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People who have become depressed tend to find it difficult to make decisions, even small, relatively insignificant decisions like what clothes to wear or where to go to get food. Without understanding the deeper existential psychology this uncertainty doesn’t make any sense, it seems kind of pathetic and can be really exasperating for friends and family members.

But depression is a decision, it’s the decision to check out, to give up on the present and the future, to become hopeless and despondent, to stop trying. The inability to make any decisions is just another symptom of this life orientation, a symptom that necessarily follows from it actually.

Most of the small, daily decisions we make in our lives are easy for us because they fit into the larger context of what we’re trying to get accomplished, into our projects and responsibilities. That underlying life orientation is the compass that helps us navigate the world. Imagine striding confidently through a vast wilderness, absolutely certain of which direction north lies and therefore of where and how far you need to go to reach civilization. Then all of a sudden you get spun around and completely lose your sense of direction. Certainty would instantly dissipate and hesitation would take its place. This hesitation would extend to your very next step, a seemingly small piece of the puzzle but an essential one within the larger context of reaching your destination.

From our existential point of view this is the best way to understand the link between depression and the inability to make decisions. Rollo May wrote that “Depression is the inability to construct a future.” A constructed future is the foundation upon which decisions in the present, big and small, are made. When that solid foundation is ripped away the natural response is to become uncertain of how to proceed in just about every facet of life.