Living with depression can make even the smallest decisions a challenge, but there are ways to help make decision making easier.

Feelings of loneliness or sadness, a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, and feelings of hopelessness — these are all hallmarks of depression.

But these are not the only symptoms.

During a depressive episode, you may find it hard to concentrate or stay focused. Or, you may find it difficult to stay motivated. All this can make even the smallest decisions — like what to wear to work or eat for dinner — feel overwhelming.

You’re not alone.

Indecision is a common challenge for those living with depression, but there are ways to overcome it and make decision making a little easier.

The simple answer: Yes.

In fact, trouble making decisions is one of the most common psychological symptoms of depression. Other depression symptoms — such as difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation — can make decision making even harder.

Research suggests that major depression can affect the decision making process. In a 2020 study, researchers evaluated the decision making tasks — such as punishment and reward and persistence tasks — of people with moderate to severe depression and people without depression.

It was found that people with major depression performed worse in those tasks than those without.

Many of us face difficulty making decisions from time to time. But if indecision happens more often than usual, something else may be at play.

So, how can you tell if your indecisiveness is being caused by your depression? You may regularly experience:

  • fear of regretting your choice
  • fear of making the wrong choice
  • feeling overwhelmed by options
  • a lack of motivation to choose
  • not caring about the outcome
  • not knowing how to approach a choice
  • taking a long time to make a choice

Depression is also commonly linked to anxiety disorders, with up to 46% of people with a lifetime history of depression also having a lifetime history of one or more anxiety disorders.

Anxiety can also influence your decision making, creating worry that you’ll make the wrong choice or a choice you’ll regret later.

While it can feel impossible at times, there are ways you can manage your indecisiveness. Consider trying these strategies.

  • Break big decisions down to smaller ones. Rather than looking at the decision as a whole, try to break it up into smaller steps. Determine your starting point, then think about each step along the way. This can help make the decision feel less daunting and more doable.
  • Create a checklist. If there are multiple steps to the decision, creating a checklist can help you keep track of what’s been done and what’s left to do.
  • Eliminate too many options. This can help with those day-to-day decisions, like what you’ll eat for lunch or wear to work. Consider eliminating the options by prepping your meals or choosing your wardrobe for the week.
  • Reflect on past decisions. When you feel as if you’ll make the wrong choice (or one you’ll regret later), consider reflecting on times you’ve made the right decision in the past. Recent research shows that focusing on what you’ve gotten right can help improve your judgement, so you feel comfortable making good decisions moving forward.
  • Talk with trusted friends or loved ones. Sometimes talking the decision through with someone you trust can give you another opinion or perspective.
  • Make a list of pros and cons. Consider making a list of the positives and the negatives surrounding the decision. This may help you see the decision at different angles.
  • Journal about your feelings. Expressing your emotions throughout the process in a journal may help you reflect on the process later and see what worked and how you can improve it.
  • Set a deadline and stick to it. If you’re deciding on a big decision, like a new purchase or career change, create a deadline for your final decision and stick to it. But try to give yourself enough time, so you don’t feel rushed.

Remember that you’re not alone. There are online groups where you can connect with others who may have similar experiences.

If you’re living with depression, there are also many options that may help clear up cloudy decisions and ease other symptoms. Here are some tips to try:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Be aware of and actively cope with triggers.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Get quality sleep.
  • Spend time outdoors.
  • Reach out to loved ones.
  • Establish and follow a routine.
  • Practice meditation or mindfulness.

Seeking help from a mental health professional might also help. They can provide you with tools and resources to help manage your symptoms. This may include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

In a 2016 study, researchers examined how antidepressants affected the cognitive abilities of 1,008 adults with depression. They concluded that the medications had no impact on improving cognitive problems caused by depression, including decision making abilities. However, more research is needed.

We can all have trouble making decisions — from big decisions, like what house to buy, to smaller ones, like what to make for dinner.

But when you live with depression, it can be even more of a challenge. But there are ways you can help make decision making easier.

For example, you can break big decisions up to smaller ones or eliminate certain choices from your day.

If decision making is becoming a larger challenge over time or your indecisiveness is affecting your day-to-day life, consider reaching out a mental health professional. They can work with you to create a plan that works for you and your lifestyle.