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Why is my friend so anxious and indecisive?

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Dear Life Coach,

I have an 18-year-old female friend and lately she has been very anxious and indecisive about every little thing, such as whether she should have cereal or a ripe banana for breakfast, whether she should wear a black dress or a red one. She takes hours to decide on every little thing and it is driving me crazy. I use to enjoy hanging out with her; she has been my best friend since Form 1, but now I am not so sure I even like being around her.{{more}}

Frustrated Friend (FF)

Dear FF,

You are frustrated about your friend’s indecisiveness and it makes you want to quit hanging out with her.

Your Situation:

Here are some factors that have contributed to your present situation: Aboulomania – definition, causes, and treatment. I will address these briefly.

Definition of Aboulomania

Aboulomania refers to a mental disorder in which an individual displays pathological indecisiveness, which in turn causes mental anguish and poor social functioning.

Causes of Aboulomania

At present the exact cause of Aboulomania is unknown. However, some researchers believe that biological factors, as well as authoritarian or overprotective parenting styles contribute to the presence of this disorder. Aboulomania may also be co-morbid with depression, anxiety, and stress.

What to Do:

Encourage Independence

Give your friend room to make simple daily decisions; for example, what to have for lunch; when you go to a restaurant together, wait for her to make a choice instead of hastening her or making the decision for her. Assure her that there is no right or wrong in choosing a particular meal. Once a food choice has been made, give your friend a verbal reward such as, well done.

Endorse Imperfections

Individuals who suffer from Aboulomania are stuck on indecisiveness because they have a strong tendency to be perfectionists and do not want to make the slightest mistake with anything. So, let your friend know that it is okay to give room for error, because no one is perfect and some mistakes are harmless; for example, in sampling a new ice cream flavour she may find that it is not to her liking. However, in this case she can try another, and another until there is a good fit. So, encourage her to do simple experiments of this nature.

Reduce Options

Since decision-making is problematic for individuals who suffer from Aboulomania family and friends could help with reducing the possible options in your friend’s life, for example, by setting out one suit of clothing for an occasion or serving one dish at meal times. This means that your friend would need to have someone who is assigned to take care of her in that regard.

Empowerment

Get your friend involved in one attainable activity so that she will have a sense of achievement which will help her to feel empowered (knowing that she has the power to do or accomplish something). Once this is realized, another activity could be added.

Get the Support of Family and Friends

Help her family members and other friends to understand that she is not trying to be difficult, but that she has a mental disorder, an illness like any other. Enlist all parties to help bolster self-esteem and self-confidence with positive statements and allowing her to make her own choices.

Assertiveness Training

Your friend would benefit from assertiveness training, in which she learns to speak her mind clearly, politely, and positively, in order to have her needs met, instead of being passive and accepting and or performing everything that other people suggest. By so doing, she will experience self-efficacy and come to own who she is as a person.

Depression

Given the nature of your friend’s illness she is likely to be suffering from depression, a feeling of severe despondency and dejection. She should therefore be assessed for depressive disorder, as well as suicidal thoughts or tendencies and this must be given immediate attention.

Anxiety

Based on your friend’s condition, she may also be experiencing anxiety, which refers to a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something that has an uncertain outcome. It also refers to a strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen. Your friend, therefore, needs to be constantly reassured by her significant others that everything is okay.

Stress

Stress refers to a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding situations in one’s life that requires us to change or adapt. Since stress is also a factor in this disorder, family and friends should help to reduce pressure or tension from daily hassles in your friend’s life, as well as minimize or cushion the impact of major changes.

Seek Professional Help

If depression, stress, or anxiety becomes severe, it will become necessary for your friend to seek medical attention for medication. Seeking the help of a psychotherapist may also be important in order to explore the root of the problem. Also the use of behavioural approach in therapy may be beneficial in confronting negative thought patterns and conducting assertiveness training.

FF, it is great that you care so much about your friend. I hope you will be able to give her some support in her time of need. Take care and all the best.

Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach, Dr Adams, a licensed clinical psychologist. Please note that all correspondence to the Life Coach is confidential and the cases presented are modified in order to maintain the anonymity of each writer. Dynamic Action Centre International Inc (DYNACII) is a non-governmental organization, committed to social and spiritual empowerment. For more information on DYNACII please visit: http://www.dynacii.com

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