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Autism & Choices: Why Making Decisions is Hard for Me as an Autistic Person

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Something that I (and many) Autistic People struggle with can be difficulty in making choices “on the spot” or as quickly as some non-autistic people would expect us to. 

There are times when I can make choices quickly (when I have enough information to make a choice, and the outlooks of that choice appear overwhelmingly positive with minimal possibility of adverse outcomes resulting from that choice).

However, suppose I’m asked to make a quick decision about something I know little about, don’t understand, or have a reference for. In that case, I may be unable to make a quick decision (or a decision at all) because I need first to learn, study, absorb, and understand all the possible outcomes and their likelihoods before making a choice, which can be a skill.

I am and always have been, driven by the question “Why?” and my need to understand things is core to who I am and how I function in all areas of my life, sometimes to a fault. 

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Using an analytical lens can be beneficial if applied to complex decisions.

I’m questioning and analytical. I digest things and tear them apart, seeing patterns and facts that I often cannot put into words.

Neither good nor bad, my intense questioning and need to understand has led me to many successes and failures in life.

It is a skill, and it is a blessing. It plagues me, and it is a curse. 

Unfortunately, my need to weigh the pros and cons when making choices isn’t limited to the big decisions in life.

To my frustration, I often find myself weighing (and overthinking) the pros and cons of many decisions that could be much simpler than I make them. 

I see myself complicating my life and know I’m making things more difficult, but I still cannot snap out of these loops once I get stuck in them. 

For example: picking a soup in the grocery store when my regular soup option is unavailable can’t be as simple as grabbing a soup that “looks good” and getting on with my day, as it would for many people. 

When I reach the soup aisle, I have a specific soup in mind, with a few particular backup soups in case my primary soup is unavailable.

If we’re shopping at a new store and they don’t have my regular soups, or if the store doesn’t have any of my soup options, my brain will likely do one of two things. 

If I’m not feeling “out of it” (because the grocery store takes a lot of me), I may start looking for another new soup I’ve never tried. 

I can’t “just pick a soup.” I have to make an informed decision about the new soup I am considering bringing into my life. 

I must carefully consider the information and options at hand.

What’s the price of the soup? How many servings are in each container, and what’s the cost per serving? 

This might not be “just a soup” what if it becomes my new favorite soup?

If this new soup becomes my favorite soup, it can’t be too expensive because an expensive same food (a food I eat every day) could add up costs and wouldn’t be good for me to get hooked on.

I had to drop my favorite soup recently because they raised the price considerably (though I still occasionally have it as a treat). 

Also, we live in an RV and are very mindful of how much trash and waste we create, so I consider the preparations and cleanup of the foods we buy, as well as how they will be stored (and if we have room to store them) considering what we have on board as well as the other groceries we’re buying that day. 

After considering the value, preparation, and storage requirements for my soup (or any food item I buy), I can evaluate the quality and desirability of my food options. This includes comparing the various ingredients of the different things I’m trying to weigh out, looking for digestive irritants and sensory food triggers, and imagining what each item will taste like, hoping to find one I can tolerate that won’t make me sick.

My mind branches off into all the available outcomes and possibilities, which can be overwhelming, causing me to freeze up and become stuck, spinning in all the information. 

Mind chatter: A cluster of thoughts, clutter, exhausting loops, circling, questions, and “what if’s” that aren’t limited to soup but whenever I consider doing or trying most new things.

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