If you or someone your love have ADHD, especially the inattentive form, you know how hard it can be to focus. People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are easily distracted, struggle to unwind and calm their minds, and find it more challenging to focus on a specific task. This can make even simple tasks seem like an ordeal.
ADHD paralysis is a term used to capture the state of being stuck and lacking the motivation to do anything creatively. This article will discuss ADHD paralysis, its symptoms, and a few ideas to help anyone suffering from it.
So, What Is ADHD Paralysis?
ADHD paralysis is when someone’s thoughts or actions are slowed down by their inability to focus on what they’re doing at any given moment. It can also occur when someone has trouble concentrating on one thing at a time because they’re distracted by something else happening around them—like noise outside or someone talking nearby—and it can cause them to lose interest in whatever task they were working on before getting distracted by something else happening around them (like hearing their name called out by someone else).
This can happen when they’re trying to decide between two or more options or if they’re stuck on a problem with no clear answer. It can also occur when they are overwhelmed by the number of choices available, even if the options themselves aren’t complex.
For instance, if you have ADHD, getting started on a project or task might be challenging when it’s time to do so. You might feel like there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. You may also feel overwhelmed by all the options available at any given moment, making it hard to decide what to do next.
This can lead to procrastination and avoidance behaviors, such as putting off tasks until later or doing something else entirely. It seems easier than diving into whatever task is on your plate right now. In these situations, people with ADHD often find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of inaction—and they don’t know how to break out of it!
Symptoms of ADHD Paralysis
The symptoms of ADHD paralysis can vary from one person to the next. Some people have a mild case, while others have it more severely. The following are some of the most common symptoms:
- Trouble focusing on tasks, especially if there is any distraction (e.g., noise, sound, etc.)
- Trouble planning and paying attention to details of a project or task
- Difficulty staying focused on one topic during conversations, lectures, meetings, and other events (sometimes called “mind drift” or “space out”)
- Not being able to finish projects that you start without getting distracted by other things
- Forgetting essential dates and appointments (e.g., birthdays, holidays)
Why Does ADHD Paralysis Happen?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The brain of a person with ADHD has an impairment in its executive functions, which are responsible for planning, organization, time management, and memory. These problems can result in forgetfulness and disorganization that can cause someone with ADHD to be held back from accomplishing their goals or dreams.
ADHD Paralysis vs. Depression
ADHD paralysis can be hard to distinguish from depression. If you suffer from both conditions, it can be even more challenging to tell which is causing your symptoms. The two conditions have similar symptoms: low motivation, lack of interest, and a general sense of apathy. But you should be aware of some critical differences between ADHD paralysis and depression if you suspect you have either or both conditions.
Paralysis is the loss of muscle function that prevents voluntary movement. In people with ADHD, it can manifest as difficulty concentrating or staying on task. This can lead to procrastination or simply forgetting what you were doing before getting distracted by something else.
On the other hand, depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness for weeks. Depression can result from many things, such as genetics or chemical imbalances in the brain.
As discussed earlier, the symptoms associated with ADHD paralysis include:
- Inability to make decisions
- Impatience with your decision-making process
- Lack of focus on completing tasks or projects
Whereas the symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless most of the time
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed (e.g., hobbies, sex)
- Fatigue (feeling tired all day) or loss of energy almost every day that cannot be explained by anything else (for example, not getting enough sleep or physical illness)
ADHD Paralysis vs. Procrastination
ADHD paralysis and procrastination are two very different things. If you have ADHD, you might be familiar with the feeling of being stuck on a task that’s not even that difficult or time-consuming: You know what needs to be done, and you feel like you should be able to do it — but somehow, it just isn’t happening.
ADHD paralysis is often caused by distraction and disorganization. This can lead to long periods where nothing gets done because it’s hard to concentrate on one thing for a very long time. Because of this, people with ADHD may have no idea how to start a project or new endeavor — and sometimes even after it’s begun!
Procrastinating is something else entirely: It’s usually related to an aversion to doing something that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy (generally because we’re afraid we won’t be good at it). For example, if you hate cleaning your room but know your parents will get mad if they see all your clothes lying around, then putting off cleaning your room could be considered procrastination — especially if there’s a deadline on when you have to do it.
In simpler terms, procrastination and ADHD paralysis are similar in many ways, but there are some important differences between them:
- Procrastination is not a permanent problem; it’s only temporary. With ADHD paralysis, however, procrastination can become a chronic issue that lasts indefinitely.
- Procrastination is caused by laziness and lack of self-discipline. ADHD paralysis can also be caused by inactivity, but it’s often psychological rather than physical (it’s hard for someone with ADHD to get motivated).
- Procrastination is usually about putting off things we don’t want to do; ADHD paralysis is about avoiding things we want to do but is scared of failing or making mistakes.
How to Treat ADHD Paralysis?
The most effective treatment for ADHD is medication. However, many people with ADHD do not want to take medications or cannot due to side effects. Behavioral interventions are often used as an alternative treatment option in these cases.
Behavioral interventions include the following:
Cognitive therapy – this type of therapy can help you learn how to organize your time better and learn how to manage stress more effectively.
Exercise – regular exercise can improve attention span and decrease hyperactivity in those with ADHD.
Social skills training – teaching appropriate social skills can help improve communication between individuals with ADHD and their peers. It also helps them learn how to manage their feelings in stressful situations by allowing them to express themselves appropriately rather than through aggressive behavior or withdrawal from social problems (i.e., “acting out”).
Additionally, there are many other ways people cope with ADHD paralysis.
- Permit yourself to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s OK to say, “I’m having a hard time today.”
- Get organized! Make lists, color-code your calendar, etc.
- Get help! Ask friends or family members to help you out when they can. Have someone check in on you occasionally or take some of the burdens off your shoulders by doing some of the tasks for you, like paying bills and scheduling appointments.
- Use the buddy system! If you know someone who has ADHD too and understands what it’s like, ask them if they want to do something with you or if they’ll offer some company when it gets awful (like when there are many things due at once). They can also advise you on how they’ve successfully dealt with their problems (since everyone’s situation is different).
People with ADD and ADHD often suffer from intense bouts of inertia. This inertia is both one of the most frustrating aspects of being inattentive and one of the most life-limiting. This paralysis can severely limit a person’s ability to act on their motivational system’s wishes or discern between actionable items.
Some people may get help with ADHD, but not everyone is the same. If you are one of these people who suffer from this condition, it can help to hear that you are not alone and these other people have either learned to cope with their ADHD or turned to medication to help.
So, speak with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. You could have an underlying physical condition or other mental health disorder, so it’s essential to have your ADHD medically diagnosed before beginning any treatment program. Your physician will help you come to the proper conclusion about the best ADHD treatment.
- Brown, T. E. (2009). ADD/ADHD and impaired executive function in clinical practice. Current Attention Disorders Reports, 1(1), 37–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12618-009-0006-3
- McGough, J. J. (2016). Treatment controversies in adult ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(10), 960–966. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15091207