What is ADHD Task Paralysis?

kid feeling overwhelmed in a classroom

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects executive function skills. People with ADHD often struggle to complete tasks promptly or orderly. The symptoms of ADHD vary in severity and presentation from person to person; people with the condition often feel overwhelmed, struggle with time management, and have trouble prioritizing tasks. 

ADHD task paralysis is more than just struggling to prioritize and complete tasks. When someone is experiencing ADHD paralysis, they shut down mentally and are unable to figure out where to start and what steps to take next. 

If you are someone you know has ADHD, you might be wondering what the symptoms of ADHD paralysis are and how to combat them. How can someone with ADHD avoid paralysis when completing tasks? Are there different types of ADHD paralysis? 

Key Takeaways

ADHD paralysis is a symptom of ADHD that makes it highly challenging for a person to complete tasks.

Paralysis occurs when a person with ADHD is overstimulated. 

There are three different types of ADHD paralysis: brain crashing, overthinking, and procrastination.

What is ADHD Task Paralysis?

ADHD task paralysis is a symptom of ADHD with its own subset of symptoms. ADHD paralysis occurs when a person is overwhelmed either by information or stimuli and cannot make a decision. Many of the symptoms are similar or related to regular symptoms of ADHD but may be more intense. Someone experiencing ADHD paralysis may experience more difficulty than is typical completing tasks.

Symptoms of ADHD Paralysis

  • Overthinking or overanalyzing problems
  • Unable to start projects
  • Unable to prioritize tasks
  • Unable to maintain focus and easily distracted
  • Poor time management or time blindness
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty listening
  • Jumping from one task to another
  • Losing train of thought
  • Lack of focus
  • Brain fog
  • Avoiding tasks requiring sustained focus

Related Post: ADHD vs. Autism: What’s the Difference?

boy sleeping at desk
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Types of ADHD Paralysis

There are three different types of paralysis that a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can experience. Understanding the three types and what causes them can help you overcome and treat ADHD paralysis. 

Procrastination

Procrastination is the most common form of task paralysis. Procrastination or task avoidance occurs when people with ADHD feel unmotivated to begin a task. Their lack of motivation is often from hesitancy, fear, or disinterest. 

Brain Crash

Brain crash is also known as ADHD mental paralysis. Someone experiencing this paralysis is overwhelmed by emotions, thoughts, or sensory overload, causing their brain to “freeze” or crash. 

Overthinking

Overthinking, analysis paralysis, or ADHD choice paralysis, occurs when a person is faced with too many choices at once. When presented with too many options, a person with ADHD might over-analyze them, becoming overwhelmed and unable to make a decision. 

How Do I Overcome ADHD Paralysis?

There are several ways to overcome and treat ADHD paralysis. Some methods work immediately, while others are more effective when used daily or with advanced planning. You will need to find what works for you or your child, but all of these strategies aim to improve your mental health and productivity. 

  • Simplify Your Day: Avoid overloading your schedule with too many things in one day to decrease ADHD choice paralysis. It is ok to say “No” to bringing snacks to the soccer game if you already have a doctor’s appointment and a presentation that day. The less on your plate, the less you’ll feel overwhelmed.
  • Prioritize: Create a daily, written list of all the tasks you need to complete. Then, work through them and prioritize tasks. Cross off anything that doesn’t need to be completed today. Use your phone or Alexa device to create reminders.  
  • Reward Yourself: If you have a big task ahead of you, motivate yourself with a reward. Perhaps if you finish the task by 3 PM, you’ll have time to spend an hour reading, or you can stop by Starbucks on the way to get the kids. 
  • Create Realistic Goals: Keep your goals realistic. Be honest about what you can achieve in a set amount of time. 
  • Add Movement: Movement breaks are an excellent way to get the blood flowing and your brain pumping again. Try some jumping jacks, stretches, or a walk around the block.
  • Engage in Hobbies: All work and no play can distract the brain. It is important to have time for things you love. If your child needs the boost, talk to them about signing up for a music or dance class or joining a sports team. 
  • Keep It Interesting: Try working or doing homework in a new location. Or try a standing desk. Maybe it’s time for a room remodel. Sometimes, small changes to your setup or routine can jog the brain.
  • Limit Distractions: Distractions add stimulation, and overstimulation causes mental paralysis in ADHD children. Put electronics and phones in another room, dim the lighting, and consider using noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. 
kid with a behavioral therapist
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Does Therapy Help ADHD Paralysis?

Therapy is a standard treatment option for people with ADHD. If you or your child has ADHD and is already in therapy, speak with your therapist about signs of ADHD paralysis you’ve noticed. 

Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied behavioral analysis (ABA), helps develop practical skills, positive coping strategies when feeling overwhelmed, and methods to change thoughts and behaviors.

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps manage the underlying feelings that can cause paralysis—for example, fear of failure, anxiety, low self-esteem, and frustration. 

Family therapy: ADHD symptoms can cause frustration and disappointment for the person with ADHD and their family. Family therapy is often helpful to discuss and manage these feelings and to develop a better understanding and management of the symptoms of ADHD.

More Resources

For additional information on ADHD paralysis, visit the links below. 

Author

  • L. Elizabeth Forry

    L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding autism, ADHD, mental health, social-emotional development, and gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics related to early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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