11th Jan 2023
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can present in both children and adults. ADHD can cause difficulties in everyday functioning and educational or professional work. Although it is not officially a diagnosable condition, paralysis is a common symptom of ADHD, making it very difficult for people to complete or begin tasks .
ADHD paralysis is the term given to a symptom of ADHD in which a person feels unable to function due to feeling overwhelmed by a task, frozen by indecision, or overloaded with information and thoughts.
ADHD paralysis can cause people to struggle with tasks, schoolwork, or professional work, causing an inability to focus, thereby delaying the start of a task. It may also result in incomplete tasks that have been started, but the person feels unable to finish, or shifting tasks when attention is diverted elsewhere midway through a task .
People with ADHD may experience different symptoms within their condition. Hence, there may be many causes of ADHD paralysis, such as low self-esteem and worry causing a delay due to fear of failure; disorganization, causing an inability to prepare and begin a project; or poor memory, causing difficulty in formulating and retaining necessary information .
Mental paralysis occurs when someone feels overwhelmed or overloaded with information and struggles to process this information . They might then freeze or crash, feeling completely unable to do anything as they are unsure where to start or how to utilize the information.
For example, someone may be experiencing several thoughts and emotions at once, such as feeling worried about a project, excited about an upcoming party, and sad about the death of a pet. All these thoughts and emotions will feel overwhelming, causing difficulties in making sense of and managing them, thereby feeling stuck .
Choice paralysis occurs when someone faces several choices and struggles to decide. They may feel that there are too many choices and begin to overthink each choice, unable to conclude which option they should choose .
For example, looking at a menu with numerous options may cause choice paralysis. A person may start overanalyzing the options, considering every possibility and outcome, worrying that they will make the wrong choice and regret their decision, thereby feeling unable to come to a decision.
Task paralysis occurs when someone faces a task or several tasks that feel uninteresting, difficult, or overwhelming, and they feel unable to begin. This can cause them to freeze, procrastinate, or find their thoughts drifting elsewhere, intentionally or unintentionally avoiding the task .
For example, a parent asks their child to tidy their room full of clothes, toys, and trash. The child sees this task as overwhelming, struggling to know how or where they should begin, and instead stands looking at their room for a long time without moving or goes to play with their toys in a different room.
Procrastination refers to a delay or postponement in action and is something that most people have experienced at some point in their lives. Often, this may be caused by feeling too tired, lazy, or forgetful to begin or complete a task successfully or having poor time management .
However, while sporadic procrastination is common in the general population, someone with ADHD may experience chronic or repeated procrastination. Studies have shown a much higher prevalence of procrastination in people with ADHD, despite this not officially being a symptom in the DSM-5 .
Three types of procrastination that are very common for people with ADHD to experience, either alone or in combination, depending on their presenting symptoms . Although ADHD paralysis and chronic procrastination are not necessarily the same thing, they appear closely related .
Managing symptoms of ADHD can be best helped by gaining a diagnosis from a professional and receiving appropriate treatment in the form of medication or therapy. Various types of therapy can help to reduce ADHD paralysis, such as :