ADHD Paralysis: Understand & Beat It


When people talk about feeling paralyzed, they mean that their entire body essentially freezes up, despite how their mind may be filled with racing thoughts. Having your mind or body “paralyzed” can make you feel helpless and out of control of your own body. People with ADHD often report feeling paralyzed. ADHD paralysis is an overwhelming sensation that can interfere with your ability to complete responsibilities. While your body is still able to move freely, your mind is too flooded to think effectively.

We’ll talk about what ADHD paralysis is as well as the signs and symptoms to be aware of. Then we’ll discuss the different types of ADHD paralysis before providing tips to help you beat them.


What is ADHD paralysis?

Let’s start off with a description. ADHD paralysis is not a diagnosis. It’s a term that’s often used to describe a common symptom of ADHD known as overwhelm freeze. Despite the name, ADHD doesn’t make your body difficult to move, but it makes your mind difficult to move forward.

ADHD paralysis refers to feeling overwhelmed by a situation or your surroundings, causing your mind to feel completely stuck, or “paralyzed.” ADHD paralysis can make it difficult to process information or make decisions.


Symptoms: What ADHD paralysis looks and feels like

If ADHD paralysis doesn’t look or feel like typical paralysis, then how do you know when you’re experiencing it? Although it’s not physically recognizable, ADHD paralysis can impact your emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It manifests differently from person to person.

Here are common symptoms of ADHD paralysis:

  • Being stuck on one task or activity
  • Inability to break a loop of indecision 
  • Difficulty initiating action on a task
  • Poor time management or time blindness
  • Difficulty paying attention or actively listening
  • Brain fog
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Losing train of thought


3 types of ADHD paralysis

There are many different scenarios that can be overwhelming for a person with ADHD, which can trigger paralysis symptoms. They can all be categorized as mental, task and choice paralysis. 

By understanding the different types of situations or mindsets that can result in ADHD paralysis, you can get a better idea of how to anticipate and manage the symptoms in the future. 

  • Mental paralysis — It can be overwhelming when you feel flooded by emotions, your mind won’t stop racing and your internal monologue seems to run in all directions. ADHD mental paralysis means that you’re unsure what to say or do next because your mind feels like it has crashed. It can occur when you feel like your brain is unable to process an excessive amount of information, thoughts, emotions or stimuli.
  • Task paralysis — The hardest part of a to-do list is getting started. If you feel overwhelmed by the time commitment, importance or difficulty of a task, it can lead to task paralysis. It’s characterized by hesitancy and lack of motivation to handle the task. Task paralysis is a trigger for many ADHD symptoms, such as lack of focus and inattention, because ADHD affects the part of the brain used for the Executive Functioning needed to handle tasks.
  • Choice paralysis — Commonly known as analysis paralysis, choice paralysis refers to feeling overwhelmed by the possible options or consequences of a decision. It can lead to overthinking or overanalyzing the choices that you’re being forced to pick from. You may also shut down the process completely until it resolves itself or an obvious solution is made apparent. 


How to beat ADHD paralysis (of any type)

The thing about ADHD paralysis is that it can make you feel like your mind is completely stuck and that you’ll never break out of it. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you push through ADHD paralysis. With the right strategies, you can take the necessary steps to handle your responsibilities, make necessary decisions, and work through your thoughts and emotions despite the paralyzed feeling. 

Whether you’re experiencing mental, task or choice paralysis, here are some ways to beat it:

  • Talk to a professional — If you find that you’re having recurring ADHD paralysis, then there are a couple types of professionals that you can talk to. By talking to a psychotherapist, you can learn the underlying cause of your ADHD paralysis as well as understand the triggers. You can also talk to an Executive Functioning coach to help you find management techniques for your ADHD paralysis that will help make you more productive. 
  • Move your body — When you’re starting to recognize symptoms of ADHD paralysis, give yourself a movement break. By taking a moment to step away from the overwhelming situation to walk around the block or jog in place, you’re giving your mind a break so you can refocus when you return. You should also incorporate exercise into your regular routine as a way to reduce the stress that can contribute to paralysis while releasing endorphins to boost your overall mental health. 
  • Don’t focus on perfection — For many people, a common factor in every type of paralysis is the desire for perfection. Mental paralysis can stem from being overwhelmed by feelings of shame or guilt from not achieving perfection. Task paralysis can come from being worried that a task can’t be completed perfectly. Choice paralysis comes from the fear of not making the right or “perfect” decision. Focus on addressing the situation to the best of your ability to alleviate the ADHD paralysis symptoms.
  • Reward yourself — While the journey is what’s important, it’s OK to be excited about the destination. Set up a reward system for when you’re facing a situation that can trigger your ADHD paralysis. By letting yourself enjoy a sweet treat after making a hard decision or ordering in food at the end of a productive task-filled day, you’re motivated to complete the hurdle in the first place.
  • Break it down — There are many situations that can trigger ADHD paralysis due to their daunting nature, whether that be tackling a to-do list or making an important decision. It can be helpful to break the situation into smaller, more manageable steps to reduce the risk of feeling overwhelmed. This can mean everything from setting up a timer for short breaks during a task to isolating details of a situation to make them easier to process.


Free resource: ADHD Success Kit


Beyond BookSmart helps you improve Executive Functioning to beat ADHD paralysis

We understand that ADHD paralysis can be frustrating. But there are many stress management techniques and coping strategies that can make a difference when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or “frozen.” Whether you decide to reward yourself after completing a task or take a walk when you’re having trouble making a decision, you can figure out what works best for you to break out of your ADHD paralysis.

ADHD paralysis can be alleviated by addressing the Executive Functions that are required to handle overwhelming situations, such as organization, emotional regulation and time management. At Beyond BookSmart, we have Executive Function coaching services to help you improve your Executive Function skills. These are life management skills that we all need in order to be effective in planning, initiating and achieving goals at home, in school and in the workplace.

Executive Dysfunction refers to cognitive, emotional and behavioral difficulties that can interfere with every facet of someone’s life, including their academic, professional and personal lives. While Executive Dysfunction can affect everyone, it impacts up to 90% of those with ADHD. 

Executive Function skills are coachable, trainable and can be applied for success. Whether you have a learning difference, such as ADHD, an emotional challenge, such as anxiety, or you’re just struggling to reach your Executive Function potential, Beyond BookSmart services can help you see what you’re capable of.

Contact our team today for more information on ADHD support.

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