ADHD paralysis can be a frustrating state to be in, and even more challenging to break out of. Read on to learn more about it, and for a list of useful apps that could help you manage you or your loved one’s ADHD paralysis.
What is ADHD paralysis?
Do you have ADHD, and sometimes feel like you’re frozen in place, unable to stop what you’re doing and move on to tasks that you know need to be done? Suddenly, that thing that was supposed to be finished 3 hours ago hasn’t even been started, even though you’ve been thinking about it the whole time…
This state is known as ADHD paralysis, and is a familiar feeling for people with ADHD. Although it might sound similar to procrastination, which is when we put off tasks that we don’t want to do, ADHD paralysis is different because it often feels uncontrollable, compared to the conscious act of procrastination.
Getting stuck in ADHD paralysis may mean falling behind on deadlines or commitments, and may induce additional stress and anxiety as a result.
Why does it happen?
People with ADHD may have impaired executive functioning skills, which means a reduced ability to effectively prioritize, plan, make decisions, and manage time. If you can’t plan or decide how you’re going to start a task, you get stuck in the paralysis state.
ADHD paralysis can also be triggered when we’re overwhelmed with too much information, or too many options or instructions. That difficulty with planning makes it tricky to escape the onslaught of things that need mental processing and prioritizing.
Another reason why ADHD paralysis may take over is an internal fear of failure, and a desire for perfection. It might feel too overwhelming to start something if we feel like we won’t be able to finish it, or that we won’t be able to do it exactly right.
Effective ways to overcome ADHD paralysis
Licensed psychotherapist Laurie Singer suggests “using a whiteboard and a planner to physically write down tasks in the order they are to be completed and by what time” to support accurate planning, which can be difficult for some people with ADHD and contribute to ADHD paralysis.
Following this, Singer suggests actively marking tasks as completed can hack the ADHD brain and encourage us to keep going: “When we set a goal and work to reach it, there’s a real sense of accomplishment, irrespective of the size of the goal… By crossing off that completed task we’re conditioning ourselves to repeat the process and generating intrinsic motivation to move forward.”
Pediatric neuropsychologist Christy Hom speaks to the value in overcoming the fear of failure: “Starting a task is more than half the battle. Don’t worry about not being able to finish it all within one sitting and don’t wait for when you have ‘more time’ – that’s what leads to procrastination.” To cope with an internal desire for perfection, Hom suggests that “Most things don’t have to be done perfectly… They just have to be done.”
Based on why ADHD paralysis happens and the above expert advice, we’ve curated a list of apps below that might help you take control of your ADHD paralysis.
Best apps to help you break free from ADHD paralysis
TickTick is a powerful task management app. You can easily add to-do tasks, and break them down into checklists so you can see each step you need to achieve. You can also set up multiple reminders so you are notified often about what you need to get done, which might help ‘un-stick’ you from the frozen ADHD paralysis state.
It also includes many other features, such as sharing lists so others can help keep you accountable, and calendar views and priority tags to help you plan better.
Link to TickTick Website
Beeminder is all about sticking to your commitments, and it’s perfect for keeping you motivated once you’ve started a task or project. After you’ve set a measurable goal, you sign a contract, and if you don’t make good progress on your goal, Beeminder will charge you a pre-determined amount of money.
Talk about tough love, but sometimes that extra kick is what we need to stay on track. Beeminder also has the option to integrate with a number of other platforms to help measure your goals, including FitBit, Duolingo, Gmail and more.
Link to Beeminder Website
AppBlock helps keep distractions at bay and minimize endless scrolling, which is common when in ADHD paralysis. With a few taps, you can limit access to certain apps on your phone, so that they can no longer be opened or send you notifications for a period of time. It also works for some browsers, so you can block websites.
Link to AppBlock Website
Human Health is a free mobile app that helps you track signs and symptoms daily, such as feeling overwhelmed, and difficulty planning. You can also use it to track any treatments or interventions you may be using.
The app provides you with insights about how your symptoms are changing over time, helping you break out of ADHD paralysis by learning more about what’s helping and what’s hurting your focus and task management.
You can download the app here, or by searching for ‘Human Health’ on the App Store or Google Play.
Link to Human Health Website
Plantie is a time management app that helps you maintain focus once you’ve started a task by growing digital plants. Once a session has started, if you navigate out of the app, the growth of your plant will be interrupted. Staying on task allows you to collect badges, and unlock more fruits to add to your collection. It also helps you keep track of your progress over time.
Apps like Plantie that provide instant gratification through badges or collectibles are great for ADHD brains, which are stimulated by rewards that make us happy.
Link to Plantie Website
Reach out for help
If ADHD paralysis is making you feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, you should talk to a trusted loved one or healthcare professional.
There are also a wide variety of support groups available for people with ADHD and their loved ones, that can be found online here.