What is ADHD Paralysis?

ADHD paralysis, also known as ADHD decision paralysis or ADHD task paralysis, is a condition experienced by individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It refers to situations in which an ADHD individual becomes overwhelmed by their environment, or the volume of information presented to them, and can cause them to "freeze" or "shut down." During these episodes, individuals with ADHD find it challenging to think clearly or function effectively.

The root causes of ADHD shutdown ultimately go back to the reality that the ADHD brain is dysregulated and blocked from optimal functioning. ADHD paralysis or shutdown often arises when individuals with ADHD are exposed to excessive stimuli, complex tasks, or information overload, making it difficult for them to process and respond. This phenomenon can manifest in various aspects of life, from everyday decision-making to completing tasks at school or work. It can create a significant barrier to productivity and personal well-being for those affected by ADHD. [i]

For decades, the Drake Institute has pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based conditions. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and several other brain-based conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.


What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention, and in some patients, hyperactivity and impulsivity, which can significantly impact an individual's daily life. ADHD is a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms and severity levels.

The exact causes of ADHD are multi-factorial, with research suggesting that it results from a combination of genetic, neurologic, and environmental factors. Genetics may play a significant role, with ADHD often running in families. Brain function obviously is affected, and individuals with ADHD can exhibit abnormalities in different functional brain networks related to attention, impulse control, and executive functioning.

Symptoms of ADHD can manifest in different ways. Inattention symptoms include difficulty sustaining focus, being forgetful in daily activities, and struggling with executive functioning, such as organization and time management. Hyperactivity symptoms may involve restlessness, difficulty staying seated, and excessive talking or fidgeting. Impulsivity can lead to careless decision-making, speaking without thinking of consequences, and difficulty waiting one's turn.

ADHD can be a lifelong condition for many individuals, but with the right support and interventions, individuals can reduce their symptoms and develop compensatory strategies. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can make a substantial difference in an individual's ability to thrive in school, work, and daily life. [ii]

However, at the Drake Institute, we have had ADHD patients who no longer qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD after completing their treatment.

What Causes ADHD Paralysis?

What is ADHD paralysis? ADHD paralysis, often described as "freezing" or "shutting down," is a phenomenon that can result from the unique cognitive and neurological characteristics of individuals with ADHD. There is a mismatch between the demands on the patient and what they’re capable of accomplishing based on dysregulated brain functioning.

Indeed, because ADHD affects executive functioning, ADHD individuals have a harder time planning, organizing, prioritizing, and following through with tasks.

And when an ADHD individual becomes overwhelmed with tasks and begins to go into a stress response an ADHD “shutdown” can occur. [iii]

At the Drake Institute, we commonly hear from parents of our children and adolescent patients that their child has a history of completely giving up and refuses to try anymore. This is where the ADHD paralysis becomes chronic and requires professional treatment and support to enable the child to start having success again.

Symptoms of ADHD Paralysis

ADHD paralysis, sometimes called ADHD freeze, is characterized by specific symptoms that can significantly impact an individual's ability to function effectively.

When experiencing ADHD paralysis, individuals may find themselves feeling overwhelmed, mentally stuck, and unable to make decisions or complete tasks. They may struggle with simple activities that others may find routine, leading to frustration and stress. How long does ADHD paralysis last? The duration and intensity of these symptoms can vary from person to person and can be triggered by various factors in their environment or daily life. ADHD paralysis can just occur in specific situations or tasks, but in some people, it can become a chronic problem where they’ve given up completely.

Common ADHD paralysis symptoms include a sense of mental "freeze," an inability to initiate tasks, difficulty in making decisions, and an overwhelming sense of anxiety. [iv]

Typical symptoms may include the following:

  • Overthinking and/or overanalyzing problems
  • Unable to start high-priority projects
  • Unable to prioritize and manage tasks
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor time management skills
  • Inability to focus
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Brain fog
  • Unable to pay attention and listen actively
  • Shutting down and avoidance

Types of ADHD Paralysis

ADHD paralysis can manifest in various forms, each with its unique characteristics and challenges. While the overall experience of being "stuck" or "frozen" is common among individuals with ADHD, these different types of paralysis may vary in their triggers and effects. [v] [vi]

ADHD Mental Paralysis

Mental paralysis in ADHD often involves the feeling of being overwhelmed by racing thoughts or excessive mental stimulation. Individuals may struggle to concentrate or focus on a specific task, and this mental congestion can lead to an inability to make decisions or act.

ADHD Task Paralysis

Task paralysis is associated with the inability to initiate or complete specific tasks. In this form of paralysis, individuals may find themselves procrastinating or avoiding tasks, even when they are aware of their importance. This obviously can lead to decreased productivity and thereby more problems.

ADHD Choice Paralysis

Choice paralysis occurs when individuals with ADHD feel immobilized by the multitude of choices or options available to them. They may become indecisive, anxious, or even avoid making decisions altogether. This type of paralysis can impact various aspects of daily life, from selecting what to eat for dinner to how to prioritize day-to-day responsibilities like work duties or household chores.

Strategies for Dealing with ADHD Paralysis

The Drake Institute believes that the best way to deal with ADHD paralysis is to optimize brain functioning. We provide that treatment through brain map-guided neurofeedback, and sometimes neurostimulation. In fact, some of our patients who came to us who were initially completely shut down are now no longer meeting diagnostic criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. As a result, the ADHD paralysis is no longer present.

In addition to undergoing our brain map-guided neurofeedback treatment, we recommend the following supportive strategies: [vii] [viii]

Break Down and Prioritize Tasks

When faced with task paralysis, break larger projects or responsibilities into smaller, more manageable steps. Prioritize these tasks based on urgency and importance, allowing you to focus on completing one task at a time rather than feeling overwhelmed by the entire project.

Set a Designated Project Time

For individuals experiencing mental paralysis, designate specific times for focused work or decision-making. Create a structured schedule that includes designated project time, allowing your mind to concentrate on only one task without distraction.

Don’t Worry About Perfection

Perfectionism can contribute to choice paralysis. Understand that perfection is not realistic and only creates more stress. Strive for progress rather than unattainable perfection.

Cross Off Completed Tasks

Utilize to-do lists or task-tracking systems. Cross off completed tasks to visually acknowledge your progress, which can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to tackle the next task.

Reward Yourself

Create a system of rewards for completing tasks or making decisions. These rewards can act as positive reinforcement and help motivate you to overcome paralysis and accomplish your goals.

Make Work Fun

Incorporate elements of enjoyment or fun into your tasks to combat task paralysis. This could involve listening to music, setting a timer, or working in a pleasant environment that encourages productivity.

Go with Your Gut

When faced with choice paralysis, trust your instincts, and make decisions based on your initial feelings. Avoid overthinking and second-guessing, as this can exacerbate the paralysis.

Reduce Environmental Distractions

Minimize environmental distractions that can contribute to mental paralysis. Find a quiet, organized space to work or make decisions, and limit the presence of disruptive stimuli.

In sum, we feel that the foundational step in overcoming ADHD paralysis is to improve brain functioning through brain map-guided neurofeedback. We then recommend incorporating these secondary strategies that are more likely to be more effective once the underlying brain dysregulation is improved.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD diagnosis involves a comprehensive clinical evaluation. The process encompasses clinical assessments, medical history, symptom evaluations, and a qEEG brain map. Initially, a clinical assessment is conducted through clinical interview and standardized symptom rating scales, focusing on the individual's behavior, emotions, and daily functioning, using specific criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to assess ADHD symptoms.

A medical and psychological/behavioral history is obtained, including information about past and present medical and mental health history, including any previous or current medications or treatments, as well as prior evaluations. This step helps rule out other conditions that could mimic ADHD symptoms.

To receive an ADHD diagnosis, an individual must demonstrate a specified number of symptoms related to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity for at least six months, with these symptoms significantly affecting daily life. Standardized questionnaires or checklists may be used to assess and document these symptoms.

At the Drake Institute, we also obtain a quantitative EEG brain map to analyze any dysregulated brain regions or functional networks that are linked to symptoms. The brain map significantly improves the specificity of our customized treatment protocols. This maximizes treatment improvement for our patients.  [ix]

How the Drake Institute Treats ADHD

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.


[i] https://add.org/adhd-paralysis/

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

[iii] https://add.org/adhd-paralysis/

[iv] https://add.org/adhd-paralysis/

[v] https://add.org/adhd-paralysis/

[vi] https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-paralysis

[vii] https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-paralysis

[viii] https://add.org/adhd-paralysis/

[ix] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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