Autistic Inertia

Autistic Inertia is basically a state of wanting or needing to do something, but being completely unable to do it, almost like a paralysis.

There is a good article about Autistic Inertia here: and one of the examples it gives is:
-Wants to do math homework
-Is frustrated about not doing math homework
-make elaborate plans to do homework
-STILL does not do math homework.

Now one thing that non-autistics might have trouble understanding is, is that this is not for lack of wanting. It’s because of an error in processing. Or, the choices are too arbitrary. Or planning and going through sequences of steps is difficult.

This is how Autistic Inertia affects me. I sit in my room. I should be doing something, I want to be doing something, but I just can’t get started on anything. I end up sitting there doing nothing, or sitting and stimming. And it physically hurts, sitting there knowing you have a few hours to do what you want but you can’t get off the chair and start doing anything. And I don’t even know what I want to do. I literally feel inert, like I can’t move. My brain feels like it’s being contained or bound, and when I think about doing something it pushes against those bounds. It’s a disconcerting feeling.

I’ve tried tightly scheduling my day with a different task every hour. That worked somewhat, but the schedule got messed up around 2 pm and I had to abandon ship, with much gnashing of teeth.

Another way inertia can hit me is when it’s like my thoughts just dried up and went POOF. I enter some sort of fugue-like state. And I’m doing nothing, or I’m doing some action repeatedly, or I’m trying to follow some sequence of actions but they are not the ones I had intended on. And then I come to, after either seconds or minutes, and say “Oh, I just forgot what I was going to do.” And then I find it extremely hard to get started again, partially because I want to know what I had intended to do but that memory has burned up.

My current method to try and catch my free time paralysis-inertia is to figure out if there is a task my inertia won’t interfere with. Because really, free time gives you a lot of different choices so maybe the one I can do just hasn’t entered my brain because I’m too busy trying to force myself to do something else.

So I’ve made a list, on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. I used the computer to print out, in bold letters, anything I’d like to do during my free time. “Orchestration Assignment” (that’s actually one I HAVE to do), “Math Book”, “Cleaning”, “Minecraft”, and stuff like that.

I think my inertia was a processing problem, I was having trouble connecting from “free time now” to “what should we do?” so I was perpetually stuck at “free time now” which left me frozen, unable to do anything with this free time. My list brought me back and reminded me “this is what free time means” and then I had every activity in front of me to choose from.

So I connected the link. I fixed the misfire. And my brain train is running unhindered again.

Most of the time.

8 responses to “Autistic Inertia

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You’re a beautiful writer. My son is high functioning autistic and suffers from depression, and reading your words helps.

  2. “Autistic Inertia is basically a state of wanting or needing to do something, but being completely unable to do it, almost like a paralysis”

    I was looking up, “How to get started” on Google and read this and burst into tears. I have so much to do and can’t get off this chair.. I’ve read a few of your posts now and can relate to so much. I don’t usually comment on anything, but having someone else say they feel the same way that I do is.. I’m not sure of the feeling.. but I wanted to thank you and let you know I’ll (hopefully) keep up with reading everything you write.

  3. Reblogged this on Nessa's Notions and commented:
    Newly rediscovered concept

  4. Thank you. This makes sense to me.

  5. Pingback: What Autistic Adults have Taught me about Parenting my Daughter – h2au

  6. Pingback: Think too much | Un-Boxed Brain

  7. Thank- you so much for sharing your experiences with Autistic inertia. I’ve been struggling with my own lately, and was wondering if it’s just me but reading your blog post helped a lot. Especially since what I should be doing is a big thing, and there’s lots of planning involved. 🙂

  8. Pingback: What does “moving forward” really mean? | Life on the Spectrum

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