Autistic Inertia

“Autistic inertia” is a difficulty with starting tasks (even tasks you want to do), stopping tasks, focusing attention, etc. It can be highly disabling for an otherwise able autistic person, and can make it difficult to get things done.

I hadn’t heard of it until I stumbled across the study from the first link below. It was eye-opening. I felt more seen by reading the experiences of the study participants than I ever had by reading the usual explanations for procrastination.

I’m sharing these links in case others find them helpful.

“No Way Out Except From External Intervention”: First-Hand Accounts of Autistic Inertia by Buckle, Leadbitter, Poliakoff, and Gowen in “Frontiers in Psychology” journal.

“This study, called for by autistic people and led by an autistic researcher, is the first to explore ‘autistic inertia’, a widespread and often debilitating difficulty acting on their intentions.”

It contains a summary of the experiences of the study participants, and some advice that may help work around the difficulties.
Simply understanding that the difficulties come from a differently functioning brain (rather than from laziness or lack of motivation) may be helpful.


“Here is an article I wrote about inertia a very long time ago, only slightly edited. It has a bit of my personal experience and a general description of what is meant by ‘inertia’ as well as things that hinder and help in dealing with problems like this.”

This is a shorter read and has more actionable advice, but might not be as useful by itself without the explanations from the first link, if you’re not already familiar with this topic.




omg this is so goood! sorry this is my first post but I just stumbled upon this thread and I finally see some hope that it could be something more than laziness as my father says, and the possibility for more answers!!

I’ ve never heard about this but since it concerns me so much I’ll read it asap, thank you!!


As I’m sitting here paralyzed currently, I’ll at least add a few cents. :slight_smile:

First of all, thanks for the links. Can’t wait to read them!

To add to this, people on Tiktok and some literature have been calling this executive dysfunction as well. I wrote about it in this thread on ADHD. Other keywords that could send you down an interesting Wikipedia-hole / Google-hole:

(I hope I’m not linking any problematic resources… If I do, let me know, ya never know with the puzzle people unfortunately.)

Basically, I have had a few insights into my own inertia, some through people sharing on Tiktok, some from conversations. From the links, you may already be wondering why I linked bottom-up thinking in a post about problems with task initiation. So let me talk about that right away. I have often been stuck in “I have to do X but before I do X I have to do Y” - paralysis. One huge example is the gym when I’m having a bad brain day.

  1. I lie in bed, knowing the gym would do me well.
  2. I have to first shower to go to the gym and not disgust everyone
  3. I can’t shower before the gym, because I’ll have to shower after the gym.

Now repeat 1-3 ad nauseum. The “do X before” and analyzing things 'til they fall apart seem to be linked to the tendency of bottom-up thinking and I have heard a few accounts how it’s linked to the inability to start for them.

(I look forward to cringing at myself, because I’m probably just repeating something from the articles, because, if I’ve learned one thing: No single experience is unique in my life.)