Some research says ADHD can slow your reaction times. This is known as having a slow psychomotor speed (psychomotor impairment).

Your psychomotor skills refer to the relationship between your mental (cognitive) functions and physical movements. They determine how well you can perform tasks that require both mental and physical skills.

Similarly, psychomotor speed is the time it takes you to process new information, make sense of it, and respond physically. Slow psychomotor speel can result in slow thinking or slow body movements.

Your psychomotor speed affects both physical and mental abilities, including:

  • gross motor skills, like dancing and sports
  • fine motor skills, like writing and drawing
  • physical coordination
  • how quickly you process new information (mental processing speed)

Some research suggests attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be linked with a slower processing speed (psychomotor impairment), which may partly explain why people with ADHD have trouble completing tasks.

Research says that some people with ADHD may have a slower psychomotor speed, meaning they may need more time to absorb and respond to changes in their environment.

For example, a 2019 study reported that children with inattentive or combined ADHD had slower processing speeds than typically developing controls.

The researchers say that processing speed involves three main components:

  • cognitive speed (thinking)
  • perceptual speed (understanding)
  • output speed (reacting)

The study followed 151 children with ADHD ages 8–12 years. They found that children with ADHD were slower to make decisions, but that their reaction times were the same as typically developing children. The researchers concluded that ADHD doesn’t impair overall speed, but can make their processing speed less efficient when the tasks become more demanding.

According to the study, impaired processing speed is likely due to inattention dimensions in ADHD rather than hyperactivity or impulsivity. Inattention might reduce how efficiently you can process information, while hyperactivity and impulsivity can speed up your overall performance.

A 2001 study found that adults had slower psychomotor speed and reaction time as the tasks got harder, compared with those without ADHD.

The connection between mental and psychomotor processing and ADHD is complex. Slow processing speed is sometimes a symptom of ADHD — but not always. People living with ADHD may feel like their brains are going faster, yet they do things more slowly.

What causes slow psychomotor speed in adults?

ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, but its symptoms sometimes go undetected into adulthood. About 4.4% of adults in the United States have ADHD, but it’s believed the condition is significantly underdiagnosed in adults.

There are various causes of slow psychomotor impairment in adults, including:

People with psychomotor impairment often think and move slower. There may be visible signs in the way they speak and react.

Symptoms of slowed psychomotor speed include:

  • slower speech
  • reduced movement
  • reduced cognitive function

If you suspect you or a loved one has a psychomotor impairment, it may help to speak with a doctor. A medical professional can examine your medical history, assess your symptoms, and conduct a physical exam to work out the cause and most appropriate treatments.

There are a few ways to treat slow processing speed in adults, including medication and therapy. A psychologist can perform tests to evaluate mental functions, while a doctor can look at your medical history and symptoms.


Medication can help treat slow processing speed and psychomotor impairment. The medication would depend on the severity of the condition and any other underlying conditions or causes.

If your psychomotor symptoms are related to ADHD, it may help to take ADHD medications, such as:

  • amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
  • atomoxetine (Strattera)

According to a 2013 study on psychomotor slowness in depression, certain antidepressants may also help with psychomotor symptoms.


Various therapies can help improve symptoms of ADHD, processing speed, and psychomotor impairment:

  • physical therapy can help with muscle movement
  • speech therapy can help with speech difficulties
  • occupational therapy can help with fine and gross motor skills, helping you perform everyday tasks that you may find difficult
  • psychotherapy can help you learn behavioral strategies to improve your daily structure and organization

Your cognitive health is how you think, learn, and remember. To help improve your mental and psychomotor processing speed, here are a few things you could do at home:

Using cognitive apps

Certain apps can help challenge and train your brain.

According to a 2021 study, using cognitive apps can improve processing speed. The study found participants ages 60–80 increased their processing speed by using cognitive apps over the course of 100 sessions.

You can read about the 12 best apps for ADHD of 2022 here.

Getting exercise

Being physically active improves brain function. It can also improve processing speed, according to a 2013 study. The study found that immediately after 30 minutes of aerobic exercise participants showed a significant increase in processing speed and a reduction in errors.

You can read about the mental health benefits of exercise here.

Keeping your mind active

Learning new skills may improve your ability to think.

A 2014 study found that older adults who learned new skills — quilting or digital photography — had enhanced memory function compared to those who only engaged in social activities.

Slow processing speed is common in people with ADHD. Your processing speed is the time it takes you to process information and respond to it.

Psychomotor is the connection between your muscle and mental functions. This connection can be affected by neurological and genetic conditions, or specific medications you’re taking.

If you experience psychomotor impairments you may think and move slower, which can cause you to speak or react slower.

Slow processing speed is treated with medication, therapy, or both. You can also improve your processing speed at home by:

  • using cognitive apps
  • getting exercise
  • keeping your mind active by learning new skills

If you’re living with ADHD and psychomotor impairment, know that this condition is manageable with treatment and therapy.

For more therapy resources, you can check out our mental health support hub.