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Heavy Limbs: Leaden Paralysis Information and Treatment

Updated on November 6, 2015

Do You Suffer From Leaden Paralysis?

Do you ever feel like your arms and legs are incredibly heavy, as if weighed down with lead? Unable to leave your bed due to severe exhaustion, despite getting good amounts of sleep, or far too much sleep? You might be suffering from leaden paralysis.

This phenomenon is often misunderstood as mere lack of motivation or laziness from family, friends and co-workers, but that is a gross mis-characterization. In reality it can be serious and very debilitating for the individual. I have it myself and know how frustrating it can be, which is why I've written this article to help other sufferers understand the condition and deal with it as effectively as possible.

What is Leaden Paralysis?

Leaden paralysis is characterized by severe bodily exhaustion, particularly a feeling that the arms and legs are too heavy to move, as if your blood had been replaced with lead. Depending on the underlying cause, it can be accompanied by many other problems, disorders and symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

What to Do If You are Suffering from a Leaden Paralysis Episode

Image Courtesy of
Image Courtesy of

First things first, tell someone. Leaden paralysis can prevent you from function normally; prevent you from leaving your bed or feeding yourself. In these situations someone needs to know what's going on so that they can bring you food or keep you company and help you compensate for the depressive symptoms. Keep a phone by your bed at all times in case you need to contact someone for help.

If this is the first time you've had such an episode (or you haven't seen a doctor about it before), make an appointment with your medical practitioner. If you can't leave your house to get to a doctor, ask for a house call and explain your situation. Getting medical advice is vital, since leaden paralysis can be caused by underlying physical problems (such as thyroid issues), and even if it isn't, getting treatment can drastically improve your quality of life.

Image Courtesy of
Image Courtesy of

Causes of Leaden Paralysis

Atypical depression

Leaden paralysis is a symptom most commonly associated with atypical depression. Contrary to its name, this type of depression is not really 'atypical' - it is one of the more common forms of depression.

Unlike major depression, however, which is more characterized by weight and appetite loss, difficulty sleeping, and an inability to experience positive moods in response to positive events, atypical depressives are more likely to experience weight and appetite gain, severe oversleeping (often worsened by leaden paralysis which can keep you getting out of bed), and interpersonal rejection sensitivity. They also typically retain their ability to feel happy in response to positive events, but will be hit by negative ones a lot harder.

If you have two or more symptoms described above (including leaden paralysis), make an appointment with your doctor. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and SSRI and MAOI antidepressants can be effective in treating your symptoms, and a medical practitioner will be able to help you further.

Thyroid problems

Leaden paralysis can also be a symptom of an under-active thyroid disorder, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. These illness are typically caused by your thyroid not producing enough of the right hormones. General symptoms of hypothyroidism include being sensitive to cold, weight gain, constipation, tiredness and slowness in body and mind, muscle aches, weakness and cramps, dry and scaly skin, hair loss and heavy or irregular periods in women.

If you have any symptoms of a thyroid disorder, make an appointment to see a medical practitioner as soon as possible. Untreated thyroid problems can cause more serious issues such as anemia and hearing problems.

Scientists currently suspect that there is a link between thyroid issues and atypical depression, indicating that one may cause some cases of the other. Indeed, depression is listed as a symptom of a thyroid disorder. If you suspect you have atypical depression, always ask to have your thyroid tested for abnormalities as well. I've read many cases of people being treated for atypical depression for years without any improvement, only to learn they had a mildly under-active thyroid the whole time!

Image Courtesy of
Image Courtesy of

Treatment for Leaden Paralysis

Treating your leaden paralysis will very much depend on what the underlying cause of it is, and the only sure way to know is to go to your doctor. Don't believe any magic cure claims you find on the internet - if they were proven safe and effective, you'd be able to get them from your doctor. Be suspicious if you can't.

Atypical depression not related to any kind of thyroid issue is normally treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or antidepressants, or both. Exercise and a good diet can also help relieve some of the symptoms. There is some evidence that chromium picolinate mineral supplements can help with atypical depression, especially if you have severe cravings for carbohydrates as a symptom.

If you take any type of supplement or alternative medicine treatment, inform your doctor as many herbal and other supplements can interfere with medication and other treatments (not just anti-depressants, but things like antibiotics too!).

Thyroid problems are usually easily treatable with tablets which replace the hormones the thyroid is failing to produce. These can be provided by your doctor.

Leave me a message if you found this lens helpful, or if you have your own story to tell or tips for dealing with Leaden Paralysis.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I suffer with leaden paralysis & have no relief. It has been with me since I was a teen & gotten worse over the years. I never would have imagined how debilitating it is. It has created problems for me throughout my lifetime. The past 20 years have been a struggle on a daily basis. It affects me personally professionally and socially – making my quality-of-life pathetic. I have a loving family, but that doesn't seem to cure me. I have done therapy for 15 years and read self help books for 25 years. They don't care either. I resorted to Begging as my perform to God for help, but that only gives me temporarily relief . The sleepiness and let them paralysis and eating problems just come right back within hours. I have read recent literature on the value of self compassion and no plasticity as well as I have completed a masters in counseling psychology, but I still struggle – I am not sure why I am responding to this article, because I know there is no answer. However reading it helps me to realize that there are other people with this problem. I have never met anyone with this atypical feature. And as from personal experience over 25 years of seeing doctors, they do not know what it is either. I have undergone test to check for hormonal and balance is and nothing has showed. Thanks for reading my note.

    • Hendrika profile image


      5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      This Hub is helpful in the sense that it makes me feel a little "normal" I am Bipolar though, but the Leaden Paralysis gets me from time to time. I have given up hope as it has been going on from since I can remember. I am on medication for my thyroid already, so no hope!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I'm impressed! Extremely useful information specially the last part deefefbagckd

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      You are very welcome. I found this hub very helpful. And thanks for the well-wish for my friend who has their bad days and good days and my friend is not me.

      I just deal with Fibromyalgia and Neurothopy. Been dealing with these since 2003, but my friend is worse off than I.

      So thereby, I try to not complain.

      Just keep up the great hubbing.

      Your Friend, KENNETH

    • DesignSpace profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thank you very much! I hope your friend finds it helpful as well.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Voted Up, Awesome, and Interesting. I happen to know someone who fits this description. Thank you for sharing.

      I love this hub. This is an excellent piece of writing. Honestly, I can easily describe it as amazing.

      I loved every word. The graphics were superb. This hub was helpful, informative and very interesting.

      Voted up and all the choices, but beautiful and funny, because you deserve it.

      You have such a gift for writing. Keep the wonderful hubs coming.


      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

    • DesignSpace profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Pat Goltz: Somethings work better for some, not for others - but people have a very negative perception of drugs, and as someone who has had their life changed by them, I definitely would never tell some one to rule it out.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I wouldn't dream of taking a drug to treat it, though. I use only supplements. I have felt this way a handful of times in my life.

    • sageinacage lm profile image

      sageinacage lm 

      7 years ago

      Great lens! It's displayed in a way that is so easy to read.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      7 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Very interesting lens - I wasn't aware of Leaden Paralysis.


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