A common symptom of ADHD in both children and adults is the inability to focus properly on any task for a particular length of time. Easily getting distracted is a common theme for people with ADHD, making it difficult for them to provide sustained attention to any task, activity, or assignment. This tendency is called inattention and is commonly associated with a symptom of ADHD. However, there is a lesser known symptom that enables an ADHD person to ‘zoom in’ and focus intensely for longer periods. However, it can also pose some negative repercussions. In this article, we’re going to look at the case of ADHD’s most confusing symptom, ADHD Hyperfocus.
What is ADHD Hyperfocus?
Hyperfocus is a symptom that exists in different other mental health conditions. It’s the tendency for both adults and children with ADHD to focus intensely on things that interest them. People who are under the influence of hyperfocus can also be the experience of deep and intense concentration.
The presence of hyperfocus in people with ADHD proves that the mental health condition isn’t necessarily a deficit in attention, but rather a problem with regulating one’s attention properly to desired tasks.
So while everyday, everyday tasks tend to be challenging to focus on, some that spark an ADHD person’s interest can be utterly absorbing. That means a person with ADHD may fail to complete with school or work-related activities but thrive more on reading their favourite novel, binge-watching their favourite series, or playing video games.
Most of the time these people immerse themselves completely in an activity that they love to do that they come to the point that they become oblivious to their environment. This severe concentration can be so intense that an individual loses of their surroundings, including time and other things that they’re supposed to be doing.
While hyperfocus can be channelled into difficult and far more critical tasks, such as school or work projects, it also poses a downside that needs to be addressed. ADHD individuals tend to immerse their time and focus more on unproductive activities instead and completely ignore any pressing responsibility.
Majority of our knowledge and understanding about ADHD is largely based on expert opinion and evidence from people who have the condition. Hyperfocus is considered a controversial symptom because scientific evidence of its existence and how it relates to ADHD is extremely limited. It’s also not experienced by every ADHD-diagnosed individual. This makes hyperfocus a confusing, unofficial symptom of ADHD.
The Benefits Of ADHD Hyperfocus
Despite its detrimental effects on an ADHD person’s life, hyperfocus can also provide an unfair advantage if utilized correctly. Most of the time hyperfocus distracts a person from other more critical tasks. However, it can be used positively, as evidenced by several artists, scientists and writers who had ADHD and still manage to thrive and be successful in their respective careers.
The following famous and successful people have used their ADHD to their advantage and gained extreme popularity and recognition for their works and accomplishments.
- George Bernard Shaw (writer)
- Scott Adams (comic writer)
- Justin Timberlake (singer, artist)
- Michael Phelps (athlete)
- Michael Jordan (athlete)
- Jim Carrey (artist)
- Walt Disney (successful entrepreneur, cartoonist)
- John F. Kennedy (35th President of the United States)
- Jamie Oliver (celebrity chef)
- Albert Einstein (scientist)
- Leonardo Da Vinci (painter)
- Alexander Graham Bell (inventor)
- Thomas Edison (inventor)
- Benjamin Franklin (polymath, inventor)
- Isaac Newton (mathematician)
While others have used their ADHD as a tool to boost their productivity and efficiency with their careers and profession, others, however, are less likely to strike luck with hyperfocus. The subject of their hyperfocus may come from unimportant things like playing video games, online shopping, or scrolling on their social media news feed for hours. Focusing on unproductive tasks and activities can lead to upsets and setbacks in work, school, and relationships with other people.
What Causes Hyperfocus to Trigger?
Similar to inattention, hyperfocus tends to be the result of extremely low levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter in the brain’s frontal lobe. The deficiency of dopamine makes it hard to shift, transition, and adjust to a particular situation, especially if it’s something that does not interest the person. Without the right amount of dopamine, people with ADHD will find it hard to take up boring-yet-important activities.
According to the National Health Services (NHS) Dr Mukesh Kripalani, “adults and children with ADHD commonly elicit difficulties in shifting attention from one task to another.” He claims that the brains of people with ADHD are particularly drawn to activities that provide instant feedback.
However, according to an article published by the popular New York ADHD magazine, ADDitude, “the intense concentration brought by hyperfocus could also serve as a coping mechanism.” Larry Silver of the Georgetown University Medical School in the United States claims that the ability to hyperfocus is actually a way of dealing with distraction. According to him, “College students intentionally go into a state of hyperfocus to get their schoolwork done. It isn’t the case for children, as they tend to do it unconsciously when they’re doing something fun and pleasurable like playing a game or watching TV. Often these kids aren’t even aware that they’re focusing so intensely.
ADHD Hyperfocus in Children
ADHD is more prevalent among children than adults; therefore, we should make a bit more emphasis on training our children on how to deal with their hyperfocus symptom. Rousing a child from a period of hyperfocus can be hard, but it is a crucial part in regulating your child’s ADHD. Similar to any ADHD symptom, hyperfocus needs to be managed delicately. When in a hyper-focused state, children with ADHD may lose track of time and their surroundings. It may seem that the world is unimportant to them.
If your child is displaying hyperfocus tendencies, you may need effective strategies to help them cope with it. Here are some suggestions that you should keep in mind:
- Open up to your child. Tell them about their ADHD and how it can affect their lives. Tell them how hyperfocus is also a part of their condition. Disclosing your child’s mental health status will help him, or she sees their hyperfocus as a symptom to their condition. This provokes them to be motivated to look for ways to change their hyperfocus tendencies.
- Create a schedule intended for common hyperfocus activities. Example: restricting time spent on playing video games or watching television. Make sure you enforce this strategy to help your child adapt and therefore negate their hyperfocus.
- Help your child find activities that foster social interaction such as sports or music. These activities will help remove them from hyperfocus and isolated time.
- Incorporate markers. Try using points for indicating a sign of refocusing. IT can be the end of a TV show, the end of a gaming match, or the end of a song.
Keep in mind that it can be difficult to pull a child out of their hyper-focused state. So unless something or someone interrupts them, hours can drift by without them noticing. They can potentially waste time that’s supposed to be used to do important tasks, manage appointments and nurture relationships.
ADHD Hyperfocus in Adults
According to experts, the intense focus can be dealt easily as a person with ADHD grows older. However, there are several cases where adults with ADHD also have trouble coping with hyperfocus – whether be on their job or at home. Here are some practical ways to deal with your hyperfocus as an adult:
- Learn how to prioritise on your daily tasks by accomplishing them one at a time. The ADHD brain tends to take every responsibility all at once. What you should do is make a particular work and accomplish it first before you move on to another one. Doing so will keep you from spending too much time on a specific job.
- Utilise a timer to keep yourself aware and accountable for any job you’re about to do. Having a timer will also enable you to remind yourself of other tasks that need to be completed, as well as the priority level of each task.
- Ask a friend, a family member, or a colleague to call you at a specific time. This strategy will help you break intense periods of hyperfocus.
- Assign a family member to turn off the computer, television, or any other distractions to get your attention when you get too immersed in what you’re doing.
There are numerous ways you can cope with your hyperfocus tendencies. But the best one is to not fight it by prohibiting specific activities, but rather to tame it. The challenge is how you can make work or school stimulating enough for your hyperfocus to trigger the same way as your favourite activities. While this proves difficult for a growing child, it can be advantageous for an adult with ADHD whose coping his or her work and career. Also by finding a job that’s in line with your interests, you can use hyperfocus to your advantage and prosper.
Is Hyperfocus A Bad Thing?
Hyperfocus isn’t inherently harmful. In fact, you can turn it into an asset – an unfair advantage. Some people with ADHD can channel their focus on productive activities such as work- or school-related activities. You can even hyperfocus on a particular task to make sure that it gets done faster. Finally, hyperfocus can serve as a reward for completing a boring-but-important task. This skill is what successful people do. They develop their hyperfocus to enable them to focus on their works for hours without stopping.
However, the most unrestrained intensive focus is a liability. If left unchecked, it can lead to failure in school, loss of productivity, or restrained relationships with family and friends. The negative side of hyperfocus commonly persists among children.
According to Children with ADHD are often drawn to what’s exciting and entertaining, and are reluctant to do things they don’t want to do. Combine that with a children’s poor time management and socialising problems and they can end up playing with their Nintendo Switch all weekend long.
Adults with ADHD, on the other hand, tend to miss meetings or important deadlines because they got so absorbed in something that they lost track of time. However, adults are more likely to be aware of their hyperfocus tendencies and can make the necessary shifts and necessary to help cope with their hyperfocus problems. Keep in mind that unless you do something about your condition, your symptoms will stay. So if you think you have ADHD, it’s crucial that you get help from an ADHD expert right away. You can check out The ADHD Centre for more information about ADHD through online assessments, free resources, and quizzes.