Hyperfocus and the ADHD Brain

ADHD Intense Focus in Kids and Adults

A common symptom of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) in children and adults is the inability to focus on a task at hand. Those who have ADHD are easily distracted and have a hard time giving sustained attention to a specific task, activity or chore. A lesser-known, and more controversial, symptom that some people with ADHD struggle with is hyperfocus. 

Hyperfocus is the deep, intense concentration in some individuals. It is important to understand that ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather a problem with regulating one’s attention span to desired/required tasks. Mundane tasks may be difficult to focus on, while others may be completely absorbing. 

People with ADHD immerse themselves so completely in an activity that they become oblivious to everything around them. This concentration can become so intense that they lose track of time or forget to complete other tasks. Hyperfocus is a controversial symptom because there is not much scientific evidence that shows it exists. It is also not experienced by everyone with ADHD. 

Hyperfocus can have a negative effect on a person’s life by distracting them from important tasks. For example—the object of their hyperfocus may be playing video games, completing a puzzle or online shopping. Unrestrained focus on unproductive tasks can lead to setbacks in school, lost productivity at work or struggles in relationships. 

Managing Your Child’s Hyperfocus: 

  • Explain to them that hyperfocus is a part of their condition. This may help them to see it as a symptom that can be improved or changed.
  • Create and enforce a schedule for common hyperfocus activities (e.g. restrict time spent watching TV or playing video games).
  • Help your child find interest in a hobby/activity that removes them from isolated time and fosters social interactions, such as music or sports.

Tips For Coping For Adults: 

  • Prioritize daily tasks and accomplish them one at a time. This can keep you from spending too much time on any one task.
  • Set a timer to keep yourself accountable and to remind you of other tasks you need to complete.
  • Ask a friend, family member or colleague to call you at specific times. This helps break up intense periods of hyperfocus.
  • Ask the people you live with to turn off the TV, computer or other distractions to get your attention if you get too immersed.

Ultimately, the best way to manage hyperfocus is not to fight it by forbidding other activities, but rather to harness it. Making school or work interesting and stimulating can capture your focus in the same way as your favorite tasks/activities. Working with a behavioral therapist, making healthy lifestyle choices, taking medications, or a combination of all three, are ways for people with ADHD to manage their symptoms. 


About Grace Kim: 

Grace Kim is a Resident in Counseling providing services at the Woodbridge location. She is a Qualified Mental Health Professional for Children (QMHP-C) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Grace has extensive experience in providing outpatient counseling services to children, adolescents, and young adults. She also has sufficient experience working with adult clients with longstanding substance abuse issues. She is an individual who has had her own share of mental health challenges and, with the help of those around her, has been able to overcome obstacles and barriers in her life.  To learn more about Grace, visit HERE

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