When Hyperfocus Becomes the Distraction

May 14, 2012 Andrew Foell, MA Ed.

I have been so excited about writing for HealthyPlace that I have had trouble focusing on exactly where to begin. Ha! Can you imagine a person with ADHD not being focused? Of course you can! It's a hallmark of the disorder. What may be harder to imagine is a person with ADHD who is so focused that it is, as Dr. Larry Silver notes in an ADDitude article, "...difficult for anyone to 'reach' and interact with a person."

Hyperfocus as Distraction

It can be hard to buckle down and focus on something that seems overwhelming. That is often the case for me, and I have been overwhelmed thinking about whether I had anything "good enough" to share. I do not like the feeling of overwhelm, and I also like to feel busy and productive. So, I find something else that draws me in and takes me away from the chaos that is my mind. I can be highly productive, but I am also distracted from my original purpose.

Lately, I have been hyperfocused on the important topic of bullying, and I have been productive with that hyperfocus: two local reporters have contacted me; a school board member called me at home; I have written letters to the editor and to the superintendent of schools.... And, here I am, off-topic again. It is easy to become distracted from those around us and from important tasks when we are hyperfocused. Sometimes hyperfocus allows the ADHDer to accomplish goals, but if unchecked, hyperfocus is just another form of distraction.

Signs of Hyperfocus

  • Telling someone, "just a minute" but taking an hour to to finish up what you were doing.
  • "One-more-thing-itis." You sit down to check your e-mail, and that goes quickly, so you go on to check your Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. This may become one of those "just a minute" moments noted above.
  • You rediscover an old television show while watching Netflix. You can't stop at just one episode, and before you realize it you've watched the entire first season of The Incredible Hulk. It's possible that I did that once, but I'm not admitting it. Oops! I just did.

Channeling Your Focus

While the above may seem relatively harmless, it is important to be aware of hyperfocus. When does it happen? Are you using this gift to your advantage, or is it becoming just another distraction? In my case, I tend to hyperfocus when I am avoiding something else, but if I can channel my hyperfocus, I can use it to my advantage. When harnessed and reined in, hyperfocus can help me achieve my goals.

While being hyperfocused on the issue of bullying distracted me from writing my blog post, bully-proofing our schools is a personal passion. My hyperfocus has drawn some attention to the concern, and people are talking about it from the board room to the press room in my community. I had a hand in that.

If you become aware of your ability to focus so intently on a topic that it is hard for others to pull you away, you can begin to channel that intensity in ways that will benefit you and those around you instead of taking you away from other things you really want to do.

APA Reference
Foell, A. (2012, May 14). When Hyperfocus Becomes the Distraction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Andrew Foell, MA Ed.

February, 4 2018 at 12:59 am

Hyper focus and dissociation sound a lot a like

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