Oct 25th 2023
Hyperfixation is a behavior that often occurs with ADHD. When people become hyperfixated, they are intensely immersed in some sort of activity about which they are passionate, and they may end up spending much more time than intended on the activity .
Hyperfixation is a behavior that is often linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Hyperfixation occurs when a person immerses themselves in a hobby or another activity they enjoy. When hyperfixated, a person may lose track of time or even forgo other responsibilities because the activity is so important to them .
Hyperfixation usually occurs with activities that a person finds to be deeply enjoyable. While hyperfixated, they may not notice what is going on around them, and if interrupted, they may take a moment to bring themselves back to the present .
Hyperfixation is often associated with ADHD, but it isn’t necessarily a symptom of the mental health condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) stipulates the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, with common symptoms including difficulty waiting in line, tendency to interrupt others, and struggling to maintain attention to tasks like schoolwork . Hyperfixation is not among the official diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
That being said, hyperfixation can occur because of the cognitive deficits associated with ADHD. For example, individuals with ADHD have difficulty regulating attention. This can mean that they not only struggle to sustain attention to a single task; they also have a difficult time switching between tasks .
Furthermore, certain pleasurable activities, such as video games, can create hyperfixation in people with ADHD, because these activities are stimulating to the brain .
Generally, hyperfixation involves immersion in some sort of hobby or enjoyable activity . It can look a little different for everyone, but below are some examples of how hyperfixation may appear :
Hyperfixation isn’t always a negative thing, but it can begin to interfere with productivity and personal care if it gets out of hand. Since hyperfixation is a prolonged and intense focus on a particular task, it can, in some instances, lead a person to be highly productive. When hyperfixated on an enjoyable activity, hyperfixation can also induce a positive mood .
However, hyperfixation is not without consequences. Some cons of this behavior include :
Sometimes people use the terms hyperfixation and hyperfocus interchangeably, but there are differences between the two. Hyperfixation generally refers to an extreme fixation on an enjoyable task.
On the other hand, hyperfocus occurs when someone is intensely committed to completing a specific task. Hyperfocus doesn’t necessarily involve an enjoyable activity. Instead, it occurs when a person narrows in on a task they must complete .
Researchers have defined hyperfocus as being a “flow state” in which a person is energized and focused on the task at hand. Studies have found that adults with ADHD tend to hyperfocus, and experts have concluded that ADHD may be associated with differences in “attentional style.” These differences in attentional style suggest that ADHD doesn’t just involve deficits in attention, but rather difficulties with properly distributing attention. .
If ADHD hyperfixation is interfering with your productivity or daily life and functioning, there are steps you can take to manage it better. Consider the following strategies :
Perhaps you find yourself becoming so hyperfixated on hobbies like painting, playing virtual games, or playing an instrument that you neglect important responsibilities. If this is the case, schedule blocks of time to engage in your hobbies, just like you would an appointment or meeting. Once the time limit is up, move on to other obligations. You might even consider setting a timer or an alarm to keep yourself on track.
For those who struggle to manage time, there are plenty of resources available, especially with the expansion of smartphone apps. Download apps to help you plan your time. Some of these apps will send notifications to remind you of important tasks or events. If you prefer the old-fashioned route, something as simple as writing responsibilities and deadlines in a planner can prevent you from getting so immersed in your hobbies that you forget other obligations.
There’s nothing wrong with doing something you enjoy, but when you only have one hobby, you’re likely to find yourself hyperfixating more than if you have a variety of hobbies and interests. Explore new areas of interest. This might involve taking a class, joining a sports team, or learning to play an instrument. Diversifying yourself can prevent you from getting absorbed by just one activity.
Hyperfixation can become a problem when it interferes with your personal care and basic needs. If you tend to hyperfixate, consider setting an alarm to prompt you to take a break when you’re engaged in a hobby. Use this period of time to eat, take care of a chore, or make a phone call you’ve been putting off. You can even use this strategy if hyperfixation on work tasks or projects becomes problematic for you.
If you’re not already engaged in ADHD treatment, reaching out to a mental health professional can be beneficial. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, counseling, or a combination of the two, and engaging in professional intervention can make symptoms more manageable so that hyperfixation becomes less of a problem. A counselor can also help you to identify new strategies and coping skills.
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