Hyperfocus and Adult ADHD

When it comes to describing common symptoms of adult ADHD, the list would probably not contain hyperfocus or the intense concentration on something to such a degree that all else is ignored. Hyperfocus is the “flip side” of distractibility that is expected with ADHD; while it may not be a deficit of attention, it is a problem of being able to regulate one’s attention span when involved in a specific task or activity that is found stimulating and personally rewarding.

Hyperfocus and Dis-Regulation 

Research from Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C. reports that hyperfocus is a coping mechanism for dealing with the distraction so typical with ADHD.  In understanding how ADHD affects adults, it can be said that ADHD does not mean having a short attention span – adult ADHD means having a dis-regulated attention system.

Hyperfocus as a Coping Mechanism

Hyperfocus acts as a coping mechanism for tuning out the chaos in one’s mind, making them oblivious to everything else that is going on around them. reports that hyperfocus makes a person completely lose track of time, neglect their work, forget to keep track of their finances or bills, ignore those around them, as well as causing relationship misunderstandings and problems.

Positive Side of Hyperfocus

Working with an experienced Adult ADHD psychiatrist who has had success treating hyperfocus issues is critical for a positive outcome. Treatment may include learning how to channel hyperfocus into a productive activity or task instead of finding themselves deep into unproductive or negative activities in addition to ignoring their daily responsibilities and tasks.

Adult Hyperfocus and Medication

The use of medication does decrease the distractibility issues; likewise the frequency of hyperfocus episodes will also decrease. Working with a specially trained mental health professional is key to developing the medication schedule and treatment strategies for the best possible outcome.

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About Darvin Hege

Dr. Darvin Hege, MD, PC, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He is an Emory Hospital residency trained psychiatrist who has been practicing psychiatry for more than 25 years. He maintains over 50 hours of AMA certified education each year to stay informed of advances in psychiatry.

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