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Hyperfixation in ADHD: How to Navigate the Challenges
Mental Health

Hyperfixation in ADHD: How to Navigate the Challenges

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 23, 2023
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5 min

ADHD has several key characteristics. It is primarily associated with a short attention span and difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks. However, people with ADHD can also focus excessively on a particular subject. This article explores ADHD hyperfixation in detail.

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects a person’s behavior. Individuals with ADHD tend to appear restless or fidgety, have trouble concentrating, and may act without thinking. The condition is usually diagnosed in childhood.

These are the most common characteristics, but other ADHD behaviors can affect a person’s daily life. It can cause complications at home, school, and in relationships. Still, ADHD is a manageable condition with several treatment options to help improve behaviors.

In this article, you can learn all about ADHD and hyperfixation.

Is Hyperfixation a Symptom of ADHD?

Hyperfixation is a well-recognized symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is known as ADHD hyperfocus or hyperfixation and is characterized by an obsession with a particular subject, object, activity, or person. Those experiencing hyperfixation may feel so engrossed by something that they struggle to focus on anything else.

While hyperfixation is commonly associated with ADHD, it can be a symptom of other mental health conditions. The most common examples include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and schizophrenia.

What Is Hyperfixation?

Hyperfixation, or hyperfocus, is characterized by an intense state of focus on a subject to the exclusion of everything else. A person experiencing hyperfocus is wholly fascinated and absorbed in a single task, and they may lose hours focusing on their newfound interest.

Hyperfixation is more than showing an interest. It can consume the person’s life to the point where they neglect themselves and others. They may no longer manage to stay connected with anything or anyone other than the subject of interest, which can be detrimental to mental and physical health.

Special interest vs. hyperfixation

It’s healthy to find activities that bring you happiness. You might find something that you find completely thrilling that you can take up as a hobby. When you genuinely enjoy doing something, task performance tends to improve as you practice and master your chosen skill.

Special interest and hyperfixation are similar. Both are unique, and the root causes vary between individuals. Having a special interest in something doesn’t always indicate a mental health disorder, but these interests can accelerate into severe bouts of hyperfixation.

Examples of ADHD Hyperfixation

Examples of hyperfixation in those with ADHD can vary from person to person. Anything can become the object of hyperfixation, but it ultimately depends on what they find interesting. Like anyone, you are more likely to focus your attention on something that makes you happy.

Below are some examples of what a person might hyperfixate on:

  • Reading a book
  • Binge-watching television
  • Playing video games
  • DIY or home projects
  • Arts and crafts projects
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Homework and studying

When Does Hyperfixation Become a Problem?

Everyone can experience moments of hyperfixation at some point in their lives. From binge-watching a particular TV show to trying to beat your high score on a video game, we all have obsessions. The difference is that, in most cases, these fixations do not dominate our lives.

Hyperfixation becomes a problem when it begins to have a negative impact on your life. It can become so intense that it interrupts daily functioning. You might find it impossible to complete other tasks or focus your attention on anything other than the subject.

Hyperfixation can have a significant impact on your well-being. Adult ADHD can lead an individual to neglect themselves and others. For example, they might forget to wash, eat, and sleep or forget important commitments, such as attending meetings or collecting their children from daycare.

5 Ways to Manage ADHD Hyperfixation

You don’t have to let hyperfixation run your life. While it is a part of the condition, there are ways to control your ADHD behaviors better. Doing so will help ensure you manage your important tasks, keep track of other responsibilities, and improve your emotional wellness.

Here are five ways to manage hyperfixation:

#1 Educate yourself

Start by educating yourself to understand how the ADHD brain works. Understanding your condition better can help you spot the signs so you know when you are beginning to hyperfixate. However, it can be difficult to suppress strong impulses to act a certain way.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help people with ADHD manage physical symptoms.

#2 Set timers or reminders

ADHD hyperfocus can be time-consuming. You might block out the world and everyone in it for hours at a time. Setting time limits can help you regain some control over this issue. That way, you can allocate set periods to engage fully in a task without neglecting other commitments. For example, you could set the alarm to ring after a few hours of screen time.

#3 Remove all distractions

If hyperfixation is taking over, try removing yourself from the situation. Certain environmental factors might cause you to fixate. For example, if you’re working from home and find yourself distracted by the latest episode of your favorite TV show, try setting up in a different room away from the TV.

You can also remove distractions by creating new habits. Engaging in different activities can help you break the cycle of obsession. You could go for long morning walks to clear your head and keep you away from your current distraction.

#4 Set priorities

It can be tough, but setting priorities might help you limit your episodes of hyperfixation. Force yourself to commit to other tasks that keep your mind from fixation. Prioritizing exercise is a good way to ensure you remain in good physical health during these times. Again, you can set a reminder to ensure you attend your classes or training sessions.

#5 Try therapy

Talking with a mental health professional can give you further insight into your ADHD symptoms. A therapist can give you coping techniques to put into practice during hyperfixation episodes. You can seek professional help with online and face-to-face sessions.

Psychological research supports cognitive behavioral therapy as a treatment option for ADHD in adults. It prioritizes reducing symptoms and increasing cognitive control of self-regulation and executive functioning. There are also support groups you can attend for further assistance.

FAQs

Can you hyperfixate on a person?

Yes, you can hyperfixate on a person. Those with ADHD can develop an obsessive preoccupation with a particular individual and may hyperfixate for long periods or a matter of days. You can also hyperfixate on an object, interest, or hobby, such as playing a video game.

Why do I hyperfixate on things?

It’s perfectly normal to have a healthy interest in various subjects, especially those that spark your curiosity. However, you may have underlying issues if you frequently lose track of time and struggle with daily activities because of your hyperfixation. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about hyperfixation.

Can you have hyperfixation without ADHD?

Yes, you can have hyperfixation without an ADHD diagnosis. It can be one of the symptoms of several other mental health disorders. However, anyone can engage in activities or develop an interest in something for a more extended period than initially planned.

A Word From a Psychologist

People with ADHD experience many symptoms, one of which is hyperfixation. Hyperfixation results in long periods of highly focused attention, regardless of anything else going on elsewhere. It can negatively impact everyday life when the fixation is severe.

You can improve it with some simple steps. Educating yourself, removing distractions, and concentrating on your priorities can help combat hyperfixation. It will be challenging, but attempting to implement some positive changes can support you on your journey.

Talk to your doctor about ways to manage hyperfixation. While there is no cure for ADHD, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are ways to minimize its effects on your life, and treatment in adults may include psychological therapies and certain prescription medications.

It’s also vital that ADHD is recognized. If you don’t have a diagnosis but are experiencing the symptoms associated with the disorder, seek professional advice. If left untreated, it may increase risk factors for developing depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health challenges.

Conclusion

So, what are our final thoughts on ADHD hyperfixation?

It’s vital to remain patient and kind to yourself while handling hyperfixation. It is a part of ADHD that requires understanding and care. Although more research is necessary to understand hyperfixation, it is a manageable pattern of behavior that you can improve with time.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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