Hyperfocus in people with ADHD
A common misconception is that people with ADHD do not have an attention span. This is completely false. We have a plethora of attention, we just have a hard time regulating it. Read on to find out more about hyperfocus, where it comes from, some common hyperfocuses in the ADHD community, and how you can regulate hyperfocus if you have ADHD.
Common Misconception: people with ADHD don't have an attention span.
Is this true? If you have ADHD, you probably know that this is completely false. This misconception likely comes from the name of the disorder: attention-deficit, where "deficit" means that we don't have attention or that we lack enough of it. We have attention, we just have issues with regulating where it should go. Why is this the case? To put it simply: we have a dopamine-deficiency. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for things like:
- emotional regulation
- time management
When the brain is short on this neurotransmitter, it makes the person unable to concentrate on things that they don't find fun or interesting. So instead of focusing our attention on things that NEED our attention, we prefer to shift our focus to things that give us a better hit of dopamine. In short, ADHD should definitely be renamed to "Attention Dysregulation".
What is hyperfocus?
It's defined as "intense concentration on something for an extended period of time to the point of time blindness and losing touch with reality or the outside world. Time blindness is basically when you're focused on something for so long that you lose track of all the hours passing by. Losing touch with the outside world can be dangerous, too. This includes things like:
- ignoring texts/calls/e-mails from important people
- avoiding tasks that NEED to be completed, such as paying bills or feeding your pet
- Neglecting basic needs
When people get to the point of neglecting their basic needs while hyperfocusing, they skip meals, forget to drink water, don't take showers or brush their teeth, and/or they don't sleep. This is when hyperfocus can be bad.
“People with ADHD HAVE attention, we just have problems regulating where it should go.”
What causes hyperfocus?
A few things come into play when it comes to the perfect recipe for hyperfocus:
- Lack of dopamine
- Poor time management
- Social awkwardness and social avoidance
Because we lack the neurotransmitter that allows us to become motivated, switch tasks, and prioritize; because we lack time management; because we avoid others... all of those things are the perfect recipe for hyperfocus when mixed together.
Examples of things people with ADHD typically hyperfocus on: