by Andrea M. Darcy
If we can’t focus it can become a major issue in life. It can stop you from moving forward in your career, and lead you to make mistakes in important areas like your finances.
Mental health conditions that mean you can’t focus
So what is behind your problem with focus? Is it just something small, or do you actually have a mental health condition?
1. Adult ADHD.
Many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) make it through childhood without diagnosis. Perhaps they were very smart, so teachers didn’t bother referring them. Or their parents helped cover up any less than ideal behaviour.
ADHD can manifest differently when we are adults. Whereas in children hyperactivity or extreme dreaminess is often involved, Adult ADHD can manifest more as difficulty with your focus. This includes an inability to finish things, but also ‘hyper focus’, where you over focus on the wrong things. You have a big work deadline, and suddenly spend hours sorting your file cabinet.
Of course it’s not a great idea to self diagnose Adult ADHD, because it can leave you ignoring other causes for your inability to focus that might be easier to solve.
But if you are concerned, why not take our free quiz now , ‘Do you have adult ADHD?‘.
2. Depression and Anxiety.
A common symptom of depression is ‘fuzzy thinking‘, the inability to think clearly.
It can feel as if your brain is set on low, or your head is filled with wet sand. Focus becomes very difficult.
Anxiety, on the other hand, tends to leave your mind racing on repeat. You go over and over the same stressful thoughts, worries, and scenarios. This of course leaves very little headspace to focus clearly on tasks at hand.
Anxiety and depression can often come hand in hand. Nearly a half those who have depression also have an anxiety disorder.
Curious if you are depressed? Take our free quiz now, ‘Stressed, Depressed, or Both?“.
[Know you are depressed and anxious but scared of a therapy office? Why not try online therapy from the comfort of your own home? Book today, be talking this week to someone who really gets it.]
3. Emotional Shock and PTSD.
Emotional shock, also known as ‘acute stress reaction’ and ‘psychological shock’, happens due to an extreme life change or situation that is very upsetting. The brain cannot process all that is happening, leaving you in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode.
One of the main symptoms of emotional shock is not being able to think straight, or feeling all over the place. In other words, you can’t focus.
If you read the signs of emotional shock and feel like you have always had the symptoms, a trauma therapist can help you look at whether there is a traumatic experience in your childhood that is behind it.
If you know the event that caused you shock, and have symptoms for several months or more, it might be that you have PTSD. A longer lasting reaction to trauma, it can lead to addictions, severe depression, and social withdrawal.
Addiction can be behind a lack of focus. In many cases it’s an addiction that you might not even be acknowledging.
This can include shopaholism, internet addiction, social media addiction, or love addiction.
Addiction causes the mind to be over-focussed on one thing, leaving less of your mind available to take care of everything else. You are scattered, you can’t think straight, you make constant mistakes.
Other Reasons You Are Distracted
Sometimes it’s not a mental health condition behind a lack of focus, but a lifestyle issue. See if any of the below resonate.
1. Boredom means you can’t focus.
If you are in a situation you don’t like, such as studying a program at school you hate, or working a job you can’t stand? Boredom can actually cause you to daydream and seek distracting thoughts or activities. In other words, it leaves you unfocussed.
Try journaling about what it is about your situation you do and don’t like, and what actions you could take to improve it. A life coach or career coach can also be helpful – see if your school or workplace provides one.
2. Poor self-care.
An unhealthy lifestyle can behind your distraction. A poor diet including overeating can lead to foggy thinking. As can not exercising.
Learn about self-care.
The brain needs sleep to function well. Educate yourself about sleep and learn the simple changes you can make to have a better slumber. If you have not slept well in a long time and suspect you have a sleep disorder, speak to your GP.
4. A stressful lifestyle.
Stress can at first offer an adrenaline high that gives you clear thinking but this can quickly lead to a crash where we are so exhausted we can’t function, let alone focus and think well.
What do I do if this is me?
If you feel you have one of the mental health issues above, or just feel you need help making better lifestyle choices? It’s a great idea to seek support. We don’t have to be at rock bottom to talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist. In fact the sooner we reach out for support, the less chance there is rock bottom comes at all.
Ready to get your focus back? Harley Therapy connects you with some of the top counselling psychologists in London who can help. Not in London, or even the UK? Our booking site connects you with affordable therapists UK-wide or online therapy from wherever you are in the world.
Have another tip for increasing your focus in life? Or have you had therapy for one of the conditions above and found your focus improved? Start the conversation below.
photos by Bart Everson, Michael Dorokhov, Sean MacEntee, Ruby Goes
Andrea M. Darcy is the editor and lead writer for this blog. With a writing career spanning two decades, her favourite topics are now ADHD, trauma, and relationships. Find her @am_darcy