How To Hack ADHD Hyperfixation

Have you ever been so interested in something, that it’s all you can think about, and you don’t want to do anything else? Do you ever find that when you’re thinking about it or doing anything related to it, you feel like your attention is completely absorbed by it – to the point where you might lose track of time and what’s happening around you, or forget to eat? People with ADHD often experience this state, which is known as ‘hyperfixation’.

Although it’s not officially associated with the condition, people with ADHD are more likely to ‘hyperfixate’ on certain things that they are particularly fascinated by, such as a new hobby, or a recently discovered TV show or book series.

If you can make it work for you, hyperfixation can be a positive state in which we become extremely productive, and at the same time enjoy doing tasks related to a current fixation. However, it can also be a challenge to manage, as hyperfixating on something sometimes means that tasks and needs unrelated to the object of fixation get ignored.

Why do people with ADHD hyperfixate?

People with ADHD may have decreased levels of dopamine, also known as ‘the happy hormone’. As a result, the ADHD brain may tend to prioritize things that are stimulating or that bring joy, and so these things are more likely to hold attention compared to tasks that are considered boring or challenging.

Another reason may be that some people with ADHD have more trouble switching attention between tasks, compared to people without ADHD. So they may tend to maintain focus on one thing for prolonged periods of time, once their attention has been captured.

What does hyperfixation look like?

Some signs that you or someone you know is hyperfixating may include:

  • Losing track of time
  • Forgetting to eat, shower, or check-in with loved ones
  • Decreased awareness of the environment e.g., reduced reaction to people and sounds around them
  • Spending a disproportionate amount of time working on one task or thinking about a particular subject, over all others
  • Becoming disoriented, or feeling like a trance has been broken, when switching tasks

Top tip – track how hyperfixation is affecting you

Using a health tracker to keep a record of how often your symptoms, including hyperfixation, are affecting you can help give you a better understanding of how ADHD impacts you and what might be working to help you manage it.

Human Health is a free app you can use to track symptoms, as well as interventions you might be using. You can download the app here, or by searching for ‘Human Health’ on the App Store or Google Play.

Is hyperfixation a bad thing?

Whilst hyperfixation can sometimes make us feel really productive, and provide us with feelings of gratification as a result of getting things related to what we’re fixated on done, it can also be a bit counterproductive.

When we’re hyperfixated on something, we tend to let other tasks which may be more important go unattended because we don’t find them as interesting. If these tasks are things like chores, schoolwork, or staying connected with friends and family, ignoring them may have negative consequences in the future.

Sometimes hyperfixating can also mean we neglect tasks related to our own needs, such as eating, taking breaks, and sleeping, because we’re so absorbed with our fixation. So, it’s important to make sure that we have strategies in place to manage it and ensure we’re not neglecting our personal needs or other necessary tasks.

Managing hyperfixation so it works for you

With the correct management techniques in place, entering a state of hyperfixation can make us more productive and help us complete tasks.

A couple things you can try to keep periods of hyperfixation under control and still find positive benefits include:

Setting time-limits

  • Use a timer on your phone or other device to make sure you’re only spending a pre-determined amount of time on your hyperfixation activity.
  • Block out time in your diary for when you are ‘allowed’ to spend time on your hyperfixation, so that you can plan around it to complete other tasks.

Use the Pomodoro technique

  • This time-management technique involves taking a short break after each sustained period of work, such as a 5 minute break after 25 minutes of focus time.
  • You can find Pomodoro timers online or on your phone’s app store that can help you keep track of your focus time and break periods.

Get an accountability partner

  • Work in the same room as a friend or family member who can keep you on track and give you reminders to switch tasks if you need them.
  • You could also ask a friend or family member to check-in with you online if you can’t be in the same place.

Change up your hobbies and interests

  • Exploring new passions is one way you can make sure you’re not overly fixating on one thing – adding new interests to the mix gives you more options for getting enjoyment and gratification.

What’s the difference between hyperfixation and hyperfocus?

These two terms are used quite interchangeably, as a state in which one is completely focused on something, and able to avoid distraction and maintain attention for a prolonged period of time. In ADHD, the objects of hyperfocus tend to be things that someone with ADHD is really excited about or interested in, leading to the term ‘hyperfixation’, because there is an almost obsessive drive to focus on the subject.

For people without ADHD, hyperfocus also involves heightened attention and productivity related to a particular subject, but the drive behind this state tends to be more goal-related or task-driven, rather than motivated by a strong fascination or interest.

Reach out for support

If you’re struggling to manage your hyperfixation, it might be helpful to reach out to others for help and advice. Your loved ones or healthcare team might be able to offer some insight or useful tips. You can also find a list of ADHD support groups here.

If you found this article helpful, you might like to share it with others who might also have ADHD, or who are interested in learning more about hyperfixation.

Resources

https://add.org/adhd-hyperfixation/‍

Contributors
Olivia Holland
Medical Writer