The Fine Line Between Hyper Focus and Obsession

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Hyper focus and obsession can both be equally intense but there is a balance that is neccesary.

A lot of people with ADHD can experience something called hyper focus, which is pretty much the opposite of what we are known for. It’s where our brain finally connects with something that brings us untold joy and we can focus on it for long periods of time. The issue with it being that it can become all consuming and we care barely talk or think about anything else.

This of course can have its advantages, especially if we end up hyper focusing on something that makes us productive. For example, for me when I get ‘in the zone’ with my novel writing; the real-world fades away and I disappear into my story. While that’s fantastic for getting my novel complete, it doesn’t exactly bode well for being a foster parent.

The problem is if we’re not careful then hyper focus can lead to obsession, which may present itself as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (a condition than can actually be diagnosed alongside ADHD). Realistically it’s hard to ignore the draw of hyper focus, if you know what triggers it. All people with ADHD dream of being able to focus without distraction at some point.

“The frustrating thing is that those of us with ADHD struggle to find any sort of balance, which means hyper focus can easily turn into obsession.”

ADHD Girl

Many people might argue that hyper focus is the same thing as obsession, but I see it as slightly different. For me hyper focus is a state of mind, think of it like being ‘in the zone’ for people with ADHD. Whereas I think obsession is a more serious and longer lasting thing. Allow me to give an example; hyper focusing on a video game until lunch time or sleep time isn’t in itself a very bad thing. However, if you can’t stop thinking about the video game even when you’re not doing it and rarely doing anything else then this would probably be more of an obsession.

It’s very difficult because the trick in terms of preventing hyper focus from leading to obsession lies in maintaining some kind of balance. As those with ADHD will tell you, we don’t do balance when it comes to behaviour; we are all or nothing.  So how do I manage it?

The best way I have found to manage hyper focus and stop it leading to obsession is giving myself as much time as I can to do the activities I enjoy. If I don’t allow myself at least a little time a day to do my writing, I become frustrated and equally the next time I do it, it completely takes over leading to me being late for things or ignoring my needs (such as eating).

“We are only humans, despite the ADHD, we must learn to be kind to ourselves.”

ADHD Girl

The great thing about being a foster parent is children will not allow you to ignore them, so it doesn’t really affect my parenting. Though I confess, I have visited the jungle gyms with them more than once a week just to book in some extra writing time. A writer is part of who I am and it’s part of myself that I don’t like to compromise on, as long as the kids are happy.

I have often heard many people refer to ADHD as a curse or a genetic defect and why I don’t dispute it comes with it difficulties. For me it also comes with some advantages too, hyper focus being one of them. If I can just get one hour a day where I get hyper focus then I’m happy because usually it means I get stuff done.

That doesn’t always happen by the way. Not everyday is sunshine and rainbows where I can hyper focus for an hour or so. Some days I feel like tearing my hair out and having a temper tantrum because I feel too ill to do anything or my brain just won’t work due to burn out. The key is on these days to remind ourselves, like everyone else, we are only human. As different as our brains may be, we all need down time. We, also, all need to fine a good balance between hyper focus and obsession because for those of you who have watched the TV show  “You” or the movie ‘Black Swan” it is clear that obsession can destroy a person.

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