Am I Hyperfixating?

Published On: December 12, 2023Categories: Mental Health

Day-to-day life includes various tasks, goals and events that require our focus. It is our attention to these tasks that help us complete our work well and thoroughly. 

Sometimes, though, our brains can get overly focused and the attention we give to a hobby can become obsessive. Known as hyperfixation, this trait often leads to negative consequences, but when channeled properly, can have some positive attributes, too. 

What is hyperfixation? 

Hyperfixation is prolonged and intense concentration on an activity one perceives as enjoyable where all external stimuli are ignored and one’s performance of said task improves. Sometimes, those hyper-fixated on something lose sense of time, do not exercise proper hygiene and/or forget about other responsibilities.

Hyperfixation is most common in individuals with neurodivergent tendencies, including those with autism, ADHD, OCD and others. Because of the way in which their brains hone in on particular activities, hyperfixation can occur. That being said, anyone can experience hyperfixation if the environment is right and the brain decides to become fixated. 

Is hyperfixation the same thing as hyperfocus? 

Oftentimes, hyperfixation and hyperfocus are terms used interchangeably – but they are not the same thing, exactly. 

Hyperfixation refers to an intense, un-distractible focus on a hobby or interest; hyperfocus refers more to the attention paid to a goal-oriented task. 

For example, you may suddenly notice your car is extremely muddy and needs to be washed. You may put all other tasks and responsibilities aside for the sake of making sure your vehicle is properly washed and cleaned out. 

What makes this example one of hyperfocus and not hyperfixation is that washing your car is not a hobby taking up your entire mindframe. It’s an action with a goal that, once completed, allowed you to return to the other obligations of your day. 

Hyperfixation, however, has few goals like that, and often does not allow you to return to your other daily tasks. You often forget about any other tasks if hyperfixating. 

What are the symptoms of hyperfixation?

If someone is hyperfixated on an activity, it’s easy to notice, as they are not easily distracted or pulled away from the activity they are engaged in. Again, everyone can have times when they are hyperfocused on a task and working hard to get it done, but hyperfixation shows other symptoms than short term, intense focus. 

Those who experience hyperfixation are likely to experience some of these symptoms: 

  • Losing self-awareness and possibly even social awareness
  • Completely tuning out the world around them, possibly without even realizing it 
  • Feeling out of control of the actions related to the task 
  • Not practicing good hygiene, forgetting to eat/sleep and overall sacrificing self-care as a result of the hyperfixation 
  • Not paying attention to the passing of time, and risking being late/missing important obligations

There are a number of reasons why these symptoms can be problematic, including declining work or school performance, missed appointments and the toll a persistent lack of care for oneself can have.

Addressing hyperfixation 

Hyperfocus definitely has some benefits – those who are hyperfocused on a career change, obtaining a degree or remodeling the kitchen need a dedicated level of focus to complete the tasks at hand. It’s when this intense focus shifts into obsession that problems begin to arise. 

In order to avoid this dedicated focus from becoming problematic, there are certain practices you can put into place to help you balance yourself out and avoid the negative effects of hyperfixation. 

Look for a root cause

People don’t usually hyperfixate on something just because – usually there is an underlying issue needing attention. It may be that there is an undiagnosed neurodivergent condition, including ADHD, autism or OCD. These causes are important to identify in order to go about getting the right kind of help to address them. 

Other examples could include anxiety – if you battle social anxiety, staying hyperfixated on a hobby will keep you from needing to socialize. But remember: the hyperfixation is not fixing the root problem. It’s simply preventing you from addressing an underlying concern.

Ask for accountability 

If you enlist the help of friends or family members, you might be more inclined to manage hyperfixation. You know the best methods that would help you, but some things you could ask them to do include calling you or coming over to your house at certain times to make sure you’re not losing track of time. You might even require a more visual clue, like them turning off your screen. 

Set alarms and timers

If you are sitting down to work on your hobby and you plan to only spend a small amount of time with it, set an alarm so you don’t become wholly absorbed and completely lose track of time. Try to keep yourself accountable to your alarms, and get up and leave the space when the alarm goes off. This will hopefully help pull you out of any hyperfixated stated and give your mind a chance to recenter. 

Need to talk to somebody?

If you simply don’t have the ability to get a hold of hyperfixation on your own, there is no shame in seeking additional help. By getting in touch with the right therapist, you can craft a plan to address these behaviors and avoid getting lost in hyperfixation. 

To get in touch with a counselor today, contact Tapestry Recovery by calling 828-490-4032 or by contacting us online to learn more. 

Related Posts