Why am i so easily distracted and forgetful
Why Am I Unable to Concentrate?
You rely on concentration to get through work or school every day. When you’re unable to concentrate, you can’t think clearly, focus on a task, or maintain your attention.
Your performance at work or school could be affected if you can’t concentrate. You may also find that you can’t think as well, which can affect your decision-making. A number of medical conditions may contribute to or cause an inability to concentrate.
It’s not always a medical emergency, but being unable to concentrate can mean you need medical attention.
Being unable to concentrate affects people differently. Some symptoms you may experience include:
- being unable to remember things that occurred a short time ago
- difficulty sitting still
- difficulty thinking clearly
- frequently losing things or having difficulty remembering where things are
- inability to make decisions
- inability to perform complicated tasks
- lack of focus
- lacking physical or mental energy to concentrate
- making careless mistakes
You may notice that it’s harder to concentrate at certain times of day or in certain settings. Others may comment that you appear distracted. You may miss appointments or meetings because of a lack of focus. Sometimes, people call this brain fog.
Many health conditions can make it hard to concentrate. Here are just a few:
- alcohol use disorder
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- Cushing syndrome
- depression and anxiety
- major depressive disorder
- bipolar disorder
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
Lifestyle factors that can affect your concentration include:
- lack of sleep
- lack of exercise
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Being unable to concentrate is also a side effect of some medications. Drugs that can affect the way you think include:
- histamine h3 receptor antagonists, which reduce stomach acid
- some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
- some cardiac drugs
- some chemotherapy drugs
If you have new medications, read the insert carefully. Contact your doctor or pharmacist to determine if your medications may be affecting your concentration. Don’t stop taking any medications unless your doctor says to.
If you’re having trouble focusing these tips might help:
- Remove distractions. Clear up desk clutter, switch off notifications, and only listen to music if it helps you focus.
- Notice when you lose attention. Identifying a pattern might help you resolve it, and it might prompt you to concentrate better.
- Review your medications. Some drugs and supplements can affect your thinking.
- Practice time blocking. Make a plan to work for one hour then rest or stretch for 5 minutes, for example. Put “busy” on your calendar so people know when is a suitable time to approach you.
- Eat fruit rather than sugary snacks. Sugar can cause your blood glucose levels to spike and dip, making you feel less energetic after a while.
- Keep your brain active. Do puzzles or other activities that keep you thinking actively.
- Practice mindfulness meditation. This can help train your thoughts and bring them back to center.
- Check the side effects of medications. A number of drugs can cause sleepiness or brain fog.
- Look after your body: Exercise and a varied diet that is rich in essential nutrients can boost your physical wellbeing and may help enhance your mental health.
- Makes lists and set achievable goals. Written lists, plans, and goals can help you prioritize and remember the tasks you need to do without them cluttering your mind.
However, if you’re lacking focus because of a health condition, you may need medical treatment.
Here are some tips for focusing your brain when you feel you are losing concentration:
- stop and do a breathing exercise, such as box breathing
- be aware of how your brain is wandering and decide which way you want it to go
- shift to a new task and come back to the present one later
- take a break, for example go for a walk or do some stretches
Here are 14 tips to help you focus your brain.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
- memory problems that are worse than usual
- decreased performance in work or school
- difficulty sleeping
- unusual feelings of tiredness
You should also make an appointment to see your doctor if problems with concentration affect your ability to go through daily life or enjoy your life.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to being unable to concentrate:
- loss of consciousness
- numbness or tingling on one side of your body
- severe chest pain
- severe headache
- sudden, unexplained memory loss
- unawareness of where you are
- problems with speaking
These may be a sign of a stroke, heart attack, or other condition that needs urgent attention.
Diagnosis can involve a variety of tests because there are many possible causes.
The doctor will most likely:
- ask you about any symptoms
- discuss your health history with you
- ask questions such as “When did you first notice this condition?” and “When is your ability to concentrate better or worse?”
- review any medications, supplements, and herbs you are taking to see if they could affect your concentration
With this information, your doctor may either make a diagnosis or recommend further testing, for example:
- blood testing to determine hormone levels
- CT scans to assess for brain changes
- electroencephalography (EEG) to measure electrical activity in the scalp
There are many reasons why people find it difficult to focus, and it can take time to find a diagnosis.
Sometimes, lifestyle related changes can help, such as:
- reviewing your diet and switching to one that includes more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and oily fish
- getting more sleep
- reducing caffeine and alcohol intake
- taking steps to reduce stress, such as meditating, writing in a journal, or reading a book
Specific foods that may support brain health include:
- foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and flaxseed
- foods containing vitamins B1, B6, B9, and B12, such as salmon, leafy greens, eggs, and milk
- foods containing iron, such as shellfish, spinach, liver, and legumes
- foods that provide vitamin D, for instance, fortified dairy products and eggs
Other treatments will depend upon your specific diagnosis.
For example, people with ADHD may need several different treatment approaches, including medication and behavior therapy. This includes behavioral therapy to limit distractions or medications to improve concentration. It can also include parent education.
What are the treatment options for ADHD?
Why can’t I concentrate and focus?
Loss of focus can happen for many reasons. They include mental and physical health problems, stress, the use of some medications, and a lack of sleep or and inadequate diet.
How can I improve my concentration?
This will depend on the cause of the lack of focus. Options range from getting treatment for an underlying condition to practicing mindfulness, or just clearing your desk.
Do any foods improve concentration?
According to some research, nutrients that may help include omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B1, B6, B12, B9 (folic acid) and D, choline, iron and iodine. These foods may help protect the brain and the nervous system. They may even improve performance in tasks that involve thinking, but more research is needed.
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There are many reasons why you might find it hard to concentrate, including stress, a range of chronic diseases, and the use of certain medications.
If you’re having trouble focusing and it’s affecting your daily life, speak with a doctor. They may be able to help by addressing an underlying problem or recommending therapy.
Distractibility or ADHD? How to Tell the Difference
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so ADHD,” describing being easily distracted? Although stereotypes suggest that difficulty focusing must mean you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), distractibility and ADHD are two very different things.
In most cases, being easily distracted is nothing to be concerned about. It could be a sign that you’re tired or simply bored. Moreover, it’s just one of many potential symptoms of ADHD, which in fact is not that common: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that only about 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults in the United States actually have ADHD. Read on to learn more about distractibility and when it might be a sign that professional help is warranted.
What Does It Mean to Be Easily Distracted?
Potential distractions are everywhere in a world in which we’re often bombarded with emails, texts, and social media notifications throughout the day. “It is hard to set healthy boundaries with time that allows the brain to decompress, rest, and restore to reduce distractibility,” says licensed clinical mental health counselor Amelia Kelley, PhD, of Kelley Counseling and Wellness in Cary, North Carolina.
What’s more, being easily distracted can differ from person to person. Some experience frequent internal distractions; they may feel anxious, dwell on certain thoughts, or worry about their to-do list. Others are more prone to external distractions; they may find it hard to stay focused on one task because it reminds them of another, unrelated task, explains Kara Naylon, PhD, a neuropsychologist at LifeStance Health in Boston. Both forms of distraction are normal and happen to everyone at one point or another.
Other common causes of distractibility, says Dr. Kelley, include:
- Parenting, especially when more than one child needs attention. Needing to stay focused on their needs can lead you to misplace important items like your keys, forget other important tasks, or make you late to appointments.
- Struggling to focus on work projects when you’re working from home. It’s easy to turn your attention to nonwork-related tasks, especially if other family members are also at home while you’re on the clock.
- Everyday stress. It’s easy to turn your attention away from the task at hand or forget about prior commitments when you’re preoccupied by other responsibilities or stressors such as fatigue, money problems, family conflicts, or illnesses.
More often than not, most people — even those who are prone to distractibility — can focus on a work or school project without simultaneously being disrupted by thoughts of what they need to cook for dinner tonight or what book they need to read next, explains Shanna Pearson, who lives with ADHD and is the founder and president of Expert ADHD Coaching, a company that helps adults and college students with ADHD.
In contrast, people who have ADHD have a neurodevelopmental disorder that falls under the same diagnostic category as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, communication disorders, and motor disorders, according to the APA.
“Having ADHD is so much more than being easily distracted,” she says. “It involves a lifetime of living with a brain that isn’t able to easily compartmentalize. Not being able to compartmentalize or create separations between tasks, thoughts, ideas, and outcomes feels like living with everything occurring at the same place and time at once in your mind.”
This results in constant feelings of being overwhelmed for people with ADHD. In turn, these feelings lead to other common ADHD symptoms like impulsivity, says Kelley.
Along with impulsivity, key signs of ADHD include hyperactivity and inattention. Some people with ADHD experience only one of these behaviors as the main issue, while others experience a combination of them. These signs may also show up differently in children than in adults.
Symptoms of ADHD in children may manifest as:
- Hyperactivity They may talk excessively, fidget and squirm, or find it hard to sit still.
- Impulsivity They may lack self-control, have difficulty being patient or waiting their turn, frequently interrupt others, or overreact to frustration, disappointment, and criticism.
- Inattention They may daydream often, become bored easily, not follow through on tasks, or struggle with memory and focus.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults may manifest as:
- Hyperactivity In addition to experiencing many of same symptoms seen in children, hyperactivity in adults with ADHD may make it difficult for them to be patient or to relax. It may also make them move around too much, make them talk excessively, lead to outbursts of anger or frustration, or cause them to arrive late to appointments.
- Impulsivity This may cause them to act without considering potential consequences, interrupt others inappropriately, change jobs frequently, drive recklessly, or have more marital problems.
- Inattention A shorter-than-typical attention span may exhibit as overall disorganization, forgetfulness, trouble prioritizing, careless mistakes, or avoidance of tasks requiring concentration.
Mental health professionals use specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose people with ADHD, per the APA. ADHD symptoms must have been present before age 12 to diagnose an individual with this condition, according to the DSM-5.
Although experts don’t know exactly what causes ADHD, they have identified several factors that likely play a role, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Exposure to alcohol or nicotine in utero
- Having a parent or sibling with ADHD
- Issues with the parts of the brain that control attention and activity level
- Concussions or other serious head injuries
- In rare cases, a buildup of environmental toxins, such as lead, in the body can raise the risk of ADHD
The severity of one’s concentration difficulties and whether they happen along with other symptoms like impulsivity or hyperactivity are often what sets ADHD apart from everyday distractibility, Kelley says.
In general, it’s easier to focus on tasks you enjoy and it’s more challenging to focus on tasks that are difficult or unpleasant. However, people who are easily distracted but don’t have ADHD can almost always consciously refocus and get back on track once they realize they’ve been distracted — especially if they get rid of the distraction, for example, by turning off the television or a cell phone. This is not the case for people with ADHD, says Kelley.
Bottom line: General distractibility doesn’t typically impede one’s ability to go about their day, get important tasks done, or fulfill commitments, Dr. Naylon notes. On the other hand, ADHD typically impairs a person’s functioning, including their ability to work, succeed in school, or maintain personal relationships.
ADHD symptoms also cause a lot of frustration and distress. People who have ADHD feel overwhelmed by their thoughts and environment almost all the time, Pearson says.
“It's the overwhelm that has people with ADHD being easily distracted, disorganized, fidgety, and impulsive, and having more difficulty managing their emotions,” she says.Management Strategies for ADHD
If you or your child have been diagnosed with ADHD, consulting a mental health professional could be very helpful. Evidence-based treatments for ADHD include psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy), medication, skills training, and educational services, according to Mayo Clinic.
The most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are prescription stimulants, which, according to the Cleveland Clinic, improve ADHD symptoms in about 70 percent of adults and 70 to 80 percent of children shortly after beginning treatment.
For children with ADHD, Mayo Clinic states, common forms of psychotherapy include:
- Behavioral therapy to help parents and teachers learn strategies that can lead to positive behavior changes among children
- Social skills therapy in which children learn appropriate behaviors for social settings
- Parenting skills training so that parents of children with ADHD can better understand and improve their child’s behavior
Common psychotherapies for adults with ADHD include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on strategies to replace negative thinking and behavioral patterns with healthier more productive ones
- Marriage or family therapy to learn better ways to communicate and solve problems with an ADHD partner or relative, as well as learn ways to cope with any stress related to the loved one’s condition
- Practice mindfulness. There are types of meditation, but Kelley specifically recommends mindfulness meditation, which can help people with or without ADHD learn to focus on the present moment rather than on what happened yesterday or might happen in the future.
- Create to-do lists. “Most people who identify as organized and successful keep some kind of list in order to recall important dates and information,” says Kelley. She suggests keeping your to-do list short — no more than three items — and adding start and stop times for each task.
- Write down competing and distracting thoughts. Try jotting them down on a Post-it note or in a notebook and saving them for later. This way, you put them aside until you are done working without worrying that you will forget, explain experts at the Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Reduce distractions. “Our environment can either make or break our ability to focus,” says Kelley. “For example, if you are checking your email while also chatting online and watching TV, you are demanding that your brain engage in a division of focus.” She encourages single tasking, also known as monotasking. For instance, if you need to check your email, consider turning off the TV while doing so.
- Consulting a professional. You don’t need to have a specific diagnosis to benefit from professional help. Even if you don’t have ADHD, a trained therapist can help you find ways to better manage distractibility.
7 Ways to Focus on Important Things
1. Eliminate all kinds of distractions
Start developing habits that will help you stay focused. Start by creating an environment where you won't be tempted to do anything that isn't work related.
Signal to others not to be interrupted. Close the door to your office. Put on your headphones. Turn off your phone or put it on silent, put it away. Install an app blocker. nine0005
2. Set three main goals every day
Nobody likes long to-do lists. As soon as we see them, we are ready to give up without even starting. So set a maximum of three goals every day. Write them down on a piece of paper and stick it in a visible place.
By limiting the number of daily goals, you will clearly understand what exactly you need to work on. This will help you focus better on tasks and complete them faster.
Ask yourself this question every morning: What are three things I need to finish today? Write down any other tasks on a separate piece of paper. And then proceed to them if you have time. nine0005
3. Set short deadlines
If you work long and hard, it doesn't mean you get more done. According to Parkinson's law, work fills the time allotted for it. And the whole problem is that we fill the remaining time with useless activities. This is because our mind strives to always conserve energy whenever possible.
If we have nothing to do, we will most likely do nothing and let ourselves play a YouTube video or play a game on our phone. nine0005
On the other hand, when we have a deadline in front of us, we begin to sharply focus and avoid distractions at all costs.
Allow less time for work. Set yourself an “artificial deadline” and back it up with something. Tell your boss that you will submit a draft project by the end of the day. This way you can put all your attention on the task and keep it going.
4. Watch Your Thoughts
Almost 50% of our time is spent thinking about something meaningless rather than getting things done. We are in autopilot mode and cannot control our thoughts - because, in part, we do not want to concentrate on something. To work productively, you need to follow the train of thought and catch yourself on distractions. nine0005
When you feel that you urgently need to change activities, take a deep breath and try not to react to this desire - otherwise it will be difficult for you to return to work later.
5. Train your brain by playing
Your mind is like a muscle. He should be trained.
How can this be done? For example, using the Pomodoro method. This technique involves breaking down tasks into 25-minute periods, called "pomodoros", followed by short breaks. The idea is to turn the workout into a game - force yourself to work on a task until the bell rings. Then relax and do whatever you want. nine0005
After a break, return to work again - and so on all day. You will be surprised when you see the results!
6. Do more difficult work
If you can't focus and are constantly distracted, you may just not be interested in your work. You may feel like you're working hard all day, but it's likely that your mind is just trying to fight boredom and wants to fill your time with something more meaningful.
Complex tasks require more memory and attention - thus, we have less and less opportunity to look for a new distraction. We get bored when our skills exceed the requirements. nine0005
Rate your level of unproductive work. Answer the question: Are you interested in your current project? If not, find a bigger challenge and set yourself a tougher goal.
7. Break the Cycle of Stress and Distractions
Stress also plays an important role in our inability to focus and overcome distractions. Too often we try to work when we feel overwhelmed. So we get tired faster and begin to lose focus. If you are easily distracted, you may be experiencing stress. Here are some of the symptoms:
- You can't concentrate and constantly lose your train of thought
- You find it difficult to formulate thoughts and keep up
- You feel like you forget things faster
When you calm down, it will be easier for you to deal with distractions. Try to sleep and rest. Take up meditation. Do breathing exercises.
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