Hyperfocus and ADHD

Let’s talk about hyperfocusing – this is something really common in people with ADHD and autism. So what does hyperfocusing mean? In essence it’s where you have a particular interest that diverts your attention for hours and you almost shut the world out. When you are hyper focused on something you are completely absorbed in the task. Hyperfocusing in autism and ADHD is poorly defined in the scientific literature: there is no clinical definition of hyper focus. Anecdotally hyperfocusing is a phenomenon that people with autism and ADHD often experience. For neurotypicals, the closest analogy is being completely engrossed in a book, film or video game. In order to be hyperfocused on something, generally speaking it needs to be something of significant interest or fun. Unfortunately often, unless your passion is your work or study, generally speaking hyperfocusing isn’t usually applied to completing a work report or homework.

My hyperfocus tends to be around new software – about 10 years ago I started using video editing software and more recently I’ve been teaching myself how to use the Audacity (sound editing software). I love using new tech because I’m always looking for the latest gadget or the latest piece of kit that’s going to save me some time (I am waiting for AI to be able to help clean my apartment). I’m even typing this using Google Docs voice typing! One thing I realized that I didn’t really speak about in the podcast is why I got into video editing and what drew me to. I had to ask myself: why am I so passionate about it? I think the reason for that is that when people see videos they have an emotional reaction to the content, whether that’s hope, laughter or tears. You evoke the same reactions with great photos too, but there’s something about video that is uniquely compelling. I think it’s the combination of the images and the music. It’s a really effective tool to get your messages across. It’s possible to achieve this with photography of course, but you have to have some talent and be patient. I think with video editing, once you learn the tricks you can achieve a similar effect with stock video footage and stock photos.

However, not all hyperfocuses are created equally. That’s to say not all hyperfocuses are terribly productive or useful. I’ve lost days and hours of my life venturing down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia looking up an actor who I’ve just seen in a movie and then finding myself on a page about the mating habits of the lesser spotted woodpecker.  They are not something that people with autism or ADHD can just call upon either when needed. I tend to dip in and out of hyperfocusses based on my mood and energy levels. They generally emerge after a period of procrastination or low mood.

Listen to my latest podcast of hyperfocusing here.


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