Hyperfixation: Passionate interest or obsessive attachment?

Ever looked at your phone for long periods of the day? Or got so caught up on learning about a niche topic that you forgot about other commitments? We all get sucked into certain tasks or activities and lose track of time. However, some of us may get so sucked in that we forget important things. Maybe instead of doing your laundry or going to that work dinner, you focus on that one special thing. This behavior is called hyperfixation, and it describes an intense state of concentration on a specific thing. 

What is hyperfixation?

Someone who can focus on something very well is likely not dealing with hyperfixation. Rather, this condition is when your focus on something cannot be broken and inhibits other aspects of life. For example, you might be constantly bingeing your favorite show but neglecting that pile of homework. Or you might be forgetting to do the dishes or not bathing.

Hyperfixation can often be accredited to just being passionate or forgetful. However, it can lead to real-life consequences like not maintaining hygiene or losing out on important moments in one’s social life. 

Having something you are passionate about or very focused on does not necessarily mean that you have a hyperfixation; the issue is when you are unable to distinguish the importance or presence of other things while you focus on the thing you are hyperfixated on.

Why does hyperfixation occur?

Hyperfixation may be linked with neurodivergence or mental disorders like ADHD, ADD and autism. Often, the symptoms of these mental disorders include or coincide with hyperfixation. The root causes of hyperfixation may also be these same mental disorders. The reason is that they make it easier for you to over-focus on certain things. However, the specific causes of hyperfixation are still not completely known. 

What does hyperfixation look like?

When someone becomes unable to focus on anything else other than the hyperfixated-on object, that is hyperfixation. This can cause the person to not be able to talk to others when engaging with the object or lose track of other important or pertinent tasks. It may also be hard to break the attention of the person as they can possibly ignore or not fully understand what is being said to them. 

Commonly, the object of the hyperfixation is a specific activity or subject, like boats or gaming or playing soccer. For example, a person may spend all day looking up the different types of boats or the kinds of boats made in the 1960s. Sometimes, these forms of hyperfixation can be left unchecked if they appear neurotypical: If a person goes to the gym twice a day every day of the week and talks about fitness all day, they may just be seen as an overly healthy person. However, this may be a form of hyperfixation if the person does not have healthy boundaries with the activity. These objects of focus are often something that the person finds joy in, which makes the hyperfixation that much harder to address. 

However, the object is not always an activity or subject. It can be a specific object like a lucky charm or historical item that the person likes to learn about or needs with them at all times. It could also be a person or group of people. Often, this type of hyperfixation is parasocial. Parasocial means that the person attaches themselves to a person or group that they do not have a real-life relationship with. This can look like being an overly devoted fan of a celebrity or group of people. However, the object doesn’t have to be a celebrity. They can be someone the person is socially connected to or randomly sees. 

6 tips that can help you address hyperfixation

Although it can seem difficult to break these habits and gain back focus on other things, there are ways you can manage hyperfixation symptoms. Acknowledging when the habit begins and understanding the context of why or when you begin to hyperfixate can help reduce how much it takes over your life. Being in control is possible!

Some strategies you can try that may help you address hyperfixation include:

  • Setting time limits for how long you’re on apps or game consoles
  • Making plans ahead of time and not letting yourself cancel
  • Planning time, especially at the beginning of the day, to meet your other goals
  • Taking up other interests
  • Asking other people in your life to help keep you accountable
  • Seeking help from a mental health professional

These steps are not easy alone. Loved ones, bosses, professors, co-workers, friends, family, coaches and teammates can all help you address hyperfixation. However, having a trained specialist in neurodivergence can allow you to make great strides toward improving your life. 

Find help for your hyperfixation at Lightfully

At Lightfully, our licensed clinicians understand how to address hyperfixation. They have experience helping people establish better habits in its place. Working with a Lightfully clinician means working with someone who sees you as a person, not as a diagnosis. Our clinicians work to understand what you’re going through while also listening to your needs and feelings. 

Lightfully’s specialists can help you at every step of your mental health journey thanks to our four programs: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward dealing with hyperfixation, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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