Our Son’s Challenges With Hyperfixation

One of the challenges that our son, who has inattentive ADHD, deals with is hyperfixation. In this blog post, I want to help you understand what hyperfixation is and what challenges our son and family face.

What is Hyperfixation?

Hyperfixation is best defined as an intense or prolonged interest in or an obsession with an activity, subject, or person. Simply put, a person who experiences hyperfixation has their attention completely absorbed and consumed by a particular activity or interest for an excessive or unhealthy amount of time.

There are times where see see this behavior, or intense focus or obsession with an activity in our son. Our son tends to hyperfixate on video games. He will completely immerse and lose himself in a video game for hours on end. He tends to ignore or delay everything he needs to do when he starts hyperfixating and playing video games, and sometimes it takes a major effort to break him out of that hyperfixation. He has gotten better in recent years in many respects, but he still has his moments where we see him hyperfixate.

Some common characteristics of hyperfixation that can manifest in many different situations are:

  • A person will begin a task and suddenly realize many hours have passed.
  • A person may ignore or not respond to others, making it extremely difficult to communicate with them and get their attention.
  • A person will be unaware of what is happening around them and may tune out things like people talking, the weather, and the time.
  • A person may ignore and/or delay their personal needs, such as eating or sleeping because they’re so focused on the task at hand.
  • A person may find that they have a hard time stopping or switching to a different activity.

Hyperfixation can and will manifest itself differently from one person to another. Some get completely wrapped up in a hobby, while others engage in random activities like watching TV or scrolling through Pinterest.

Benefits of Hyperfixation

Wait, there are benefits and positive side effects to hyperfixation? Yes, there are many things can prove to be a benefit to those who deal with hyperfixation. These benefits of hyperfixation are only useful when focused on something productive.

1. Intense Focus

Those who have hyperfixation undergo a state of intense focus on their task or subject at hand. When this subject is positive, the attention given to it and only it can lead to doing things that no one else can do.

When our son has focus, he can accomplish anything. It is amazing to see when he gets so wrapped up in a subject what he’s able to learn and do. I’m constantly in awe about what he can accomplish when he gains focus and puts his effort into it.

2. Boundless Energy

Those who have hyperfixation tend to disregard their bodies signs for fatigue or tiredness. The don’t get bored, but rather they just keep going and going.

When our son hyperfixates he is just like this. It doesn’t matter what time it is, or how tired he may be, he just keeps going.

3. High Productivity

People who have hyperfixation can get a lot done in a little amount of time with no distractions, an intense focus, and boundless energy.

Negative Symptoms of Hyperfixation

There are also a lot of downsides and negative symptoms of hyperfixation. Some of these negative symptoms can lead to stress, grief, and problems not only for the person who is hyperfixating, but also for those who are trying to interact with them.

1. Not Listening

A common problem of hyperfixation is that a person will just not listen. Regardless of what you’re trying to say to them they end up completely ignore you. What’s really going on is that a person likely doesn’t even hear you. because they’re so focused on what they’re doing that they simply tune out everything else that’s going on around them.

2. Distracted

Even when a person is physically present, those who hyperfixate may tend to seem distracted or distant. This can easily be thought of as going through the motions but they’re in a completely different world.

3. Unable to Pay Attention

A person who hyperfixates may seem like they’re paying attention and listening to what you’re saying, but when you’re done talking to them, they don’t remember a thing you said.

4. Not Doing Chores / Essential Tasks

A person who hyperfixates will tend to put a lower priority on chores and tasks that need to be completed because it doesn’t align with their interests. This can be ignoring things like washing and folding laundry, to not wanting to bathe and shower.

5. Being Late / Making Others Wait

Because a person who hyperfixates gets so caught up in the activity their doing or focused on, when it’s time for them to stop and transition to something else, it becomes very hard to break out of the activity. People who struggle with this can say things like, “just five more minutes.”

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