HYPERFIXATION: DEFINITION, BENEFITS, DISADVANTAGES AND MANAGEMENT
What is Hyperfixation?
As the term suggests, hyperfixation is when someone becomes wholly immersed or fixated on something to the exclusion of everything else.
A person might become hyperfixated on reading, playing a video game, cleaning, or repairing something. In this case, they usually feel unable to step away until the task or chore is “complete.” But people can also become fixated on subject matters or hobbies, talking about them incessantly and neglecting other areas of life.
How Does Hyperfixation Affect Children and Adults with ADHD?
Known as a phenomenon of intense fixation, hyperfixation is also called hyperfocus.
Someone may become lost in an activity or an interest and have difficulty setting healthy boundaries or showing up in other areas of their life.
A child might hyperfocus on watching cartoons, building with Legos, or a hobby like fishing or baseball. An adult might hyperfocus on scrolling social media, shopping, or writing a novel.
Whether hyperfixation is stealing the attention of an adult or a child, the outcome is similar. Unless interrupted or hedged by healthy boundaries, these fixations can jeopardize relationships and cause neglect of vital responsibilities.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Hyperfocus
While it might seem like hyperfocus is a purely negative phenomenon, that’s not the case. There are both benefits and perils associated with hyperfixation.
Advantages of Hyperfixation
Hyperfocus is a complicated aspect of ADHD. It may sound contradictory, as many people assume individuals with ADHD cannot focus intently. But this is a misconception. Hyperfixation is common in people with ADHD and leads to what some call “extreme productivity.”
It can have other benefits as well:
- Get a lot done in a short amount of time
- Complete tasks and projects
- Fully devote attention to an area of interest
- Improve skills through hours of focused effort
- Hyperfocus on relationships, making them stronger
Disadvantages of Hyperfixation
Unfortunately, hyperfocus can cause severe issues. Anyone who spends much time with a hyperfixated person knows it can be frustrating to try and lure them back to the pressing matters at hand.
Other disadvantages include:
- Forgetting to do critical things like eating and sleeping
- Focusing on pointless, irrelevant, or inappropriate tasks
- Failing to show up—physically or emotionally—when people need you
- Neglecting important responsibilities and relationships to the point of destroying them
How to Manage ADHD Hyperfixation
Like most things in life, hyperfixation can be managed. If you or your child are feeling out of control, there are techniques and tools to help you reign in fixation.