Hyperfocusing and ADHD... Is it a superpower?
One of the most common symptoms I come across with my clients who have neurodiverse conditions like ADHD is their tendency to 'hyperfocus' on things.
They tell me that when something really excites or interests them they can't think of anything else, and just focus all their attention on whatever it is.
One excellent example I can give you is of one of my teenage clients, who picked up a Rubik's cube (remember them?) one day in one of our sessions, which his dad must have left lying around. His eyes lit up as he studied it. For the next two weeks, every time I was there for a session he had it in his hand, with his phone next to him as he looked online at 'how to complete the Rubik's cube' on forums. In one session I actually had to ask him to put it down as it was distracting him from our session!
After two weeks he came to another session and within two minutes and 30 seconds, he completed the cube! I told him how amazed I was and his reply was 'That's my 20th time now completing it', and then proceeded to show me a YouTube clip of a guy doing it in three seconds! I could have spent weeks trying to master that myself but would have never got close as I would have found something else that needed doing.
So is this hyper-focus a 'superpower'? There are many examples where it could be... many scientists, artists and writers have excelled due to being able to focus intensely on that one task to the extreme.
But there is the flip side.
It does also mean that whilst concentrating on that one task, other important daily tasks get left, which can cause problems elsewhere. Or a task at school or at work can be left unfinished as they move on to the next exciting thing!
Another of my clients found this problem and was hyperfocusing on the 'wrong stuff' as he put it. He found himself regularly getting sidetracked by the excitement of video gaming and playing his guitar, which made him late for work every single day.
So here is an exercise that works for him (and it could do for other people that you may know).
Whenever he felt he was starting to hyperfocus I asked him to shout 'Stop!' and then ask himself three questions (if he could think of more questions then even better):
- Is this the most important thing I need to do right now?
- What benefits will I gain from this?
- Will my doing this for long periods affect others, and how?
Answering these questions gave him the time he needed to do a hard stopon whatever the impulse was, thus allowing him to reach the best conclusion as to whether he should progress with it, or consider other things that were more important to do.
So is it a superpower? It can very much be but use it intentionally.