Everyone feels unfocused from time to time. We may be at work and thinking about something at home or about an aging parent, or we could be spending time with our kids while worrying about a work deadline. Having trouble focusing on occasion is part of the human experience at any age; however, if you’re frequently unfocused, it may be a sign of an underlying issue.
Why Can’t I Focus Anymore? 8 Potential Causes
If you can’t focus or concentrate, a number of reasons or medical conditions could be contributing to the issue. Lack of focus may be related to mental health and or a chronic medical issue, but there are ways to increase your mental energy.
Here are eight potential reasons why you can’t focus anymore:
1. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Those diagnosed with ADHD experience high levels of impulsivity and hyperactivity, as well as many other symptoms. As a result, they often struggle to focus on individual tasks. While some inattention is common, adults with ADHD experience this frequently and for longer periods of time. Over time, it can negatively impact school, work, and relationships.
Sadness is a normal emotion. Depression, on the other hand, is diagnosed when those feelings of sadness are intense and last for a long duration of time. When someone experiences depression, their mood, cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, and ability to focus is severely hindered. Among the many symptoms of depression, struggling to pay attention and having poor focus are chief.
Similarly, occasional anxiety or nervousness is natural. When it becomes so frequent that your body is always in fight-or-flight mode, you may be dealing with generalized anxiety disorder. With this kind of anxiety, symptoms tend to be fixated on a certain event or situation that triggers fear or another undesired emotion. When you’re so focused on that trigger, focusing on anything else becomes difficult.
Specific drugs pertaining to bodily functions or muscular issues can contribute to memory fog and lack of concentration. Additionally, medicine for sleep, allergies, and certain SSRIs or SNRIs can also contribute to concentration issues. Talk to your doctor about symptoms and adverse effects if these medications are interfering with your daily activities.
When the body and mind undergo trauma or experience trauma, it’s possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can impair your ability to focus, especially when you’re having a flashback.1
Burnout by definition is feeling so exhausted physically and mentally that your performance begins to decline. This decline may be due to forgetfulness, a lack of clear thinking, or even an inability to think things through fully.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can be mild or severe. It can cause headaches, changes in mood and affect, as well as an inability to focus and concentrate.2
Dementia is a decline in cognitive function that includes issues with focus, concentration, memory, language skills and understanding, and where you are in relation to time and space. In some cases, it can even cause personality changes.3
9 Ways to Turn ‘Can’t Focus’ Into ‘Can Focus’
If you can’t focus at work, home, school, or anywhere else, there are ways to cope, manage, and build up your attention. These methods include exercise, healthy eating, and scheduling.
Nine ways to improve and maintain your focus include:
- Routinely exercising: regular exercise is a great way to improve your focus. When you exercise, you have to breathe well and that helps you stay grounded.
- Creating a schedule/blocking time: another way to stay focused is creating structure and routine.
- Proper nutrition: get all your essential vitamins and nutrients. Certain foods are especially good for brain health and memory, so speaking with a doctor and incorporating those into your diet is beneficial.
- Specific space for working: in the age of remote work, many find themselves working somewhere that’s associated with rest and lounging, which can make focusing difficult. Carving out a designated space to work can help put you in an organized headspace.
- Memory games: playing memory games is another great way to improve your focus. The more we challenge ourselves, the better we do cognitively.
- Reducing caffeinated beverages: caffeine can make us feel energetic, but it can also make us scatterbrained as the caffeine rips through your body. Be mindful about your caffeine consumption and consider reducing how much caffeine.
- Medication: sometimes we need to speak with a doctor as there could be an underlying medical reason for low focus. If that’s the case, medication may be able to help you feel more focused.
- Enough sleep: lack of sleep is a huge contributor to stress, mood issues, and a lack of focus. When we’re not rested, we feel it physically and mentally. Try making a bedtime routine and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
- Therapy: sometimes therapy can help us lighten the mental load and give us the space we need to organize our lives and focus on what we need to get done.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your inability to concentrate is impacting your personal or professional relationships, job performance, or ability to show up for obligations, you may benefit from professional help. It’s important to follow up with a therapist and a physician to address any and all contributors and develop a proper treatment plan. Start your search for a therapist in an online therapist directory.
All licensed therapists are equipped to help people struggling with focus and attention problems, but some may have formal training in this area. To find someone specialized as a neurodiverse-affirming therapist, read reviews and look at clinician bios to understand the scope of their practice. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation to help you determine whether they’re a good fit.
Dealing with attention, concentration, and focus issues can be difficult, but there are ways to overcome these issues. Take steps to improve your overall lifestyle, and then consider working with professionals who can give you guidance. With time, you may start to feel more focused, attentive, and on-track.