Hyperfixations are intense, unwavering preoccupations with one thing. When an individual hyperfixates on something, they put all of their focus on that one thing, and it can be difficult for them to shift their focus on to anything else while they’re hyperfixated.
Having experienced it for as long as I can remember, I would like to share my experience on how it has affected me and my ability to get important things done.
Who can become hyperfixated?
Anyone can become hyperfixated on something, but it tends to be more common and intense in neurodivergent people, such as Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There are also suggestions that people with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can experience hyperfixation.
There is little research into why people hyperfixate, but some evidence points toward it as a coping mechanism to displace uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
What can you hyperfixate on?
You can become hyperfixated on many different things. Some people become hyperfixated on a hobby, for example, Simone Biles with gymnastics. Other common hyperfixations include:
- TV shows, movies or books
- Fictional or real people
In my experience, my hyperfixations have surrounded certain foods, songs, and topics of interest.
The positives of hyperfixation
I have found that hyperfixation has helped me to be more productive in some aspects of my life. For example, my hyperfixation on mental health assisted me in one of my Clinical Psychology modules at uni. It helped me achieve 88% on the final exam and a first in the module. Additionally, I received great positive feedback from my tutors on my knowledge!
Another hyperfixation of mine in the past was dance. I would rarely not be practising or stretching in my spare time, which helped me become very advanced from a young age.
Other positives of hyperfixation include the ability to persevere on a difficult task and sustain attention and energy for long periods.
While some hyperfixations are productive, not all of them are. During intense hyperfixation, individuals may forget to eat and/or sleep because of the engrossment that comes along with it.
It can also hinder the individual’s ability to connect with others socially. As they lose touch with the world around them, they may neglect their relationships with family or friends. In turn, this can lead to isolation, both socially and physically.
I have realised that my hyperfixation with certain foods makes it difficult to deviate away from eating that food every day. Similarly, during deep hyperfixation on a particular topic, I find it hard to discuss other topics with anyone else. This has a major effect on my concentration during lectures and seminars that don’t discuss the topic of my hyperfixation!
Ways to manage intense hyperfixation
Hyperfixation may hinder everyday life by preventing you from completing important tasks. However, there are ways in which hyperfixation can be managed to ensure it doesn’t get in the way of other tasks! This website highlights these two main things to do when trying to manage your hyperfixations:
- Time management – set time limits for unproductive tasks so you can space out your time better
- Take control over them – try to get them to focus on the task you want or need to do instead of the other way round
The takeaway message
Hyperfixations are important coping strategies common in people with ADHD, an ASC, and other mental health conditions. Due to the lack of research on why people hyperfixate, it is often misunderstood. Therefore, we must educate ourselves on hyperfixation and why it isn’t always unproductive and negative!