Hyperfocus is a common experience for ADHDers. The term describes an “intense fixation on an interest or activity for an extended period of time” – basically, being so obsessed that it is very hard to focus on anything else.

This is why some people argue that ADHD is not an attention deficit, but instead an attention dysregulation – we can focus too little, but we can also focus too much. The worst part (at least for me) is that usually we can’t control which extreme we end up at. I can think of many things I’ve hyperfocused on over the years, both before and after I first realised I had ADHD.

Video games have been a big part of my hyperfocus hobbies.

I’m not a big gamer in my day-to-day life, but when I enjoy a game, I can’t just play for short bursts. In my teenage years, it was 12 hour marathons playing the Sims, where I would genuinely prioritise my sim’s wellbeing (and the design of their swish new house) over my own need to eat or drink. My twenties have been no different – my boyfriend is very aware of my intense addiction to playing Stardew Valley and Cities Skylines in the past few months, as he occasionally had to physically drag me away from the Switch.

The thing is though, I will fixate on these things for hours at a time – usually most of the day – but it doesn’t last longer than a few weeks at most. I often refer to it as ‘hyperfocus burnout’, where I finally have all the dopamine I can get out of that interest, and then I can’t look at it again for a few months.

It’s not just video games though – in the past year, without much thinking time, I can name the following subjects of my hyperfocus:

  • Gardening and plants
  • Video games (Stardew, Cities Skylines, Animal Crossing, and a brief fling with Just Dance…)
  • Skincare
  • Home interiors
  • Baking banana bread
  • Baking soda bread
  • Notion design

    Gaming as procrastination

    I’ll be honest – even this blog has been a hyperfocus at times. I’ll write multiple posts in a week, and then nothing for quite a while (…I’m too embarrassed to quantify ‘quite a while’).

    It feels like the best thing ever when I’m hyperfocusing, and I always feel optimistic and stimulated – especially if it’s a skill that I am learning.

    Can L-Tyrosine help to manage the symptoms of ADHD?

    Traditional treatments for ADHD such as medication can be effective, but they are not the only options. What is L-tyrosine, and can it reduce the symptoms of ADHD?

    ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)

    When you have RSD, romantic heartbreak, minor arguments with friends, or even a text without a smiley at the end can all feel like being hit with a truck.

    Are ADHD and dyslexia related?

    Dyslexia and ADHD often occur together – 25% of children with ADHD also have a diagnosis of dyslexia. So how are they related?

    Are ADHD and ADD the same thing?

    What’s the difference between ADHD and ADD? Are they the same thing? The answer lies in their history.

    ADHD Medication: A Quick-Stop Guide

    It is sometimes hard to work out how ADHD medications differ, and which might be the right option for you. This guide lays out all the basics.

    How do I get an ADHD diagnosis in the UK?

    So… you think you might have ADHD. Now what? What are your options? This easy-to-read guide explains how to get assessed for ADHD in the UK.

    However, there’s some parts of hyperfocus that I really hate.

    The main one is the cost – picking up and dropping endless hobbies costs money, as you often need equipment of some sort. It also doesn’t help that my ADHD makes me quite impulsive anyway, and I will often buy things online for my new fixation without weighing it up in the context of my finances overall (I’m in my fifth year at medical school, so as you may guess – they’re not great…). If Amazon ever did a ‘Year in Review’ feature like Spotify, I’d have to exile myself forever out of pure embarrassment. Jeff Bezos makes more money out of my ADHD than I will ever be able to admit.

    The other thing I hate about hyperfocus is that I can’t control it – I have learned now that I can’t just do the thing I’m obsessed with in short bursts, I have to do it until I’m sick of it, or else it will tempt me and distract me from every other task.

    In my opinion, January is the worst month for hyperfocus.

    This is for two reasons. Firstly, I often will have received a new ‘toy’ to become obsessed with as a Christmas present. Secondly, I have exams in January… and need to study for them.

    So here I will introduce the first hyperfocus case study of 2023: sewing.

    Ok, in all fairness, I did everything I could to be sure I did actually want to learn to sew and wasn’t just temporarily fixated on the idea of being a total domestic goddess (my previous fixation on baking was actually quite beneficial as a skill). I started with sewing my badges from Girlguiding onto my camp blanket, even though it is very boring and also very sore when you keep jabbing your fingers with the needle. I then saw a fun idea on TikTok for making homemade, stuffed Christmas tree decorations in the shape of hearts… if you’re one of the lucky family members who received one of these badly-made, adult equivalents of macaroni art for Christmas, congrats!

    However, I did enjoy the satisfaction of the finished products – I just hated sewing by hand. After dragging my boyfriend to Hobbycraft for “just a look” (we all know it never is), I came home with some fat quarters to sew some more crappy hearts, and added a sewing machine to my Christmas wish list.

    I did continue the sewing, half because it was a great procrastination tool from uni work if I told myself I had to sew many fabric heart decorations, to use as embellishments for the wrapped Christmas presents of several relatives. The other half of the motivation was to demonstrate to myself, and Santa, that I was actually interested in sewing and it wasn’t just another short-lived interest that would become another casualty of my ADHD.

    I was a very lucky girl, and Santa (aka my boyfriend, P) brought me a bright yellow sewing machine for Christmas. It is now the 5th of January, and I have two weeks to study for my exams, alongside attending placement every day, with regular hours spent tutoring for minimum wage on top of it all.

    I did have good intentions, I really did – I made a whole revision planner, and did no work over Christmas – but telling anyone who’d listen that the purpose of the break from studying was to make myself more productive in January (they were usually kind enough to pretend to believe that excuse).

    However, ADHD has struck again.

    I am now addicted to my bright yellow sewing machine. It stares at me from the other side of my desk for every minute of every day, begging me to sew some new, genius project on it. I have given in a few times – and spent multiple hours sewing drawstring scrubs bags instead of doing practice exam questions.

    On the upside, I have an external factor to limit the sewing – once I run out of fabric or thread, I can’t afford anymore until February. I also have the motivation of the prize for my current ‘takeaway-free January’ challenge, where my boyfriend and I are abstaining from any takeaways until February in an attempt to eat better and spend less. We have each committed £50 of Christmas money for us to buy whatever we want with, as long as we don’t order any takeaways this month. I’ve promised myself that if successful, I can go on a sewing shopping spree with my £50 – the thought of it is admittedly getting my heart racing.

    All in all though, for once I’m actually ok with letting myself hyperfocus on sewing. It’s a good skill to have, and I hope (and pray) it may also improve my suturing at work. I’m an extremely clumsy individual, with no spatial awareness, and I usually really struggle to do any task that requires any coordination. The next Kirstie Allsopp I am not, but sewing silly little handmade items is a better source of dopamine for my ADHD brain than spending all day glued to a screen, or eating takeaways because I’m mentally overwhelmed.

    ADHD & Low Mood

    ADHD and depression frequently co-exist, and ADHD itself is a known risk factor for developing depression and other mental illnesses. How do we tell the difference?

    Excessive Talking and ADHD

    Are you known for telling stories at a hundred-miles-an-hour? When is the amount you talk excessive, and how is it linked to ADHD?

    Procrastination and ADHD

    Always putting things off until the last minute? Everyone procrastinates, but ADHD procrastination is more extreme – you can’t “just do it”, even though you can see the impact on work, school and your relationships.

    Distraction and ADHD

    Does every notification distract you from what you’re doing? Do you lose focus at the drop of a hat?

    Mess and ADHD

    Does your home, workspace or car look like an episode of Extreme Hoarders?

    Interrupting and ADHD

    Why do people with ADHD interrupt others? Can we control it, or are we just rude?

    Sewing is good for my self-esteem.

    I actually felt more pride to have made that first drawstring scrubs bag than I did when I graduated from St Andrews – although without a doubt, studying for a medical degree during a pandemic was more difficult. At times my ADHD traits have really knocked my self-esteem, and contributed to a lot of social anxiety for me – so a hobby that makes me proud of stitching that even Stevie Wonder could sew straighter, is a hobby I’m going to keep.

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This