Hyperfixation and ADHD

Almost everyone has been so engaged, so enraptured, so fixated on something that time slips by unnoticed.  But those of us with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder seem to be far more prone to Hyperfocus and Hyperfixation. Lately I’ve been thinking about Hyperfixating, Hyperfocusing, and Addiction. Here are the differences that I see.

What does Hyperfixation look like?

Video games that you love.

Working on a hobby that’s all consuming.

Evenings and days lost to social media.

Binge watching a show you love.

Knitting.  Crafts.  Searching online for vintage Barbies.

These can become our go to activities when we’re overwhelmed, sad, anxious.  “I need a break.  I just want to unwind.  Relax.  Not think about anything.” 

We gladly lose ourselves in The Crown, Minecraft, or planning our dream home. All well and good.

What Is Hyperfixation?

In the world of ADHD, this state has been described as Hyperfocus.

Some refer to it as being ‘in the zone,’ or ‘completely engaged.’  We are doing something at the exclusion of everything else,

Hyperfixation is different.  It’s not just in that moment, but obsessed with something.  If it’s something healthy or at least harmless, great.

But at some point, this may become a way of self-medicating ADHD.  We become addicted to running, a high-risk sport, hunting for bargains, or hunting for sex.  All ways to wake up the ADHD brain so it’s getting those neurotransmitters that it’s missing. We run risks to generate adrenaline.  As our adrenal glands get overworked, we need bigger risks, bigger thrills.

When I’m constructing a model, working meticulously, but at my own speed, it engages my brain, demanding care, precision, craftsmanship, and art. Time falls away, I’m in the moment. Hyperfocussed. The cares and worries of the day vanish. (Temporarily.)

But model railroading has been a constant pleasure for most of my life.  Rather than a relief, it can become a refuge, a way of avoiding what needs doing. 

Model railroading is a form of meditation for me, and as numerous studies have shown, Mindful Meditation can rewire the ADHD brain.  (Or any brain.  But the impact on those of us with ADHD can be dramatic, in a surprisingly short time as this video on Mindfulness & ADHD explains.)

It’s relaxing.  It’s stress relieving for me.  Other comedians I know do needlepoint, knitting, wood-working, or collecting something particular like sheet music or antique toys.  In the moment they’re hyper-focused. But it’s something they come back to again and again… Hyperfixation.   A passion

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Model Railroader

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