Do you ever find yourself so deeply absorbed in what you’re doing that time just flies by? Maybe it’s playing an instrument, reading a thrilling book, or learning a new skill.
For non-ADHDers, this state of flow is an enjoyable or productive way to spend time. However, for those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), periods of hyperfixation can be both a blessing and a curse.
Excellence and deep knowledge (positive!), while tuning out everyone and everything else (problems).
However, ADHD isn’t actually an attention-deficit disorder. It’s more of an attention-abundance disorder. The challenge lies in learning to regulate and control it.
When this wealth of attention isn’t managed well, you can experience what’s known as ADHD hyperfixation.
The good news is that you can learn to recognize hyperfixation, and find ways to keep it in check!
What Is ADHD Hyperfixation?
Hyperfixation happens when you become fully immersed in something that interests you. This intense focus on a single subject may cause you to spend more time and energy on it than you intend to. If left unchecked, hyperfixation can lead to negative consequences and disrupt your day-to-day functioning.
People with ADHD are more likely to experience this heightened state of focus more intensely and more often.
In a state of ADHD hyperfixation, you may become oblivious to the passing of time and what’s happening around you.
When you’re jolted back into reality, you may find yourself disoriented by your surroundings, like falling out of a “trance.” It may also take a while to regain your bearings and readjust to “real life.”
If you have ADHD, you’re more likely to fixate on something enjoyable or rewarding. This happens because ADHD changes how your brain perceives reward and gratification.
If you’re struggling with an ADHD fixation, remember that this does not make you a “lazy” or “irresponsible” adult. The ADHD brain is simply wired to process information, stimulation, and pleasure differently from the non-ADHD brain.
ADHD Hyperfixation vs. Hyperfocus
The terms ADHD hyperfixation and hyperfocus are often used interchangeably, but they refer to two distinct phenomena.
ADHD hyperfixation refers to an intense and often prolonged state of concentration on a particular activity or object. This may lead to happiness, satisfaction, and, at times, increased productivity.
But if not well-managed, the person may invest more time and effort than they can afford, causing them to neglect their personal needs, tasks, and daily responsibilities.
People with ADHD are more likely to experience hyperfixation compared to non-ADHDers.
On the other hand, ADHD hyperfocus refers to being deeply focused on a certain task or activity. Anyone can tap into this “flow state,” described as being fully engaged with a task without inner worries, fatigue, or boredom. , 
Research also shows that this can increase productivity and is often linked to feelings of accomplishment.
While these two phenomena may be similar in some ways, hyperfixation is fueled by an intense passion or interest in the activity. In contrast, hyperfocus is task-driven and often accompanied by clear goals and a strong sense of direction.
ADHD hyperfixation can be challenging to control and regulate. On the other hand, with hyperfocus, you can deliberately induce a “flow state” and tap in and out of it as you wish.
Hyperfixation Examples and Signs
When uncontrolled ADHD fixation happens, the individual may have an unhealthy obsession or addiction to a hobby, activity, or object. This is commonly associated with the following signs:
- Losing track of time
- Becoming detached from surroundings
- Neglecting roles and responsibilities
- Ignoring personal needs
- Struggling to stop or switch activities
- Getting caught up with minor details
Hyperfixation manifests differently from one person to another. Someone with ADHD can be engrossed in a hobby like knitting or painting or a random activity like watching the clouds.
At times, this hyperfixation may be helpful. A person who becomes wholly engaged with a work activity or task may spend hours completing it without getting distracted.
However, at other times, this hyperfixation may interfere with how the individual handles their daily tasks and responsibilities. For example, a person who becomes too caught up in an activity may forget to eat, shower, or finish important work.
The overflow of attention tied to ADHD isn’t necessarily a liability. You can maintain an eagle-eye focus on your current goals when you learn to steer your attention.
How to Overcome Hyperfixation and Redirect Your Attention
You can overcome ADHD hyperfixation with professional support and the right strategies.
Here’s how you can effectively manage your attention and make the most out of it.
Set Healthy Boundaries
If you realize that a particular hobby or interest takes up more and more of your time, try to set clear-cut time limits for these activities.
Here’s how you can set proper boundaries:
- Write out a daily or weekly time limit for the activities or hobbies you get fixated on.
- Set a time of day when these activities are allowed. For instance, you may schedule them toward the end of the day to ensure that you stay focused when working or studying.
- Determine the conditions you’ll allow yourself to participate in these activities, like after exercising or during designated free time.
- Ask friends and family to keep you accountable by checking in with you.
Schedule Consistent Breaks
Incorporate breaks frequently into activities you get fixated on.
Schedule a 5-10 minute break for every 30-minute block of time you spend on your favorite pastimes. During this break, you can make a snack, take a quick walk, or do something that helps shift your focus off the activity.
Taking yourself out of what you were doing can prevent an over-immersion in the activity and help realign your perception of time and reality.
Explore New Skills and Interests
By diversifying your pool of hobbies, you’re less likely to become overly fixated on one specific activity.
Challenge yourself by trying a new sport, picking up a foreign language, or learning a musical instrument. Getting involved in volunteer work is another great way to find enjoyment and fulfillment.
When trying something new, it’s a good idea to approach it with healthy boundaries already in place.
Seek Advice and Support
With a solid support system and professional advice, you can manage your time and resources more efficiently.
Working with an ADHD coach can open up a safe space to discuss different strategies to help you avoid hyperfixation triggers, set solid boundaries, and prioritize daily activities.
In addition, your healthcare professional may recommend cognitive behavioral training (CBT) to help you manage your ADHD hyperfixation and other ADHD-related symptoms. This form of talk therapy can boost motivation and focus and help you address habits affecting your productivity and progress.
If you’re interested in belonging to a community, you can join an ADHD support group. For example, ADDA’s productivity ADHD support group is a great place to reach out.
Explore more of our virtual support groups. These communities provide opportunities for you to connect and seek advice from other ADHDers who have walked in your shoes.
Use Tools and Resources
When tackling ADHD hyperfixation, effective time management becomes key.
You can use many different tools and resources to maximize your productivity, keep yourself focused, and manage your time better.
For instance, you can use a time management app to create a daily schedule with time blocks for work and play.
Additionally, you can try the Pomodoro Technique using a simple timer. This widely-used time management method breaks activities into intervals separated by short breaks.
A productivity app can help you keep track of your daily to-dos. This will ensure you complete all you need to before diving into leisure activities.
ADHD Hyperfixation Doesn’t Have to Be Your Productivity Killer
Hyperfixation is a common experience in ADHDers, especially when they engage in activities that they find interesting.
That said, the tendency to hyperfixate doesn’t mean you have to quit activities you enjoy. What’s important is having the right boundaries, support system, and strategies to keep these interests from taking over your life.
If you’re looking for a multi-faceted approach to managing your ADHD hyperfixation (and other symptoms), join the ADDA+ community. Through ADDA+, you’ll gain access to expert-driven resources, live events, and a community of supportive peers to help you along your journey.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. DSM-5 Changes: Implications for Child Serious Emotional Disturbance [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2016 Jun. Table 7, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Comparison. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519712/table/ch3.t3/
 Ashinoff, B. K., & Abu-Akel, A. (2021). Hyperfocus: the forgotten frontier of attention. Psychological Research-Psychologische Forschung, 85(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01245-8
 Van Der Linden, D., Tops, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2021). The Neuroscience of the Flow State: Involvement of the Locus Coeruleus Norepinephrine System. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.645498