How To Deal With Hyperfixation

Getting super interested in something is totally normal. This may be in the form of a newfound interest in crocheting or painting or binge-watching your favorite television show. However, your interests should not consume most of your time and come at the cost of your responsibilities, personal well-being, and relationships. 

Hyperfixation is when your passion turns into a continuous obsession. When you become fully engrossed by something, it interferes with your daily functioning. Focusing on something else becomes difficult since the object of your hyperfixation OCD has become all-consuming. 

Luckily, hyperfixation can be managed, and we'll look at how to deal with it.

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Common types of hyperfixation

People become hyperfixated in many ways. The most common types of hyperfixation include:

Hyperfixation on thoughts

This type of hyperfixation makes you more sensitive to certain emotions and thoughts. It makes you spend much time thinking instead of doing essential tasks. 

Hyperfixation on food

When you become hyperfixated on food, you tend to show symptoms of inattentiveness. Your attention goes to particular foods that you find interesting.

For example, you may hyperfixate on foods such as lasagna or pizza and develop an intense passion for them such that they stay in your mind all the time. 

Hyperfixation on a person

You can also be hyperfixated on a person. This happens when you think about someone continuously, maybe by replaying your moments together repeatedly. You keep the person for a longer time in your memory than necessary.

Hyperfixation on shows

We all have our favorite tv shows and always look forward to the next episode or season. However, if you're obsessed with a certain tv show to the point that you concentrate on it more than anything else in your life, this can be considered a hyperfixation. Sometimes, it can be multiple shows.

Hyperfixation on a fictional character

If you have hyperfixation on a fictional character, you try to become like them. For instance, you may start speaking from the character's perspective and think you are them. You may even try hard to be as perfect or flawless as they act, which, to some extent, may take you away from reality.

Symptoms of hyperfixation

Common symptoms of hyperfixation include:

  • Forgetting to do crucial things such as eating

  • Becoming less socially aware or self-aware

  • Losing track of time or feeling that time is passing fast

  • Failing to notice what is happening in your surrounding

Mental health conditions related to hyperfixation

Hyperfixation is associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, it can be a symptom of other mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Hyperfixation and ADHD

Individuals with ADHD¹ may be vulnerable to hyperfixation. Generally, people with ADHD have attention dysregulation — they focus on something but find it hard to control that attention. They can sometimes give too much attention to something and become unable to concentrate on other things apart from the object of interest.

When hyperfixation starts in a person with ADHD, whether their keen interest is in food, thoughts, etc., it becomes challenging to break out of it. 

Hyperfixation and obsessive-compulsive disorder

An obsession is an involuntary and repetitive preoccupation with an idea, thought, or feeling. Obsessions are a characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder² (OCD), a condition in which an individual experiences discomfort due to somewhat irrational and anxiety-inducing thoughts.

Individuals with OCD may also experience hyperfixation as a symptom. When you have hyperfixation OCD, you become interested in something and feel good when you indulge in it.

Can hyperfixation be good?

While the condition may interfere with your daily life, you may reap some benefits if hyperfixation is channeled properly. When applied to something useful and productive, the resulting dedicated effort can be a crucial success strategy. 

Below are some benefits of hyperfixation:

  • Helps complete more tasks in a short period

  • It is a good way to harness creativity

  • It can improve your skills in doing something

Some hypefixations can be great when you find communities that feel comfortable with them. For instance, a neurodivergent person may focus on their career and excel. Also, some people may use hyperfixation as a coping mechanism. Hyperfixation on something that brings you joy or makes you feel more relaxed can be a helpful distraction from things that could be stressing you. 

When hyperfixation becomes harmful

Hyperfixation becomes harmful when it affects your daily functioning. For example, if you are not maintaining your hygiene, sleeping, or nurturing your relationships due to your keen attention on something.

It is also harmful if it turns into avoidance such that you pay consistent attention to your object of hyperfixation OCD instead of tackling the issues affecting you. Sometimes, the object of hyperfixation may be harmful.

For instance, hyperfixation of a painful memory may negatively affect you. 

How to deal with hyperfixation

Hyperfixation is manageable. You don't have to drop your interests altogether, but find how you can balance them with the rest of your responsibilities and needs. Here are some ways of dealing with hyperfixation:

Knowing when to start

If you have trouble stopping your hyperfixation, knowing when to start can help you control it. For instance, if you have hyperfixation on shows, avoid starting to watch shows before an upcoming deadline or close to your bedtime. You can use your interest as a reward after getting all your responsibilities done. 

Setting a time limit

When your hyperfixation starts, set aside a certain amount of time to concentrate on it. Try scheduling something else after your time limit. Choosing a time-sensitive task such as a reservation at a restaurant or ticket to travel can work well. Ensure activities are stimulating and challenging. 

Staying connected to other people

Another tactic to deal with hyperfixation is staying connected with your family and friends. Enlist them to help you manage the hyperfixation. For instance, you can ask someone to come over or call you at a particular time to ensure you don't get lost in your object of hyperfixation. You can ask for a physical cue, such as standing in front of you or turning off your screen. 

Addressing the main cause

Schedule time to find out why you could be hyperfixating and take steps to fix the root cause. Maybe you feel socially isolated, and hyperfixating on a show helps you feel more connected via its characters. Or, you could struggle with anxiety, and hyperfixating allows you to focus on the activity instead of yourself. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating ADHD. It can also lower the intensity of hyperfixations. If you have hyperfixations on thoughts, this therapy can help you identify and change your thought patterns if they are negative.

Moreover, it can help you reduce the impact of hyperfixations and improve your daily functioning by guiding you to manage your time, set goals, and remain organized. 

The lowdown

Hyperfixation is not inherently bad. It can allow you to get a lot done in a short period and enable you to give your attention to something that interests you. However, the condition may be overwhelming and hard to break out of, but the above tips can help you manage it.

However, you should seek professional help if hyperfixation worries you and takes time away from important life tasks.

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