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Hyper What? I Can’t Focus On That

Dr. Russell Barkley knows what's what
Dr. Russell Barkley knows what’s what

I’ve heard it a hundred times. “Hyperfocus is so great!” And yet, I’ve been having a problem getting on board with that.

You see, focus isn’t just a noun, it’s also a verb. And I think it’s an active verb. I think focus is something we need to do “on purpose” … and I can’t!

Okay, not true, I can. But not easily. And I have extra difficulty making myself focus on what needs to be focused on when my mind is attracted to something … anything else.

So if I can’t focus …

If I can’t focus easily, how could I possibly hyperfocus?

By now you’re saying “What do you call it when you pay attention to the TV or the computer so much that you can’t tear yourself away?” My answer to that is that I don’t call it focus or hyperfocus. I call it being distracted.

If you’re even vaguely familiar with me your next question might be “What do you call it when you pay attention to writing a song or a blog post or some other task that really needs to get done?” Well, I call that damned lucky.

And I’m not alone …

There are professionals in the field who talk about the gifts of ADHD, and I’m down with that. I think my greatest gift is the fertile mind I’ve cultivated.

There’s a “hyper” I can get behind

This conscience of mine goes fast and furious and is never at a loss for new things to think or old things to rethink. My brain, like me, is hyperactive.

But there is at least one professional in this field who is very well versed in ADHD and has something to say about “hyperfocus” … and let me warn you right now, it isn’t a cheery train of thought.

This professional is Dr. Russell Barkley, and he says … there is no such thing as ADHD hyperfocus. He tells us it is a myth.

Don’t take my word for it …

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of Dr. Barkley speaking at the May 30th 2009 CADDAC convention in Toronto, Canada. There’s no such thing as ADHD hyperfocus.

And I have to say I agree with him

I can’t help it. The fact is that I can focus on things that need doing, but not without a great deal of effort and a timer clipped to my shirt and set to go off every ten minutes. And I can’t call that either natural or “hyper.”

Dr. Barkley calls it perseveration. And I suppose that’s what it is, I mean, he’s the doctor, right?

And perseveration may be a lot of things, from depressing to disparaging, but one things for sure, it is never going to look good on a tee-shirt.

Hyper What? I Can’t Focus On That

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). Hyper What? I Can’t Focus On That. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from


Last updated: 21 Nov 2013
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Nov 2013
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