Concentration Problems: Symptoms, Causes, and Tips
Problems concentrating isn’t only something that happens to kids- many adults find themselves struggling to concentrate, and we’ve probably all had moments where, no matter what we do, we find a lack of concentration. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about concentration problems: What they are, symptoms of poor concentration, and possible causes. Should you be worried? We’ll give you 11 tips that can help you solve your concentration problem.
Lack of concentration and concentration problems are a common problem that can show itself at any age. For example, children will likely show symptoms when they perform poorly in school, and adults may have extra challenges in their work and family life. Concentration problems can be disruptive to your daily life, affecting work, school, and social areas, which is why learning how to improve concentration when they’re lacking is an important and necessary skill.
What are concentration problems?
Concentration is the ability to efficiently focus your attention on the tasks at hand. With adequate concentration skills, you’ll be able to block out distractions and inhibit actions that could cause you to lose focus, like irrelevant thoughts or sounds.
When you’re concentration is at its highest, you’ll notice that you can work easier, faster, and better. Think about the last time you breezed through a report- you were probably focused and alert, helping you achieve your optimal working state.
Concentration problems become an issue when the inability to concentrate and focus on a stimulus impede your ability to get something done. You might find that background noise, your phone, or your own thoughts get in the way of working.
Concentration levels vary depending on the following factors:
- Dedication to the task
- Interest in the task
- Your ability to complete the task
- Physical and emotional state
- A conducive environment with few distractions
Once you’re able to regulate these factors and get in the right mindset, you’ll see that you’re able to focus better and block out irrelevant thoughts.
Symptoms of concentration problems
Concentration problems in children
Children don’t have the same ability to concentrate as adults generally do because their brain isn’t fully developed yet. They aren’t usually able to stay focused during an entire one-hour class period, but this doesn’t mean that they have any type of concentration problem. Children have to learn and discover by doing and playing, not sitting and being talked at.
If a child has trouble paying attention in class and shows no other problems in other areas, the problem is not with the child, but rather with the teaching style.
A child might have concentration problems if:
- They have trouble paying attention in class
- They’re not able to focus on their homework
- It seems like the “zone out” when you talk to them
- They can’t concentrate on a TV show or movie
- They have a hard time focusing on a fun or interesting activity
- They’re distracted
- It seems like they’re constantly daydreaming
- They are unorganized in their play.
A child with all of these symptoms likely has a serious attention or concentration problem and might have ADHD. You can take an ADHD test to see if they have ADHD.
Concentration Problems in Adults
An adult might have a concentration problem if they are:
- Not able to do a single task for a prolonged period of time
- Have a hard time reading
- Feel like there is blocked or full
- Distracted when someone talks to them
- Easily distracted
- Take a long time to finish tasks
Causes of Concentration Problems
Knowing what causes a lack of concentration is important in order to be able to treat and fix the primary cause.
- Fatigue and emotional stress can cause concentration problems.
- Hormonal changes like what you might experience during menopause or pregnancy can affect cognitive function.
- Certain psychological and physical conditions are characterized by a difficulty concentrating, like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Poor sleep and rest. When we don’t give our brains the rest it needs, whether it be due to little time or too much stress, the brain suffers. One of the most common symptoms of exhaustion is lack of concentration.
- Hunger and poor diet can also make it hard to concentrate. Feeling hungry is uncomfortable, and is the body’s way of saying that we need nutrients and energy. This sensation takes over almost all of our cognitive resources, making it very difficult to concentrate. Lack of nutrients can also affect how the brain works.
- Worry. When you spend too much time worrying about something, you will have a harder time thinking about something that isn’t your main preoccupation.
- Physical pain. You may see that you have a harder time concentrating if your in pain, either due to an injury or chronic pain.
- Medication and drugs. Some medications may cause a lack of concentration, and drugs deteriorate our cognitive function and the brain.
- Environment. The people and places that surround you can play a role in how well you’re able to concentrate. If there are a lot of distractions, you’re more likely to get distracted and lose concentration.
- Your personal ability to concentrate. There are some people who are able to concentrate better than others, and some people who have a harder time concentrating. If your one of the latter, don’t worry! There are ways to improve your concentration.
How to Improve Concentration Problems?
1. You don’t need nutritional substances to solve concentration problems
Some supplements claim to help improve concentration problems, but they’re usually ineffective (and expensive!). They usually say that it contains some kind of nutrient or supplement that you can easily find in other foods, which is why you don’t need any “magical” supplement that claims to help improve concentration, attention, or memory. The only supplements that you should take are medications that your doctor has prescribed in serious cases.
2. Use Online Brain Training to improve concentration problems
Concentration is a cognitive process that can be improved if properly trained. CogniFit’s clinically validated program is a professional tool that can be used by doctors and individuals alike. It allows you to assess and train the brain functions that play a role in concentration online, with fun and interactive games and activities.
Studying neuroplasticity has shown that the more we use a specific neural circuit, the stronger it gets, which is why we know that training the parts of the brain used in concentration can actually improve the skill. Divided attention, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition are all skills that CogniFit trains to help improve concentration.
The cognitive brain training program is designed to be a fun and interactive online program that was created by psychologists and neuroscientists, so you can be sure that you’re using a real platform that has been proven to help. After each session, you’ll see how you’re improving and which areas you need to work on, and the program will automatically adjust to training those specific skills.
3. Plan breaks during the day to reduce concentration problems
Concentration is often linked to tiredness, boredom, and overusing mental resources. If you’re doing a task that requires a lot of concentration, like working or studying, your concentration may be affected. It’s important to take breaks every once in a while (10 minutes per hour) and then get back to work. Use the time to get up and walk around, stretch, go to the bathroom, or get some coffee (or tea, or water, etc.).
4. Get in touch with nature to improve concentration problems
If you’re in a busy area (like a city), your brain has to work more because it’s always paying attention to people around you, buses, cars, etc. On the contrary, walking in a wooded area or place with trees and grass can noticeably improve concentration levels. In nature, there are fewer distractions and stimuli that require the brain’s attention, which allows you to disconnect and calm down.
5. Mindfulness helps improve concentration problems
Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help improve attention, as well as reduce stress levels, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness can change your brain because it helps keep your thoughts focused on one single idea, which is why it is great for improving concentration. Try just 5-10 minutes a day of mindfulness a day and you’ll see the benefits. There are also mindfulness programs for children which have shown their efficacy.
6. Get rid of distractions to solve concentration problems
If you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted, it’s important that you reduce distractions as much as possible when you sit down to do work that requires your concentration. Put your phone away and have only one window open on your computer. If you get distracted by external noise, put on some quiet music or find some ear plugs.
Leave more difficult tasks for when you’re feeling awake and refreshed. You’ll probably be able to get it done quicker and easier, and you won’t be left feeling as drained. Make a list of the tasks that you have to do, and put them in order from hardest to easiest. You can always change the order, and if the difficult tasks are tiring you, you can always take a break or do one of your easier tasks.
8. Leave some time to answer calls and write e-mails
It’s easy to feel like a slave to your phone- answering calls, checking messages, getting notes about a report, and because the technology is available, we feel like we have to be connected 24/7. But this readily available constant contact is actually terrible for productivity, which is why we recommend that you plan a certain time every x minutes to respond to those e-mails in your inbox.
9. Take care of yourself
One of the best investments that you can make for your cognitive performance is keeping your body healthy. Eat well and get enough rest (at least 7 or 8 hours a night). Give yourself time to relax and enjoy the activities that you like doing. Relaxing and being healthy mentally will help improve concentration.
10. One thing at a time
Multitasking isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can raise stress levels and distract you. Stick to one task at a time if you feel your concentration lacking.
11. Play games to help improve concentration
There are a number of game that can help you improve concentration and reduce concentration problems. See CogniFit’s brain games.
Questions? Leave a comment below 🙂
This post was originally written in Spanish and translated by Molly Minchew
Psicóloga General Sanitaria y sexóloga. Deseosa de mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas mediante la práctica clínica y la comunicación a través de la red.