Concentration gap

Have you ever had one of those days when you can’t seem to focus on anything? You try to read a book and keep re-reading the same paragraph over and over or you are supposed to be working on a report but just can’t get your mind in the right place for it?

Almost everyone has times when it is hard to concentrate, but for some people poor concentration is common and is a symptom of another underlying problem.

Actually, poor concentration is a very common symptom in many psychiatric disorders.

Subjectively, individuals with this symptom may find it difficult to follow a conversation or read. It may lead to careless mistakes or an inability to correctly follow instructions. Poor concentration can also be associated with daydreaming or a mind that wanders off topic.

Obviously, this can cause problems in many settings including poor performance at work or school. Also, the individual with this symptom may appear not to be listening when others are talking, which can lead to relationship difficulties.

When concentration is poor, memory is also affected since we are less likely to remember something that we didn’t pay attention to when we first encountered it. Forgetfulness then compounds problems in many areas of life.

One of the most obvious conditions where difficulty concentrating is found is in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Most people assume that this is the primary symptom in ADD/ADHD and it is true that poor concentration is very common.

Still, concentration is not universally affected in ADD/ADHD and in most cases individuals with this condition do not have difficulty concentrating on things that really capture their attention.

A less obvious, but extremely common condition in which concentration is affected is depression. This symptom is often overlooked because it can be hard to observe. Unfortunately, it is also often the last symptom to improve when depression is treated and it can hamper performance at work or school.

Lack of concentration due to depression can also be a problem when making a disability claim because of the difficulty in measuring or observing this symptom. A person who appears to be better in many respects, but claims to be unable to return to work due to poor concentration, may be suspected of defrauding the system.

Anxiety disorders can also involve impaired ability to concentrate.

Fortunately, all effective treatments for anxiety and depression lead to improved concentration even though this symptom may be one of the last things to get better.

Sometimes poor concentration is mistakenly blamed on the antidepressant medication when it is actually the underlying disorder that is the culprit.

If you notice your concentration is poor, try to document specific examples for your doctor. This may help to show that there is a problem and will give him or her an area to watch for improvement once treatment begins.

Also try to take note of when this symptom began to be a problem. If you are experiencing depression, you will probably be able to identify a time when it was better or specific episodes when it would worsen or improve.

In depression there will likely be other symptoms such as low mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in regular activities, loss of energy and loss of motivation. However, poor concentration may be the most prominent symptom and may lead to depression being overlooked.

If ADD/ADHD is the underlying condition, poor concentration would be a lifelong problem and likely only improve when the condition is treated.

Don’t attribute poor concentration to aging alone. If you suspect a problem, speak with your doctor about it.


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