Thursday, January 22, 2009

Article: Focus on Hyperfocus

I'd like to draw your attention to a good article on Hyperfocus on Additude, an ADHD site. Hyperfocus does come into play in ADD/ADHD but I think it's even more applicable to Aspergers.

The article is:

Learn About ADHD: Focus on Hyperfocus

Information about ADHD symptom of hyperfocus -- a common symptom that explains why many attention deficit children and adults can concentrate so intently at times.
by Royce Flippin

The article covers the good parts of hyperfocus, which is something I've already done but it then goes into detail on the negative points too.

Relating to the Article
I can certainly relate to a number of points in the article, having had to be fetched from my office on various occasions when alarms have sounded without my noticing them. It might be possible to write some of these down to my deafness, but not the problems where we've lost lighting power (without wall outlet power), or air conditioning and I've kept on computing when my outside environment has become unbearable to my colleagues.

At home, sometimes I decide to do some work, check my mail or play a quick game just before going to bed. These activities often cause me to hop bleary-eyed into bed for a quick couple of hours sleep before work the next day. The passing of time during hyperfocus is beneath my focus.

After Work Focus
It's not good to do too much personal stuff on company time, so I often wait until after work hours to complete personal things, like blog entries or reading non-work web sites. Sometimes I get so focussed on these that I forget to go home. I'll look up, feeling like I've done five minutes of solid work and realise that it's been thirteen hours since I left the house. Naturally, I get into a lot of trouble when I get home - and it's well neigh impossible to explain how I lost my focus to my NT wife.

RSI Focus
The other big problem that I have with hyperfocus is RSI. If you spend 12+ hours on the computer 5-7 days per week, you'll soon develop RSI problems. Once you've had the problem the first time, it recurrs for the rest of your life. These days, it doesn't take too long for my hands to start hurting.

Luckily (or unluckily), my Aspergers tends to make it easy for me to ignore pain up to a certain point. I'll often complete a task and snap out of hyperfocus only to discover that my hands are masses of pain - or even worse, have gone completely numb.

I tried using a desktop timer to interrupt me on a regular basis. It worked for a couple of years but unfortunately, I got used to it - particularly when it kept coming up in the middle of important work. I started closing the application without even realising.

Fortuantely, I work with a very understanding group of people and they frequently take it upon themselves to "hassle me out of my office" for breaks, meetings and morning tea. Even better, there's no disabling them.

Sometimes I wonder if aspies need permanent baby sitters.


Angela Felsted said...

What a great article! It makes me wonder if I don't have ADD. I go from project to project while I let the laundry and daily chores go by the way side. I usually do get those things done eventually but not until I feel I absolutely "have to".

Thanks for the good read.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why nobody on there pointed it out that it can be applicable to Asperger's much more than ADD and ADHD. I know many kids at my school who have ADD/ADHD, and they definetley live up to the rumour of 'no attention span'. But I can be hyperfocus and I will realise it at 3 AM! I was playing Halo 3 last night(love that game) and I ended up playuing from 6 AM to 3 AM with barely any brakes except for the bathroom(can't shut that out) and a small snack here and there, mostly not as I had a bag of chips and a giant 2 liter of Mountain Dew.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post and appreciate the info. Wondering: what do you see as the difference between hyperfocus and being in a state of "flow?"

Ralph Doncaster said...

Barkley says hyperfocus goes with autism, so I would guess he'd agree that it's more of an Aspergers thing than ADHD.
I have ADHD & Aspergers, so in my case the waters are a bit muddied.