Difficulty focusing is one of the main symptoms of ADHD. Conversely, people may hyperfocus on tasks they particularly enjoy, causing them to avoid other responsibilities.

It can be challenging for people with ADHD to learn how to manage focus and attention. Seeking treatment for the condition can help with managing it.

Improving focus may help a person excel at school, complete their duties at work, and feel more confident in their abilities. Focusing exercises and lifestyle changes may help. However, they are not a substitute for effective treatment.

Read on to learn more about how ADHD can affect focus, why people may hyperfocus, and exercises and techniques to help with focusing.

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Difficulty focusing is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD.

This can manifest in many different ways, such as:

  • difficulty staying focused on a single task
  • difficulty controlling one’s focus
  • an obsessive need to focus on tasks a person enjoys, such as games or hobbies
  • feeling frustrated about an inability to focus
  • impulsively doing things that distract a person from the tasks they want to complete

There are a range of exercises and techniques people can use to improve their focus.

One option for people who want to improve their focus immediately is physical activity. According to a 2020 paper, several studies suggest that physical exercise can immediately improve focus and other measures of cognitive performance.

People who feel distracted and need to focus may want to consider taking a short exercise break.

Parents of children with ADHD can encourage them to run outside or play a physical game before doing homework. Adults with ADHD can take a walk or exercise break during their workday, if possible.

Some other focusing techniques that may help include the following:

Exercises for young children

Activities that allow young children to practice deep concentration can help them learn to focus. This may include trying some of the following:

  • block or LEGO projects
  • clay modeling
  • painting
  • drawing

Games that encourage children to pay attention and deal with distractions may also help. Parents and caregivers can try facilitating:

  • red light, green light
  • Simon says
  • hide and seek
  • statue games that involve the child “freezing” for 10 seconds in the middle of an activity

Exercises for students

Activities that encourage students to concentrate on challenging tasks for sustained periods may help. Games such as chess, checkers, and backgammon may be useful.

Mindfulness techniques can also help people with ADHD of all ages cultivate awareness in the present moment.

People may wish to try one or more of the following:

  • identifying five things they can experience with each of their five senses
  • steadily observing a single corner of a room, noting as many features as possible at a slow pace
  • breathing at a slow, rhythmic pace, counting the breath for 5 minutes
  • focusing on a single thought or mantra, refocusing on it every time the mind wanders

Exercises for adults

Adults may find that challenging puzzles and games help encourage deeper focus. People can try committing to 10–15 minutes of uninterrupted puzzles such as Wordle, Sudoku, or a crossword.

It can also be helpful to practice sustained focus. People can use an app that blocks social media, then commit to doing several minutes of uninterrupted work. They may want to try gradually increasing the time over several days, working up to increasingly more extended periods.

Reading without distraction is another good way to cultivate focus and attention.

Some people report that certain supplements improve their focus with ADHD. While certain studies suggest supplements may offer certain benefits, the research is inconclusive. Supplements are not a substitute for ADHD treatment.

A 2020 paper emphasizes that iron and zinc levels are often low in people with ADHD. However, it states that placebo-controlled studies have not found a causal link. This means there is insufficient evidence that low iron and zinc cause ADHD or that supplementation can improve symptoms.

The paper also refers to previous research that suggests a link between magnesium and ADHD symptoms. However, it does not advise supplementing unless a blood test shows a deficiency. Similarly, it points to some evidence that selenium and copper might help. However, it does not recommend supplementation because of a lack of data.

A 2022 narrative review found that vitamin D alone and combined magnesium and vitamin D improved ADHD symptoms. This was only the case when a person was deficient in these nutrients.

It is best for people considering supplements to consult a doctor first. Testing for deficiencies, such as iron or vitamin D, may be helpful.

Hyperfocus occurs when a person becomes completely absorbed in a task to such a degree that they ignore all other stimuli. A person who is hyperfocused might forget to eat, not hear people talking to them, and not notice the world around them.

Some people with ADHD experience hyperfocus. This can be a pleasurable occurrence and even give them an advantage in some contexts.

However, hyperfocus can also distract from tasks and goals. For example, a child might hyperfocus on a video game or hobby instead of doing homework or studying. An adult might hyperfocus on gardening instead of walking the dog or scheduling a doctor’s appointment.

It is also important to note that hyperfocus and inattention can coexist.

Treatment for ADHD, including medication, can improve focus.

It is important to contact a doctor or mental health professional if:

  • a person thinks they may have ADHD
  • ADHD treatment does not work
  • ADHD treatment causes significant side effects

ADHD can affect focus in many ways. Most people experience issues with attention and concentration. Some also experience hyperfocus.

It is possible to practice and improve focusing skills. ADHD treatment is also important for enhancing the ability to focus.

People who have frequent difficulties with focus may wish to consider the possibility they may have ADHD. A doctor or mental health clinician can perform tests and provide advice and treatment if needed.