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ADHD and Perseveration vs Hyperfocus

Two terms that frequently pop up in discussions about ADHD are hyperfocus and perseveration. They may seem similar but are quite different.

Imagine it's a Saturday afternoon, and you decide to tackle a hobby you love, for example, cooking, painting or playing video games. Hours fly by, and you’re so immersed that you forget to eat lunch, the laundry sits untouched, and you miss a friend's text. This is hyperfocus. On one hand, you can get an incredible amount done when you're in the zone. On the other hand, everything else tends to fall by the wayside.

Now, imagine you’re working on a project for school or work, but you can’t stop obsessing over one tiny detail. Maybe it’s a single paragraph in an essay or a minor part of a presentation. You know you should move on, but your brain just won’t let it go. This is perseveration. It’s like your mind gets stuck on repeat, making it hard to shift focus to the next task. It’s frustrating because you’re aware that your attention should be elsewhere, but you can’t break free from the loop.

Hyperfocus happens when something genuinely grabs your interest, you are “in the zone,” where time slips away because you’re so engaged.

Perseveration, on the other hand, doesn’t usually come from interest but rather from getting mentally stuck. It’s more a glitch that keeps revisiting the same aspects over and over, often leading to frustration and wasted time.

Managing these two states can be tricky. For hyperfocus, setting alarms or timers can help you snap out of it and remind you to take breaks or switch tasks. Making a to-do list and sticking it somewhere visible can also keep other priorities in sight.

For perseveration, mindfulness exercises can help you become aware of when you’re stuck. Taking scheduled breaks or setting small, achievable goals can also help in shifting your focus.

In everyday life, understanding the difference between hyperfocus and perseveration can make a huge difference. Coaching can help you find strategies that work, making the ADHD journey a bit smoother and more predictable. So next time you find yourself lost in a project or stuck on a single thought, you’ll know just what’s going on and have a few tricks up your sleeve to manage it.

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