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Lack of concentration: causes and 10 tips to combat it

Lack of concentration: causes and 10 tips to combat it

September 18, 2022

We are constantly performing complex actions and tasks that require a high level of concentration. Intense physical exercise, reading, working or studying, or even something as relatively simple as following the thread of a conversation requires that we invest our mental resources in carrying out such action. But we often find that for different reasons we are not capable of it. We lose the thread

And there are different elements that generate us lack of concentration that shows in the performance and in the daily tasks. Let's see how to recognize these symptoms and what to do to overcome them.

  • Related article: "Selective attention: definition and theories"

Concentration as mental capacity

The concept of concentration is not exactly novel or unknown. We have all used the term more than once, we know what it means and we have this capacity to a greater or lesser extent. However, before we start talking about when we are missing, it might be useful to make a brief description of what we understand as such.


Concentration is understood as the ability or capacity of the human being (and of other species) to Focus your cognitive resources on a stimulus or action , so that the rest of the environment is blurred and partially unattended unless some stimulation catches our attention. In other words, it can be understood as focusing the attention on specific elements, selecting the stimulation and keeping it there. It allows us, as mentioned in the introduction, to follow the thread of a task and carry it out successfully.

In this skill the degree of motivation has a lot to do with respect to what we are doing: it is much easier to concentrate when we want and we like to do what we do, when it absorbs us. In fact, there are concepts, such as engagement, based on it.


  • Maybe you're interested: "Types of motivation: the 8 motivational sources"

Problems due to lack of concentration

But on more than one occasion we may not be able to maintain attention or invest enough mental resources to really concentrate on something, and there is a lack of concentration. This at first sight may not seem particularly serious, especially if we consider that we live in a society in which the most basic needs for survival are usually met, but the truth is that it can represent a big problem and be invalidating to carry out an action effectively and efficiently. And it can have repercussions in various areas.

For example, at an academic or work level , our ability to concentrate allows us to carry out the tasks that are demanded of us or properly record what we have to do or keep in memory. Not being able to concentrate properly will cause us to need much more time to perform each action, or even that we can not do at that moment. It is something that at some point has happened to all of us, but if it is very common it can generate a low performance.


In more extreme cases in which the subject was not able to concentrate at all for a long time could generate school failure, conflicts at work or in extreme cases the dismissal.

On a personal level, the lack of concentration also translates into little desire to act. If we want to do something but at the minimum we lose the thread we ended up frustrating ourselves, and leaving it for another time.

With regard to social relations, it can also generate some difficulties. If we disconnect from the conversations that are being held with us (which in general can be easy to see by the other), the other person may have the impression that we do not want or do not care about the interaction, which may generate upset and even conflicts.

But neither do you need to take it to the extreme. All of us often have some time of lack of concentration , and although it is experienced as something negative by the majority, under certain conditions it could even be adaptive: basically our mind is informing us that we have something that worries us more at that moment, or that our attentional resources are low at that moment and we need rest. The fact that it is dysfunctional is mainly due to the need to carry out the actions in question, and may depend on the situation.

Possible causes of problems to concentrate

As we have commented, we all have moments from time to time when concentration fails us. In most cases we are not talking about a disorder, although in some disorders and diseases we can find ourselves facing a lack of continuous or repetitive concentration as a symptom. Let's see some frequent causes.

1. Distractors

When we do something, we do not do it in a vacuum.We are located in a certain environment and context, in which we constantly different stimulations appear that can interfere with our performance by claiming our attention.

2. Tasks competence

Doing two things or more things at the same time, unless we have one of them very automated, is complicated. Although we have some capacity for divided attention, concentrating on something requires a great deal of our attention to be devoted to it, and the other task can be distracting.

3. Concerns and thoughts

One of the most frequent distractors that tend to impair our concentration is the existence of thoughts or concerns that absorb our attention and make it difficult to keep our attention focused on something. These thoughts or concerns can be both important and banal .

  • Related article: "Rumination: the annoying vicious circle of thought"

4. Tiredness

It has been commented previously, but fatigue is one of the most common causes of lack of concentration. Our attentional resources are exhausted and we can not keep them fixed in a specific element. It is one of the most frequent causes of concentration problems.

5. Demotivation

If we do something that we do not like and would rather be doing something else, it's harder to stay focused. And the fact is that motivation is a very important element when it comes to keeping our attentional resources focused.

6. Anxiety and discomfort

If we are wrong, we are nervous or we have just had some kind of displeasure to concentrate continuously can be complicated, since the own discomfort (besides the possible worries and associated thoughts) will be claiming part of the subject's attention.

7. Expanse, extreme joy and excessive energy

The opposite of the previous point can also make it very difficult to maintain concentration. The joy we feel also demands part of attention, and unless what we are doing is its source, concentrating on other things becomes complicated. The high levels of energy can cause attention to shoot and move from one point to another, unable to concentrate.

8. Aging

Mental abilities such as memory or the ability to concentrate are not always stable, but as a general rule they tend to diminish little by little with age . We are talking about a normative loss, not being necessary to suffer any type of dementia.

Disorders and diseases in which lack of concentration appears

Although the above causes are common throughout the population, as we have indicated in some disorders and diseases, the concentration fails due to the alterations generated by these conditions. A few of them are the following.

1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

ADHD is characterized precisely by the difficulties in maintaining the concentration and ease of these people to distract, whether they have hyperactivity or not. Those who suffer from it are easily distracted, often forget objects and things to do and have difficulty completing tasks. In cases where there is hyperactivity, there is also agitation , nervousness and impulsivity.

2. Alzheimer's and other dementias

Dementias and neurodegenerative diseases usually cause problems of attention and concentration as cerebral deterioration occurs . Along with memory problems, the ability to concentrate is often one of the first skills to shrink.

  • Related article: "Alzheimer's: causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention"

3. Schizophrenia

Although the first thing that comes to mind when talking about schizophrenia are hallucinations, another of the frequent symptoms of those who suffer from this disorder is the presence of difficulties in attention, especially in those who suffer some deterioration. That without taking into account the presence of a possible psychotic outbreak, in which the concentration usually leads to hallucinations.

3. Mood disorders

People with depression often have difficulty concentrating, their mind often being occupied with negative thoughts. The sadness and the automatic thoughts that are generated in depressive episodes, the anhedonia, apathy and passivity that usually accompany it make it difficult for the patient to concentrate.

As regards people suffering from bipolar disorder, in addition to the problems of depressive episodes, they will also lack concentration when they are in a manic phase. In a manic episode the person is expansive, energetic, accelerated, agitated and may even be irritable. The focus and maintenance of attention on a specific stimulus is much more complex, jumping from one stimulus to another.

4. Substance use

A large amount of drugs and other substances greatly complicate the possibility that whoever takes them can concentrate, either by nervous system depression or by excessive stimulation. On the other hand other substances such as coffee can increase the energy level of someone tired, or others like the lime relax someone nervous , to the point of facilitating their concentration.

Some ways to exercise attention skills

The lack of concentration can be annoying and cause various problems in our day to day. That is why training it is very advisable. Some ways to hinder the lack of concentration or even strengthen this ability are the following.

1. Practice physical exercise

The usual practice of exercise and sport contributes greatly to improve the ability to concentrate, in addition to burning energy and allowing endorphins to be released that will make us feel better.

2. Get enough sleep

We have already indicated before that fatigue is one of the factors that causes lack of concentration in our tasks. It is necessary that we sleep and rest sufficiently to recover our energy and resources.

3. Disconnect

Linked to the previous point, we find the need to disconnect punctually from our duties, our work or studies. It is necessary to have some time for oneself, without always being absorbed by the same task . If we do not disconnect, we will end up exhausted, whether we sleep or not.

4. Do not surround yourself with distractors

The mobile phone, the computer, the television, the people talking around ... If we have a lot of concentration, maybe they do not bother us, but most people will see how their attention is captured by this type of distractors. Even if they do not sound, their presence allows them to derive attention (does anyone sound like watching Facebook, WhatsApp or surfing the Internet, although they should be doing that work that they have to deliver next week?).

Nor are we saying that we should isolate ourselves completely to do something, but we must be aware and not autoboicotearnos .

5. Look for motivation in what you do

Establishing goals that really motivate us and linking them to what is being done facilitates concentration. If what we are doing does not motivate us, we can try to give it a meaning by linking it to our day to day or establishing it as a necessary step to achieve that goal.


6. Practice meditation

Meditation has been shown effective in the stimulation of attention capacity, besides being a practice that allows us to relax and visualize things in a more objective way.

  • Maybe you're interested: "How to learn to meditate, in 7 simple steps"

7. One thing at a time

Taking care of several things makes it difficult to maintain attention in one and leads to a lack of concentration. Organize and dedicate to a single task It helps to keep the focus on what we do.

8. Where is it important

Carrying out each action in a context that facilitates it is a great help. Studying in bed, for example, makes it easier to fall asleep doing something (and in turn, when it's time to sleep it's harder for us to do it) while working at a desk makes it easy to work with a computer, write or read . The conditions of light and sound are also important.


9. Read and write

Reading and writing are actions that, although we have learned may seem simple, usually require high doses of concentration. Especially if we do it by hand. In addition, structuring a discourse to express what we want to express forces us to focus on finding a way to do it.

10. Create a planning

One way to strengthen concentration, as well as the ability to discipline, is to develop a planning that takes into account what we are going to do. In this planning we must incorporate not only what we have to do, but also rest periods . Now, it is important that the planning is realistic because otherwise it can generate demotivation.


5 Ways to Build Focus and Concentration - College Info Geek (September 2022).


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