Hyperfixation: What Parents of Teens Need to Know (2023)

Hyperfixation, also called hyperfocus, is often associated with itAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),autismand depression. But how exactly is hyperfixation related to these issues? Is it always a problem? When your teen is hyperfocused, it's important to understand what's happening and why so you can help if needed.

To explore this topic, we spoke to Lauren Disner, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at South Campusnew port, an inpatient treatment center in Utah.

table of contents

  • What is hyper fixation?
  • Symptoms of Hyperfixation
  • Types of Hyperfixation
    • Hyperfixation in a person
    • Hyperfixation on food
    • Hyperfixation in Shows
    • Hobbies hyper fixation
    • hyper fixation on thoughts
  • What Causes Hyperfixation?
    • ADHD
    • autism
    • Depression
    • Angst
    • table of contents
  • How to stop hyperfixation
    • Set time limits for activities like gaming or social media
    • Help your teen stick to an organized schedule
    • Set limits on activities around bedtime
    • Practice mindfulness and meditation.
    • Go to a professional
  • Hyperfixation: putting everything together

What is hyper fixation?

So what is hyperfixation?Hyperfixation occurs when your teen gets so caught up in something that he can't think about anything else until he finishes his work or someone pushes him away.People often focus on people, places, food, TV shows, hobbies, or even their own thoughts.

Sometimes compared to "in the zone" or "in aflow condition', Hyperfixation can keep your teen so engrossed in an activity that it limits their ability to perceive life beyond what they're doing. They can reach a point where they can no longer function in daily activities. In this case, hyperfocus is an issue that needs to be addressed.

"For example, if I'm a baker who spends a lot of time focusing on baking during work hours, then such hyper fixation isn't a problem," says Disner. "But when I get so obsessed with baking when I'm not at work, to the point where I don't engage with my family anymore, that's a problem."

Symptoms of Hyperfixation

There are several symptoms of hyperfixation. The most common, most of which indicate that hyperfocus negatively affects a teenager's life, are:

  • neglecting self-care.
  • Not paying attention to loved ones.
  • Limited ability to relate to others.
  • Full inclusion in entertainment activities such asSpielen.
  • Difficulty breaking attention.
  • Lack of social awareness.
  • Difficulty communicating about subjects outside of hyperfixation.

Types of Hyperfixation

Teens can experience different types of hyperfixation depending on their thoughts, personality, history, and other factors.

Hyperfixation in a person

When a teenager becomes hyper-fixated on a person, it's usually because they have a strong emotion towards that person. As this approach can be positive or negative, it is important to ensure that healthy relationships are established and maintained.

Hyperfixation on food

A food hyperfixation can mean focusing too much on a particular food or a single item, such as a meal. B. a piece of fruit, concentrated. This can have long-term health consequences if the food isn't nutritious or if a teenager's diet doesn't have enough variety.

Hyperfixation in Shows

Many teenagers enjoy watching television as a way of getting away from it all, but the hyper-fixation with distracting programs is causing this behavior to become a problem.

Hobbies hyper fixation

It's good for teens to have hobbies to indulge in during their free time, as long as they don't develop an unhealthy hyperfocus that distracts them from everyday tasks.

hyper fixation on thoughts

When a teenager becomes obsessed with a thought process, it can distract them from school work, personal life, and other responsibilities.

What Causes Hyperfixation?

There's no clear reason why teens hyperfocus on anything, so it's difficult to identify the causes of hyperfixation. It differs per person.

In some cases, it affects people with visual hyposensitivity (i.e. they react poorly to what they see), auditory hypersensitivity (i.e. they are overly sensitive to noise), anxiety, vision problems, inability to change focus, or difficulty planning.

That being said, there are some conditions that can make your teen hyper-focus on something.


Adults, adolescents, or children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder understand what it feels like to be hyper-focused on something, as ADHD and hyper fixation can be linked. People with this disorder often tend to focus on activities like video games, TV shows, home projects, and books.

in onelast job interview, ADHD expert Russell Barkley, Ph.D., said, “Children and adults with ADHD have trouble shifting their attention from one thing to another. If they are doing something they enjoy or find psychologically rewarding, they will tend to continue that behavior after others would normally have moved on to other things.


As with ADHD, hyperfixation and autism can be linked. For example, Disner has worked with some autistic people who have become accustomed to other people because they feel something is missing in their lives.

"For some people with autism spectrum disorder," Disner said, "when they realize that another person is interested in them and wants to have a relationship with them, they can become hyper-fixated on that person or that relationship in general." "


Forteenagers with depression, Hyperfocus can be a coping mechanism. Someone with depression and hyperfixation may hyperfocus on something that takes their attention away from the distress or pain they are experiencing in their daily life.


When it comes to hyperfixation andAngst, the reasoning is similar to depression. Taking their attention away from their worries is a way for teens to forget why they're feeling anxious. It is a temporary solution that gives them a break from their worries and fears.

table of contents

OCD involves unwanted thoughts or fears that can relate to a variety of areas, including germs, injuries, order, superstitions, and the loss of loved ones. With hyper fixation and OCD, teens can hyper-focus to block out the chaos and keep these thoughts from overwhelming their minds.

Hyperfixation: What Parents of Teens Need to Know (1)

How to stop hyperfixation

There is no single perfect way to treat hyperfocus when it becomes a problem. The approach to stopping hyperfixation depends on the problems a teenager is facing.

For example, Disner noted that he wouldn't treat hyperfocus in someone with OCD the same way he would treat it in someone with autism or ADHD. If someone has OCD, I would talk about their hyperfixation as an external problem because it's not specifically about their brain function. Rather, it is behavior designed to distract from OCD symptoms.

"On the other hand," Disner said, "if you have autism spectrum disorder, you have ADHD, or you're neurodivergent, we'd say, 'Let's understand how your brain works and how you can channel its energy to do that You have the opportunity to spend your time on things you enjoy that are not taking over your life.”

disner said whateverinsanityor disorder a client is dealing with, it helps them understand when hyperfixation is affecting their relationships and functioning. She also helps them meet their needs so they don't "get stuck" in hyper focus.

Disner shared how he helped a young woman obsessed with chess.

"Once we were able to separate the chess pieces and figure out what was interesting, we found other activities that have those aspects," he said. “Climbing, for example, required the same kind of strategy and vision for the future. You have to think six or seven steps ahead to reach a goal. Another example is research: really go into detail and try to think about what you're looking for in a strategic way. These types of activities were similar to chess and could be just as intriguing to that person.”

Here are some ideas on how to stop hyperfixation if it becomes a problem for your teen:

Set time limits for activities like gaming or social media

Because time is an abstract concept, Disner recommended using visual cues such as analog clocks or stopwatches. This allows your teen to know when time is up for a particular activity so they can move on to another.

Help your teen stick to an organized schedule

Following a routine is one of the most effective ways to help your teen avoid hyper fixation. In order to keep up and move from one task to the next, they cannot hold on to one activity for long.

Set limits on activities around bedtime

LikeMichael J. Breves, Ph.D., a psychologist and sleep expert, in a recent article, experts recommend that teens stop using electronic devices at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. In fact, she said, screen time within two hours of bedtime has been linked to insufficient sleep duration, poor quality sleep, and excessive sleepiness the next day.

While it can be difficult to maintain such boundaries because everyone is tired before bed, the more you can do, the better it will be for your teen in the long run.

Practice mindfulness and meditation.

Meditation and mindfulness can help your teen divert their attention from their hyper fixation. Through these practices, they learn to clear their minds, become more aware of physical sensations like their breath or how they feel in their bodies, and be more present with the world around them.

Go to a professional

A professional therapist like Disner can help your teen with ideas on how to stop hyperfixation. Therapists follow expert practices that lead to positive change.

Hyperfixation: putting everything together

While hyper fixation can become a problem for teens, Disner said it's okay to be super focused every now and then.

"It can be nice and acceptable to focus on a favorite activity for a limited amount of time," he said. “Parents don't have to assume hyper fixation is bad and get into a power struggle over whether their teen can participate. However, if it becomes an issue that negatively impacts daily life, parents should work with their teen and, if necessary, a therapist to reduce the behavior.

Embark is the most trusted name in adolescent and young adult mental health care. We are motivated to find the help your family needs. If you are looking for supportContact us today!

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