I began to wonder why I could not focus on much when I wasn’t alone or when I knew someone was home. They could be silent but if I saw their car, I would not be able to focus. I realize I am not a doctor, at all, nor am I any type of therapist whatsoever, but it’s not a crime to ask questions or seek the answers to them. So, this will serve as a collection of research that I have found and would like to pass on to all of you, as I also believe that education should be free to humans.
Questions I began to ask, wrote down to research, and search answers for include:
- “Why can’t I focus when I know I am not alone?”
- “Why am I more productive only when I am alone?”
- “Are there some disorders that may pair up with these issues?”
- “What can I do to combat this problem with the focus I am having when surrounded by others?”
Basic searches popped up all over the internet, coming up with pages that hit on topics like “the cause of the general lack of focus,” and “trouble focusing, you’re not alone.” Those aren’t exactly the answers I was seeking, but I decided to take a look regardless of its seeming irrelevance. A general lack of focus could be caused by any or none of the following: Including, but not limited to, boredom, poor self-care, insomnia, and stress.
A lack of interest in the task you are currently trying to pursue and complete, would cause boredom, for sure. Your experience with your educational system growing up would show you that through your homework completion record. If it was low, you probably didn’t have an interest for the subject, hence boredom. What about working in the office place, or doing the same repetitive job over and over? That can lead to a burn out in your workplace which sometimes can lead to unemployment or impulsive quitting and another job search. That’s boredom at its finest.
Poor Self Care:
If you aren’t eating properly, you probably aren’t getting the energy you need to be able to complete anything. When they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they aren’t joking, because to get your morning started off right, you need to gain energy. You would be able to do that by eating a balanced breakfast, maybe a cup of coffee, and doing something important to your well being for about an hour. Those types of activities can contribute to your mental health in ways that go far beyond just getting the right nutrients.
If you aren’t taking proper care of yourself, you might also say “yes” to Insomnia. Whether it's by itself or a symptom of an underlying cause, lack of sleep can play a high role in your ability to focus on the important task, priorities, and work that you encounter on a daily basis.
It can come from just about anywhere. Sources would absolutely include (and they definitely would not be limited to) how you structure your day, what type of food consumption you’ve been in-taking, maybe it’s the job, relationship problems, car issues, you name it. It might be a major contributor to the stress in your life, which in turn would cause you to waste away your time worrying about the things in life you may (or may even not) be able to control.
These would make sense for a general temporary lack of focus in your everyday life. Each of the above do have their respective fixes, tricks, cures, whatever you would like to call it. You can do something about boredom. You can do something about your self care routine. You can do something about insomnia and stress, if they are straight forward and not symptoms of underlying issues.
This poses new questions:
- What if it’s not temporary?
- What if the lack of focus, that insomnia, that stress, continues on for weeks, months, or years?
- What if it’s a little more prominent in your daily life that it poses issues for continuing your education, around the workplace, or while you're driving?
Not to mention that none of the above reference anything to do with why some of us focus better when we are entirely alone, and get extremely aggravated or irritable around others.
There are not many items that pop up regarding that question, possibly because the wording is so unique to an individual, such as myself. There is a phenomenon that occurs within the body though (isn't there always?). It’s Sensorimotor Gating, also known as Sensory Gating, which is basically the ability to block out noises like background noise, such as the A/C kicking on and off, or the refrigerator going on or off, or the high pitched squeal you hear when you plug something into an outlet. Sensorimotor Gating is an inhibitory filtering mechanism that happens within our brain.
The measure of Sensorimotor Gating via something called Prepulse Inhibition or PPI. A “weaker prestimulus (prepulse) inhibits the reaction of an organism to a subsequent strong reflex-eliciting stimulus, often using the Startle Reflex (Sensorimotor Gating). A number of Disorders are categorized by a lack in Inhibitory filtering mechanisms, such as Schizophrenia, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, and Huntington’s Disorder. Further studies indicated that during Manic episodes of the Bipolar Disorder, a lack in Inhibitor Filtering was also present.
That would indicate that, quite possibly, one would not simply be annoyed by the presence of another human, but just annoyed by the sounds the human contributes to your surroundings. This however, does not explain why some of us feel a need to hide away until the human leaves, in order to get anything done, though. While, it could simply just be that one does not simply like their roommate, or what the roommate does, it could also be a mental health issue.
Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD) is very closely related to Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). However, it is a different disorder all by itself, as previous research has shown that (despite lacking its own research) it can occur with the presence of its cousin disorder (SAD). It can be described as severe avoidance of social situations associated with the feeling that one would be rejected, become embarrassed, or even ridiculed. Symptoms include social isolation, low self esteem, and fear of rejection. It’s often confused as a more severe version of Social Anxiety Disorder.
Some of it's other characteristics occur in people without AVPD or SAD, such as fear of strangers, and other smaller fears of general new environments and people. These are even normal for growing up in general. However, others, such as being reluctant to start engaging in a new business opportunity or any activity in general because it may cause you to become embarrassed is a behavioral trait of someone with AVPD. While other symptoms would simply be avoidance of social situations in general, and another, such as viewing yourself as socially inept or inferior to others.
What can I do to combat this lack of Focus?
For a general lack of focus, this answer can be quite simple. If you are bored because of a lack of interest, make sure to take a sufficient amount of breaks so that you aren’t trying to do the uninteresting task all at once. If you are taking poor care of yourself, you can update your self care routine by investing in some products that will help you do so. I write a lot, so morning pages are right for me. It’s three pages of pure thought, as in writing exactly as the thoughts come. I wrote an article on my morning routine and body care routine a while ago.
As for stress and insomnia, if they are just straight forward and not symptoms of underlying causes, there are sleep medications you can take to treat your temporary insomnia. Many of which include Melatonin and/or Diphenhydramine HCL. Some of the more known sleep aides are Generic Sleep Aids (store brands), ZZZ-quil, MidNite, and Unisom. Usually there will be a small message on the packaging letting you know that if your sleeplessness persists for more than 2 weeks, that you should seek medical help as it could be a symptom of an underlying cause.
As for Stress, 5-HTP can serve to elevate your serotonin levels, which in turn can enhance your mood, therefore helping your overall well being. Companies like Hyland’s and Natrol create medications that serve to help your overall mood and well being, which would include taking away your stress, calming you down, and creating a blissful state of mind. There’s also the option of treating yourself, by filling your work space or home with a scent that you prefer, as well as treating yourself to a spa day and obtaining your self-care in that form.
Honestly, for anything else, the only thing I would recommend are Noise-Canceling Headphones. There are other treatments for disorders, such as therapy, behavioral therapy, and other types of help that one can get when they have a disorder. Once again, I am not a doctor, and intend on looking into more signs, symptoms, and ways to treat different types of disorders in the future.
Cabranes, José A, et al. “P50 Sensory Gating Is a Trait Marker of the Bipolar Spectrum.” European Neuropsychopharmacology : the Journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22770636.
Casarella, Jennifer. “Avoidant Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Treatments, and Complications.” WebMD, WebMD, 21 Oct. 2019, www.webmd.com/mental-health/avoidant-personality-disorders#2.
Cheng, Chia-Hsiung, et al. “Auditory Sensory Gating in Patients with Bipolar Disorders: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Affective Disorders, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27295376.
Geyer, Mark A. “The Family of Sensorimotor Gating Disorders: Comorbidities or Diagnostic Overlaps?” Neurotoxicity Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2667105/.
Lampe, Lisa, and Gin S Malhi. “Avoidant Personality Disorder: Current Insights.” Psychology Research and Behavior Management, Dove Medical Press, 8 Mar. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5848673/.