Can't Stay Focused? 9 Reasons Why

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Always distracted? A lack of focus is often connected to psychological and mental issues. Consider the following to figure out why you just can't focus.

*note that if your lack of focus follows any type of head injury you should seek medical advice.


It's a myth that just children suffer attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD continues into adulthood, when many people's inability to keep their life together sees them seek a diagnosis for the first time. Not just about distraction, it can involve impulsivity, dreaminess or hyperactivity, and often relationship problems.

It's important not to self-diagnose here. There are many other reasons aside from attention deficit disorder that you can have focus issues. If you continue to think your issue is ADHD after reading this article, book an appointment with a psychiatrist specialising in ADHD.

2. Trauma

Trauma, recent or in childhood, is a leading cause of a distracted mind. So much so that a debate rages over whether children diagnosed with ADHD with difficult home lives (poverty, neglect, a parent who is an addict) are simply traumatised.

Adults who experienced trauma such as sexual abuse as a child often find themselves distracted adults. It's as if the mind has such a habit of seeking further threat it is constantly preoccupied.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety could be renamed 'overthinking disorder'. It means your mind is constantly consumed about how things might go wrong. And all that distorted, 'doom and gloom' worry takes up your brain space.

Been distracted for a long time? It could be that you have anxiety disorder, or an anxious personality.

4. Depression

Depression changes our attention span for opposite reasons to anxiety. Either we are consumed by thoughts of the past, and all the things that went wrong, or we have a head that is so foggy with our low mood we can't seem to think straight no matter how hard we try.

5. Stress

Don't overlook good old stress as the cause of your distraction. This is probably the case if your inability to focus is recent, and if you have gone through a challenging life change like a divorce, breakup, bereavement, or job change.

6. Repressed emotions

Ever tried keeping a beach ball under water? Let your mind drift for a second, and the thing pops back up.

Repressed emotions are similar.

In our effort to refuse to feel sad and angry or face past upsets, we give our brain an all consuming job of 'hide away or else'. No wonder you feel at a deficit when it comes to thinking clearly and getting things done.

7. Sleep problems

Thought you could get away with not sleeping much and still keep it together? Sleep problems affect our capacity to think, no matter how much coffee we drink. If you are having troubles falling or staying asleep then this might be your issue.

8. Addictions

The point of an addiction is that it is a consuming distraction, whether that is drugs, porn, overspending, alcohol, or otherwise. We use the distraction to avoid emotional pain, at the price that we can hardly focus on other things.

9. Unhealthy relationships.

This could actually come under addictions, as unhealthy relationships are addictive. We are so caught up in the drama, overanalysing, and out-of-control need of it all? We don't just lose our logic and capacity for good self-care, we lose our focus.

Ready to bring back your focus for once and for all? Why not try a session with one of our registered and approved therapists who can help? Life only gets better with the right support.

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