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Easily Distracted Symptoms

Many people are familiar with the feeling of being distracted, or the inability to focus and complete simple tasks. A wandering, easily distracted mind, especially in the setting of work or class, is most often the result of external factors such as emails, talkative friends or colleagues (in person or via text), social media alerts, and even general feelings of boredom or lack of motivation.

Remaining focused and preventing distraction is even more difficult for children to achieve. Many healthy children are inattentive, easily distracted balls of energy who prefer novel activities and find it difficult to remain focused on one activity for a long period of time regardless of the situation.

Nevertheless, distraction that begins to seriously affect daily functioning and quality of life can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

In adults, symptoms that may suggest an underlying condition include:

  • Disorganization and inability to keep track of tasks, leading to multiple missed appointments or commitments.
  • Time-management problems that result in procrastination or inability to properly prioritize tasks.
  • Routine forgetfulness for a variety of issues – birthdays, work assignments, location of keys, or other important items.
  • Impulsivity that includes rushing through tasks carelessly, interrupting during conversation or talking too much, or difficulty waiting.
  • Restlessness that manifests as fidgeting, constant motion, or desire to be on the move that can also cause anxiety.

In children, symptoms that may suggest an underlying condition include:

  • Inability to pay close attention to detail resulting in careless mistakes on schoolwork
  • Dislike of activities that require focus and attention, such as homework or playing an instrument
  • Forgetting to do chores or homework assignments
  • Fidgeting, difficulty staying seated, constant motion
  • Interrupting conversations, games or activities/inability to wait his or her turn

These symptoms may culminate to seriously affect relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. This is an aspect that often results in stress and emotional distress that further exacerbates symptoms. If you notice that you or your child becomes easily distracted and experience symptoms regardless of the context (school, home, work, etc.), promptly make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your doctor will be able to find the correct diagnosis and give an appropriate care plan.

Easily Distracted Causes Overview

Focus and attention are complex topics controlled in an equally complex manner by the brain. Psychological and physiologic disruption in the brain can result in symptoms of distraction and inattention, but external factors can also be a strong influencer on your symptoms.

Psychological

  • Attention Disorders: As implied by the name, attention disorders directly cause easy distraction. They are specifically characterized by many of the symptoms above. These disorders often begin in childhood and can continue on into adulthood without proper intervention and treatment.
  • Anxiety Disorders : This includes a group of disorders that involve vague feelings of fear, dread, or danger in relation to various issues. These conditions can easily cause distraction as the person affected often focuses on the anxiety, and finds it difficult to think about or focus on other things.
  • Mood Disorders: These disorders involve a spectrum of feelings that can occupy extremes – extreme sadness, extreme happiness, or fluctuations between the two. Often, people with mood disorders are easily distracted because their feelings can overpower day-to-day needs for attention and focus for specific activities or tasks.

Physiological

  • Dementia: Dementia is an umbrella medical term used to describe several diseases that cause difficulties in memory and thinking. Dementia can cause inattention and distraction because people affected find it difficult to remember things in general and compensate by going from topic to topic in order to gain some semblance of control.

  • Brain Trauma (Concussion): Since the brain is the control center for focus and attention, direct trauma to the brain can result in problems with attention, distraction, and anxiety.

Environmental

  • Diet: Foods that contain stimulants such as sugary cereals and caffeine can cause transient feelings of hyperactivity and inattention.
  • Media: The 21st century is full of gadgets, social media platforms, news outlets, and many other types of media that allow us to stay connected. However, they also allow us to get lost in cyberspace and not focus on the here and now or task at hand.

6 Potential Easily Distracted Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Mild Chronic Depression (Dysthymia)

    Dysthymia, also called persistent depressive disorder, is a form of depression that is chronic. The causes of dysthymia are complex, and often are a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Dysthymia can interfere with everyday life, and people with this condition report feeling loss of interest in their daily activities, sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of energy.

    Dysthymia can last indefinitely.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, difficulty concentrating, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that always occur with mild chronic depression (dysthymia):
    depressed mood
    Symptoms that never occur with mild chronic depression (dysthymia):
    severe sadness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Alzheimer's Disease

    Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that slowly destroys memory and the ability to think clearly. As symptoms worsen, patients are often unable to perform basic tasks.

    Lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion, anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with alzheimer's disease:
    forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  4. 4.Sleep Deprived

    Sleep is very important to health and adults should get a minimum of 7 hours each night. Sleep deprivation causes daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches.

    Resolves with adequate sleep.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, daytime sleepiness, sleep duration less than 7 hours, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with sleep deprived:
    sleep duration less than 7 hours, daytime sleepiness
    Symptoms that never occur with sleep deprived:
    nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, fever, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  5. 5.Mental or Medical Condition Causing Thoughts of Suicide

    When experiencing thoughts of suicide, you should go immediately to the ER. Consider calling a suicide-prevention hotline, the number is 1 (800) 273-8255 and is available 24/7.

    Duration of this symptom depends on it's cause.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    thoughts of suicide, hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there, severe pelvis pain, chest pain, hard testicle lump
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  6. 6.Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror without true danger. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart.

    Chronic with relapses

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    agoraphobia
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Easily Distracted Treatments and Relief

Inattention that results from environmental factors can easily be curbed with lifestyle changes and practices that aim to center the mind and allow you to focus.

  • Meditation: Meditation can increase awareness of the present moment and help you develop a gentle, accepting attitude that allows you to rise above distractions.
  • Mindful movement: This describes practices such as yoga or tai chi that focus on controlled movement, mental focus, and breathing. These movements can be practiced anywhere and have been scientifically proven to decrease stress and distracted thinking as well help control weight and improve cardiovascular health.
  • Limit caffeine and extra sugar (especially in children): Controlling such substances can help regulate transient episodes of inattention and hyperactivity. Such measures can also teach a child good eating habits and decision-making.
  • Limit time with electronic devices and gadgets (especially in children): Regulating use of these devices can allow both children and adults to focus on activities that require mental focus such as reading, drawing or coloring.

However, inattention that results from psychological or physiological conditions must be treated by a medical professional.

Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may suggest:

  • Stimulants: Though it may seem counterintuitive, stimulants are the medication of choice for disorders causing distraction, especially attention disorders. The mechanism of action of stimulants is to boost and balance levels of neurotransmitters to improve signs of inattention and hyperactivity.
  • Brain Rest: This is the term used to describe strategies to limit mental activity after a concussion. Strategies include breaks from school, adequate sleep, and limited physical activity.
  • Dementia drugs: There are various drugs your doctor may prescribe that can help curb symptoms of dementia. Examples include cholinesterase inhibitors. Unfortunately, they provide limited improvement.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Easily Distracted

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Q.Are your symptoms causing difficulty at work, socializing, or spending time with friends & family?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our easily distracted symptom checker to find out more.

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Easily Distracted Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced easily distracted have also experienced:

    • 15% Difficulty Concentrating
    • 8% Trouble Sleeping
    • 6% Aggression
  • People who have experienced easily distracted were most often matched with:

    • 12% Mild Chronic Depression (Dysthymia)
    • 4% Alzheimer's Disease
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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