Attention Span as an Adult

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Nebor

Lifer
Jun 24, 2003
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Does anyone else feel that their attention span is getting shorter? Feel that it's keeping you from enjoying things that you used to? I have a really hard time playing video games now, when just a few years ago I could play for 12 hours straight. Similarly I have a hard time reading books without my mind wandering. I have a hard time at work writing longer documents because it's hard to stay focused and interested.

I can't tell if this is a symptom of too much stimulation in the form of browsing the web all day, clicking from news article to forum post to funny gif with intermittent text messages, or if there's perhaps something physiological to blame.

FWIW I run ~4-12 miles a day, lift weights 5 times a week, eat a healthy balanced diet, take multivitamins and no prescription drugs. I have a lot of difficulty sleeping, again because my mind seems to race from though to thought, averaging around 3.5 hours per night.
 

repoman0

Diamond Member
Jun 17, 2010
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Do you drink a lot of coffee?

I notice the same things most of the time though not quite to your extent, but particularly so when I'm semi-heavily caffeinated. I think the theory about browsing the web all day holds some water too; I've noticed similar effects on myself. Same as you, even a couple years ago I could sit and practice piano for hours with no distractions, or go to the gym and not touch my phone .. now in between pieces or sets, I tend to automatically go look at some nonsense on my phone.

3.5 hours of sleep per night probably has a lot to do with your inability to focus too. I still manage 7+ hours and on days where it's much less, everything becomes much much harder. I've been trying to turn off electronics at least an hour or two before bed and stop looking at my phone or browsing the internet so much.

Also like you, I'm pretty active and fit, eat well, healthy hobbies, overall mindset, and relationships, and nothing seems to be wrong physiologically and I'm only 26. Maybe we just need to wean ourselves off the net .. seems to be a terrible habit.
 

iluvdeal

Golden Member
Nov 22, 1999
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If you ask me I'd say playing videogames 12 straight hours is the abnormal behavior, that's actually a huge problem in some Asian countries. What you describe doesn't sound limited to getting older as I know plenty of kids/teen/young adults who also can't focus on one thing for long periods of time.

About your mind wandering when reading a book or when you're at work writing a doc, perhaps the book or work itself just isn't engaging so your mind is wandering? Some books I get totally lost in and lose total track of time because I'm so into it, other books I check ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter to see when it'll be done.

As for problems falling asleep, I had the same issue before, it's like my mind couldn't stop thinking, I'd thinking about stuff that happened that day, things from the past, things in the future... What really helped me was taking up mindfulness meditation where I just learned to let all those thoughts go and focus on the present moment, on my breathing, I'd recommend trying it. It's hard at first but you can learn to control your own thoughts.

On the practical side, try to avoid doing anything really stimulating a few hours before bed like playing video games or watching a movie. Also if you're on a computer, phone, or tablet a lot, research has shown blue light can mess up your circadian rhythms so try installing an app like f.lux or twilight to control it.
 

interchange

Diamond Member
Oct 10, 1999
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Decreased attention span is not a normal physiologic change with age. Primary attention problems (ADHD) do not manifest in adulthood. Your symptoms could be part of a depressive syndrome, for example, another medical problem such as hypothyroidism, etc. Or you could be worried about nothing. Perhaps you should get an evaluation?
 

rga

Senior member
Nov 9, 2011
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I feel that I'm in the same situation as the OP.

I blame anxiety and drug use for my ability to focus on entertaining hobbies. Anxiety because I'm always worried that I should be doing something more important than a hobby; drug use because these days I never feel I'm having as much fun doing something as I would if I were high.

When it comes to video games specifically, I think the reason I'm not having so much fun these days is because I play solo or multiplayer games with random people. I remember playing StarCraft and Counterstrike 1.6 with friends and playing for hours and having a blast, but most of my friends and acquaintances these days don't really play any video games at all. It's not so much fun when you can't talk about your victories, losses and strategies with friends.
 
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