Mental-Cognitive Symptoms
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How to Overcome Anxiety's Inability to Concentrate

Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS
How to Overcome Anxiety's Inability to Concentrate

Concentration problems are a common when you live with anxiety. Severe anxiety makes it almost impossible to pay attention to the tasks at hand, and while an inability to concentrate is not always someone's priority when addressing anxiety symptoms, it is an issue that can play a significant role in reducing your quality of life.

So what can you do about problems concentrating? We'll explore that in this article.

Causes of Concentration Problems

Focus requires a great deal of mental energy. There are distractions everywhere in the world, making it harder and harder to pay attention to the tasks at hand. 

What's interesting is that calling them concentration problems may be misleading. Often you ARE concentrating - you're simply focusing on the wrong things (like your anxiety and the way it makes you feel). It's very hard to focus on work when you're worried about the day or feeling incredibly anxious.

In some cases, you may also be suffering from rapid thoughts. Rapid thoughts are another type of anxiety symptom and are caused by your body becoming overly activated to the point where it starts processing all thoughts as rapidly as possible, only to end up focusing on nothing at all. Both of these may be considered trouble concentrating, though they vary in many ways.

Finally, another problem is that many people use distractions to cope. For example, you may find yourself browsing the web more at work because browsing the web relaxes you. However, by doing this you are distracting yourself from your work as well making it difficult to be focused on your work. 

Concentration and Anxiety

Anxiety doesn't necessarily cause concentration problems as its own symptom. In fact, it could be argued that anxiety actually improves concentration. Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight system, which is meant to keep you safe from harm by ensuring you're running away or fighting without distraction.

So in a way, your mind and body are ready to concentrate. The problem is that:

It's clear why a problem arises. As long as you have anxiety, it's unfortunately very likely that you are going to continue to experience these types of concentration issues, which is why your next step is to ensure that you're effectively looking for help reeling in your concentration towards what you would like to concentrate on.

How to Improve Concentration With Anxiety

Improving concentration is about trying to figure out what's causing the distractions (besides anxiety) and refocusing your mind on what you're doing. Depending on the severity of your anxiety it can be a bit difficult, but you may find that trying the following suggestions provides some relief:

Unfortunately, none of these strategies are a replacement for simply managing your anxiety overall. You need to make sure that your anxiety is under control if you also want to ensure that your concentration isn't too affected.

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