Lack of Concentration Due to Anxiety: What You Should Know

Lack of concentration due to anxiety is a real phenomenon. Keep reading and find out why it happens and some ways to counteract this symptom.
Lack of Concentration Due to Anxiety: What You Should Know
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Reviewed and approved by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 19 February, 2023

Anxiety is a very complex disorder, one that’s not restricted to just the fear of something. Its clinical manifestation is much broader, and it can affect patients in ways that aren’t imagined. Such is the case of the lack of concentration due to anxiety, a symptom that’s included in the DSM-V and that’s shared by many spectrums of the disorder.

Indeed, it’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t allude to a single manifestation, but to many. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and panic disorder are just a few. In the following paragraphs, we’ll analyze the lack of concentration due to anxiety and how it can affect patients.

Causes of lack of concentration due to anxiety

Lack of concentration due to anxiety affects all areas.
The origin of anxiety and lack of concentration is multifactorial. Personal, work, and social factors are usually the most significant.

As experts point out, lack of concentration due to anxiety is an important characteristic of the disorder, even in the context of a lack of diagnostic specificity. It’s not yet known how the disorder affects the ability to concentrate, although it’s thought that worry plays a leading role.

In short, one of the characteristics of anxiety disorders is excessive worry. As the evidence indicates, anxiety conditions the efficient functioning of the attentional system. In the end, that reduces the patient’s attention capacity and increases the attention to stimuli related to the threats. That is, the lack of concentration doesn’t affect all aspects; but it’s maintained in the face of certain stimuli.

The problem is that the ability to concentrate is derived exclusively from situations that are processed as threats, and is weakened when applying it in other contexts. Some authors suggest that pathological worry is closely related to attention biases. That is, errors in attention processing result in certain actions being perceived as threats and negatively assimilated.

Some studies indicate that excessive worry can affect working memory, and this, in turn, the ability to concentrate. Therefore, a loop is generated that feeds on itself and is conditioned by the severity of the symptoms. Indeed, a patient who’s developed more acute symptoms of anxiety will show a lower ability to concentrate.

The lack of concentration isn’t exclusive to anxiety, as it can also manifest itself in other disorders such as depression. In short, this problem is related to excessive worry; And it doesn’t go away completely. What happens is that it’s derived from these concerns and prevents it from being used for other aspects of day-to-day life.

How to avoid lack of concentration due to anxiety

Now that you know the relationship between lack of concentration and anxiety, you’re ready to learn some methods to counteract it. The best way to avoid diverting concentration only to worries is to attack anxiety itself. If you control the episodes of anxiety, your concentration can then be distributed to other contexts. We’ll leave you with some ideas.

1. Start an exercise routine

There’s evidence that exercise is effective in counteracting episodes of anxiety. It’s considered a conservative treatment for the disorder, one whose benefits are related to frequency and intensity. The greater the amount of exercise you do during the week, the greater the results will be in your psychological well-being.

There’s no need to practice high-impact sports or dedicate ten hours a week to exercise. As a reference, you can follow the indications of the World Health Organization (WHO); that is, a minimum of 150 minutes of intense exercise or 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Start with a routine tailored to your physical condition and adjust it based on progress.

2. Practice relaxation techniques

Lack of concentration due to anxiety can be improved.
Finding enough time during the week to practice some relaxation techniques is essential to distract the mind.

Relaxation techniques include yoga and meditation. Any of these practices have a direct impact on your ability to focus your concentration, but most importantly, they help you manage your anxiety. Try different relaxation techniques and don’t rule out some such as music therapy, dance therapy, and other similar practices.

3. Connect with a support group

Many people who suffer from anxiety think they’re facing the battle alone. Family and friends are a great bastion when dealing with it, and so are support groups. Whether these are face-to-face or virtual, sharing with people who experience the same symptoms as you is therapeutic when overcoming these episodes. Explore several groups before finding the one with which you feel most comfortable.

4. Seek professional help

As a complement to the above, you can seek professional help. Psychological therapy is considered one of the strongest alternatives to treat anxiety, one that’s geared toward mild and moderate cases (and not just the most severe ones). If changing the above habits doesn’t improve your ability to focus, consider consulting with a psychiatrist.

Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks, keeping track of thoughts, organizing homework methodically, and distinguishing triggers from symptoms are also part of conservative treatment. Experts recommend drug treatment only for the most severe episodes, or in any case, when previous changes haven’t worked.

If you control your anxiety, your ability to concentrate will improve. Keep in mind that anxiety often doesn’t go away completely, so long-term implementation of the recommendations is a necessity for many patients. Psychological therapy is also a priority, so don’t turn your back on it if your lack of concentration prevents you from managing daily tasks.

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