How “Hyperfocus” and “Flow” Differ

by | Aug 7, 2023 | Entrepreneurship

ADHD “hyperfocus” and the “flow” state share some similarities, but they also have distinct characteristics and underlying mechanisms.

ADHD Hyperfocus:

Hyperfocus is unique to people with ADHD. It is often described as an intense, often involuntary focus on a particular task or activity. Individuals with ADHD may have difficulty shifting their attention away from the task, even when it’s unproductive or inappropriate.  Note: Not all people with ADHD experience hyperfocus.

ADHDers prize their ability to hyperfocus. They consider it their superpower.

They may hyperfocus on stimulating or rewarding activities, often impulsively, to the extent of neglecting other essential tasks or responsibilities. It can be very difficult to transition someone out of hyperfocus.

The neural mechanisms behind hyperfocus in ADHD may be related to the dysregulation of attention networks.

The Flow State (for the rest of us):

The “flow” state is a voluntary and intentional immersion in a task. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s first described the concept. It is a state of complete engagement and focus, characterized by optimal performance and enjoyment of the activity.

It typically occurs when the task has clear goals and provides immediate feedback, allowing individuals to gauge their progress and adjust their efforts accordingly.

Similarly, individuals in a flow state may become so absorbed in a task that they also lose track of time and can feel detached from the outside world.

Differences:

Hyperfocus in ADHD is often associated with difficulty in controlling attention and impulsivity, whereas a flow state is a conscious and intentional choice to immerse oneself in a task.

In ADHD, hyperfocus may occur in situations where the individual is not in control of their focus, whereas flow is a deliberate and satisfying experience.

Hyperfocus in ADHD makes one oblivious to outside demands, while a flow state allows for awareness of outside demands and is generally a positive and productive experience.

The flow state is associated with optimal brain function and coordination of different brain regions.

Hyperfocus is elusive for most. But most anyone can learn how to create a flow state through CoreCoaching. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

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Who is Rebecca Shafir? Speech/language pathologist, author, voice and executive function coach
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