Time & Productivity

When Hobbies Turn Into Obsessions: Diaries of ADHD Hyperfocus

“When I was trying to decide what to give my friend for her birthday, I found videos for designing a beautiful brooch. Two months and £200 later, my friend’s birthday passed, sans brooch, leaving me with an expensive obsession in second-hand beading paraphernalia.”

Open photo book on the wooden table. Sorting and attaching photo to pages of photographic album. Family memories. Cartoon vector illustration.
Open photo book on the wooden table. Sorting and attaching photo to pages of photographic album. Family memories. Cartoon vector illustration.

ADHD brains overflow with creativity, passion, and excitement — especially for new experiences. They seek out stimulation and then hyperfocus on the source when they find it. One end result: For adults with ADHD, hobbies often accelerate from interests into obsessions in T-minus one week. When something sparks our interest, we follow that dopamine hit wherever it takes us.

ADDitude recently asked its readers, “Do you tend to bounce from one obsession to another, or have you had life-long passions?” Read about the hobbies that capture (and sometimes hold) the attention of adults with ADHD, and the fleeting diversions that steal our time and money.

Hobbies for Adults with ADHD

“I have probably spent thousands of dollars over the years on hobbies. I have an unopened, brand-new sewing machine, not to mention the craft-cutting machine, paints, and beads. Scrapbooking led me to buy two expensive cameras with lenses, and I paid for a website over a year ago that I haven’t used. I get so many ideas when I am shopping but then I find them in a box months later. Sometimes I don’t even remember why I bought the supplies.” – Bonnie

“I tend to be all or nothing, especially with sports. I did bodybuilding for 4 years, training 5 to 6 days a week, but once I competed in a competition, I lost interest. I did martial arts for the next 20 years: there was always that next belt to achieve and more to learn.” – John

“I was so obsessed with Argentine history that I chose Latin American History as my major. Then I became obsessed with baseball. For a few years I could tell you the batting average of most players in the MLB. I went to dozens of games each summer and watched my favorite team on TV every game I could. Soon after, I moved away and got a puppy, so dogs became my obsession. I can spot any breed, even obscure ones.” – Beth

[Click to Read: Hyperfocus – the ADHD Phenomenon of Intense Fixation]

“I have been obsessed with learning since I began to read. My mother said she would find me reading encyclopedias when I was in elementary school. I now have 5 degrees and am working on my 6th! Learning has always been a positive hyperfocus for me – it has gotten me through so many tough times.” – Stacy

“When I was trying to decide what to give my friend for her birthday, I found videos for designing a beautiful brooch. Two months and £200 later, my friend’s birthday passed, sans brooch, leaving me with an expensive obsession in second-hand beading paraphernalia.” – Sarah

“I am basically a one-stop craft shop – I can never buy enough for one project. My brain will start chugging with inspiration, and before you know it, I’ll have 80 hanks of embroidery floss or 100 containers of beads in every color of the rainbow. I will work obsessively for months, then suddenly lose interest. Everything gets shoved into a drawer and I pick up a new hobby.” – Kari

I can become an expert in something overnight. I’ll read into a topic for hours. My newest obsession is butterfly taxidermy.” – Sarah

[Read This Next: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Hyperfocus]

“I become totally absorbed with songwriting. I come up with a melody, then I immediately need to find the lyrics, chords, style, arrangements, fill-ins, and instrumentals. I’ll work late into the night (or into the early morning), then walk away feeling both tired and fulfilled.” – Claude

“As a child and younger adult, obsession made me successful. It wasn’t until estrogen levels began to drop that my love of learning became an issue. Now, I bounce from article to article, taking notes and highlighting, and suddenly 5 hours have passed. I partially blame the Internet – when browsers track your interest, you’re constantly shown articles you want to read. Turning off ‘browser tracking’ helps.” – LeAnn

“I’m envious of those with life-long hobbies. I jump from one interest to the next but nothing holds my attention long enough. I become completely engrossed for a month or two, only to burn out and lose all interest soon after.” – Amy

“I can’t even keep up with cleaning the house, cooking, taking care of my son, or remembering to pay bills, so I don’t have the time or energy to invest in a hobby.” – Rebecca

“It’s compulsory – after my initial obsession fades, I lose interest and move on to something else to obsess over.” – Don

“I’ve had some central obsession that everything else formed around for as long as I can remember. The long-lasting ones tend to be eras in my life. I’ll look back and think ‘Oh yeah, that was when I was really into [insert obsession here].’” – Anonymous

“Each week I have a new topic or question that captures my interest and I over-research it. I don’t know how to focus appropriately or how to prioritize what I’m actually interested in.” – Anonymous

“My obsessions occupy all my free time. Until recently, I was unaware that my behavior was abnormal.” – Kris

Hobbies for Adults with ADHD: Next Steps


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4 Comments & Reviews

  1. This is something that runs in my family, with varying degrees of success. My dad got into archery for several years and ended up teaching himself how to make traditional English and eastern European bows. He attended a ukelele workshop at a festival once and now builds cigar box ukes and 3 string guitars. At the other end of the spectrum, my brother once bought two electric pianos in a week, only to stop taking lessons the next month. Last week I tried printmaking, and I’ve since spent hundreds of dollars not just on art supplies, but new furniture to turn my sunroom into a studio. I haven’t done any sort of visual arts since school – who knows if I’ll be still interested by the time I’ve set up the workspace?

    I saw someone tweet that ADHDers should combine resources and start hobby libraries. You can borrow my rollerskates, I’ll have a go with your pottery wheel.

  2. Stacy isn’t the only one who loves learning. I’ve often said if I could afford it, I’d be a professional student! I also have a ‘craft’ room with drawers labeled, Beading, Sewing, Tatting, Crochet (with the attending, Yarn drawers), etc, etc. I also have shelves and shelves of books. Does Pack Ratism go along with ADHD?

  3. I have been the same way most my life. The one constant is my photography since about 2000.

    Unfortunately it is a very expensive addiction. Constantly upgrading cameras and lenses .Glued to YouTube tutorials for hours on end.

    Downside. Is get overwhelmed with the number of images to process. Due to shooting 300-500 images per game of grandkids baseball games. And sometimes 3-4 games per day. Both Saturday and Sunday.And working nights. As I can’t do a day job due to sleep issues. {{ forehead slap }}

  4. Many years ago I had a boyfriend whose grandmother was taking a painting class. I asked her how she got interested in painting. She explained that it was a new thing and that all her life her hobby was “trying new hobbies”. I loved that! It stuck with me all these years (since I was 21) and I’ve never felt guilty about trying new crafts. I’m careful not to overspend but I usually work on a new craft for 6 months to 2 years before I move on to something new. It’s fun and rewarding and my mom gets a different gift every Christmas! ha ha

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