Typical ADHD Behaviors

“My Earliest Memory of ADHD Hyperfixation Is…”

In a recent ADDitude survey, readers shared familiar and amazing stories of their ADHD hyperfocus — like reading for 10 hours straight without a break or pulling an all-nighter to finish tax returns. Here, see how hyperfixation is sometimes a blessing in disguise for children and adults with ADHD.

Asian young girl reading book on park top view
Asian young girl reading book on park top view

Hyperfixation is not unique to individuals with ADHD. But almost every child and adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) knows what it feels like to become so engrossed in something — a book, a home project, a video game — that they block out the world around them for hours at a time.

When did you discover the power of hyperfocus? What were you doing? How much time flew by? What did it feel like when your brain was jolted back to reality? ADDitude readers responded to these questions in a recent survey, and here are some of answers that struck a strong chord.  Please add your hyperfocus stories in the Comments section below.

“I remember counting changes in patterns of light in my room, or on my mom’s checked apron. I found the activity very soothing and never wanted it to end. It always felt jarring to go back to reality with the noises of regular life. A few years later, this hyperfocus on patterns translated to puzzles. I would do every single puzzle in our cupboard and come up for air to see an entire day had flown by. This was a common Saturday occurrence for me when I was 5 years old. There are photos of me in the hallway with puzzles covering the floor, and a stack of puzzle boxes taller than me nearby.”
— Esther, Canada

“When I was in secondary training in the Army, I volunteered to strip the floor in the barracks and put down new layers of wax. Three hours into it, I ‘woke up’ as the drill sergeant came to check in. He was surprised to find the entire squad standing back in silence watching me as I made the wax finish look like half-inch-thick glass with a third coat. Apparently I began to hum and move rhythmically like a machine as I took over the entire project myself, and they all fell back in silence to watch me work. Several of them said they had never seen someone so ‘in the zone‘ before. The drill sergeant told me later that he had never seen a barracks floor look as nice as mine did.”
— ADDitude reader

“I was about 10 years old and reading books my mum got me from the library. I finished one book and looked up to see that 5 hours had passed and it was dark. I felt like I was coming out of a trance, like the real world had stopped existing and I’d forgotten about anything that wasn’t the story in the book. I was fully absorbed in the world I was reading about.”
— Charlotte, England

[Read This Next: “I’m Hyper Because I Hyperfocus On The Wrong Things”]

“I am an artist. I work in several mediums, but currently I take pottery classes. I will be working on a piece perfecting every last detail — intricate carving, trimming a fraction of a mm off a surface to make it perfect. The NEED to make it perfect is so strong I can’t stop it. My classmates will crank out several pieces in a day and I will work on one for weeks.”
— Linnea, US

“I am a hairstylist and when I learned about hyperfocus I realized I do it every day at work. When I do hair, I get into my own zone and almost everything around me fades away; it’s just my client and me. Once I am finished with my client, two or three hours later, it maybe feels like one hour to me. Once they leave, I have a sense of accomplishment and I feel lighter, as if a huge weight was lifted and I can carry on to the next task. It’s almost like therapy.”
— Kristen, Florida

“When I was around 6 years old, I was intent on building a snowman. I usually only played in the snow with my siblings, but this day I had an irresistible urge to build a snowman, so I went outside by myself. I don’t think I intended to do anything but build one snowman, but I got distracted and kept playing in the snow. I probably spent three hours outside. My mom called me for dinner and I remember being surprised that it was getting dark.”
— ADDitude reader

“I was about 12. It was a Saturday and I had a new novel that I started reading stretched out on my bed just after breakfast. The next thing I know (10 hours later as it turned out) my mom is at my door asking if I’m really going to skip dinner. To this day I can’t start a new book on a weeknight because it might be my morning alarm going off the next time I realize the world exists.”
— Cynthia, California

[Could You Have Hyperactive ADHD? Take This Test To Find Out]

“I was in my late teens, totally captivated by the sight of dew drops on a spider web, backlit by the early morning sun. Gradually I slipped into a reverie and lost all awareness of my body and the world around me; I was aware of nothing but the light. After a while, I returned fairly abruptly to normal awareness but it wasn’t a shock. On the contrary I was filled with peace, calm, and what I can only describe as love for all of existence. It was a transcendent experience.”

-Kara, Australia

Painting was an early source of hyperfocus for me. My eyes would be blurry, the walls would be splattered with paint and my hands wouldn’t have any skin showing, but I would still be painting 12 hours in. Sleep didn’t matter.”
— Grace, Australia

“I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 53. There have always been activities I felt pulled into and passionate about, and the silence during those activities was golden to me. I’d lose 3 hours and wonder where in the world time had flown to. Often the jolt back to reality is/was rather depressing because, during these activities, my Inner Critic is silenced, and my anxiety dissolves. Briefly, during hyperfocus, I am at one with a world that otherwise seems to be making incessant demands of me through a barrage of noise.”
— Chris, Canada

“I recently stayed up all night to complete both my corporate and personal tax returns because I waited until the last minute (I know, shocker.) I was at my desk when my family went to bed and I had Netflix on in the background to keep me company. Eight hours flew by so quickly I couldn’t believe it when my son woke up and came downstairs!”
— Kyley, California

“I was probably 10 or 11, reading a long book in the summer, when I first experienced memorable hyperfocus. We lived on a farm, so I was out in our woods, on a blanket, sun shining with a nice breeze. I lost 10 hours before my mom sent my brother looking for me. It took at least an hour before I felt like I could interact properly with my family again.”
— Christina, Arizona

“I could hyperfocus on a 1,000-piece puzzle for hours. When in this state, I can see minute changes in the colors that allow me to work through a puzzle very quickly. If I am jolted back to life, it is actually painful in my head; I’m usually a little lost as to what time it is and what is going on.”
— Jennifer, Louisiana

Hyperfixation and ADHD: Next Steps


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Updated on November 6, 2020