Attention Problems

3 to 5 % of adults are diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  However, a large portion of college students report experiencing problems remaining focused.  

Before jumping to the conclusion that you have ADHD, explore the following options:

  • What is on my mind when I cannot pay attention – am I worried about other issues that distract me from studies?
  • Is the content on which I am to focus interesting to me? Topics and content that are not interesting are highly difficult to attend to.
  • Am I getting enough sleep and rest?
  • Am I taking good care of my body (nutrition, alcohol & drug consumption, exercise)?
  • Am I trying to multitask? This is often a futile endeavor as doing many things at once well, does not typically work.

Improving your focus and attention can be achieved with practice and some effort.  Try the following strategies:

  • Meditate aka spend time focusing on being rather than doing (YouTube is full of mindfulness mediations that are free of religious spin).
  • Actively focus and re-focus each time you find yourself distracted – remind yourself of what the task at hand is and tell yourself that once the task is complete, you will take care of those tasks that also demand your attention. Try some visualization to aid.
  • Make lists of issues that are getting in the way of your focus and attention so you can address them in order of priority – they may all be important in some way and deserve attention.
  • Be realistic – no one can spend an entire night time staying focused on studying for a next morning test. Studies show that we do best in under 60 minute chunks of focus with 15 minute breaks.
  • Plan – plan your time to include time to focus on less pleasant duties as well as time to engage in fun, recreational, and rejuvenating activities.  Whatever you do, strive to be fully present for it (mind, boy, and spirit) – one thing at a time.
  • Take care of body (which is also houses your brain and soul) – hydrate, nourish, exercise, and rest your body well!  The ancient Romans already knew “Mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind resides in a healthy body!
  • Be patient – all change is difficult. Think of this as a brain exercise program. Start with small steps, but don’t give up!

For more information on paying attention in class read How to Pay Attention in Class – Tips for College Students and 6 Simple Strategies for Improving Student Focus. To develop effective study skills read the College Study Skills Guide.

Counseling Services and Disability Services staff can assist you in exploring the nature of your attention problems and provide referrals to psychological evaluations as indicated.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis, please contact our office at (304) 333-3661, campus security at (304) 367-4357, or dial 911 for immediate help.