Living “in the zone”: hyperfocus in adult ADHD

A Correction to this article was published on 08 March 2019

This article has been updated

Abstract

Adults with ADHD often report episodes of long-lasting, highly focused attention, a surprising report given their tendency to be distracted by irrelevant information. This has been colloquially termed “hyperfocus” (HF). Here, we introduce a novel assessment tool, the “Adult Hyperfocus Questionnaire” and test the preregistered a priori hypothesis that HF is more prevalent in individuals with high levels of ADHD symptomology. We assess (1) a pilot sample (n = 251) and (2) a replication sample (n = 372) of adults with or without ADHD. Participants completed highly validated scales, including the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale, to index ADHD symptomology. Those with higher ADHD symptomology reported higher total and dispositional HF and more frequent HF across each of the three settings (school, hobbies, and screen time) as well as on a fourth subscale describing real-world HF scenarios. These findings are both clinically and scientifically significant, as this is the first study to comprehensively assess HF in adults with high ADHD symptomology and to present a means for assessing HF. Moreover, the sizable prevalence of HF in adults with high levels of ADHD symptomology leads to a need to study it as a potentially separable feature of the ADHD syndrome.

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Change history

  • 08 March 2019

    Authors have noted one error in the online published article, which they wish to clarify. The version of the Hobby Hyperfocus (HF) subscale that we administered to participants was unintentionally missing one answer option (“once a week”).

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Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported by Institute of Education Sciences Grant No. R324A150023 to P. Shah and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1315138 to K.E. Hupfeld.

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Correspondence to Kathleen E. Hupfeld.

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This study followed all ethical guidelines set forth by the University of Michigan IRB, and informed consent was obtained from all participants. All materials in this manuscript are original, have not been previously published or presented elsewhere, and are not in concurrent consideration by another journal. All of the authors have read this manuscript, and no ghost writing by others has occurred.

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Hupfeld, K.E., Abagis, T.R. & Shah, P. Living “in the zone”: hyperfocus in adult ADHD. ADHD Atten Def Hyp Disord 11, 191–208 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12402-018-0272-y

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Keywords

  • Hyperfocus
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Adult ADHD
  • Flow
  • Internet addiction