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What Factors Affect Attention Span in Adults?

ADHD impacts a person's attention span.
Distractions such as frequently checking a cell phone can affect and adult's attention span.
New parents might have a limited attention span.
People who have ADHD may have difficulty focusing and may act on impulses that other people can ignore.
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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
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Some factors that affect attention span in adults are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fatigue, technology, and the side effect of certain medications. Millions of people live with ADHD, a disorder that can severely affect attention span in adults and children. Fatigue is another common factor and its symptoms are sometimes mistaken for ADHD or other chronic disorders and mental health problems. In addition, many studies show that spending a lot of time watching television on a frequent basis can shorten attention span. A shortened attention span is also a side effect of some prescription drugs and stimulants.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common factor that influences attention span in adults. People who have ADHD have difficulty paying attention and may act on impulses most other people can dismiss. This problem is usually diagnosed in children when it is most obvious, and some evidence shows that it might run in families. Around half the children who develop ADHD are believed to have the same problems as an adult, but adults usually have better control over themselves and some capability of masking symptoms.

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An inability to pay attention for long can also be caused by mental fatigue. Depression, anxiety, and poor sleep are some situations in which mental fatigue is likely to develop. Mental fatigue might also be accompanied by physical fatigue, but having physical fatigue does not necessarily mean a person exercised or worked themselves to exhaustion. Physical fatigue can be caused by many of the same things that cause mental fatigue.

Some studies show that toddlers who watch television have a decreased attention span in their later years. In addition, children continue to have trouble throughout grade-school if three or more hours of television is watched on a regular basis. The same study reported that college students who watch television seemed to experience even more problems paying attention than the preteens and early teenagers. Experts recommend two hours or less television per day, no matter the age of the person — but the subject matter of a television show should be taken into consideration. In general, however, less is better.

Prescription medication and drug abuse can also affect attention span in adults. For example, shortened attention span is a listed side effect of several medications prescribed by doctors. Drugs that act as stimulates are sometimes known to cause a shortened attention span also. Different people can be affected by the same drug in different ways, however, so an adult might not experience this particular effect.

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healthy4life
Post 4

I know a guy with ADD, and he has to be on medication to control his symptoms. He had so much trouble focusing on anything and completing any chores around the house that his last girlfriend left him.

I can see how it would be frustrating to be in a relationship with someone who could never get one thing done before moving onto the next. However, it is a disorder, and if you enter a relationship with someone, you have to take that into account.

Now that he's on medication, he's like a different person. He's more calm, and he concentrates hard on each thing that he's doing before moving onto something else.

lighth0se33
Post 3

@OeKc05 – I get that way at work sometimes, but it's not because of allergy medication. I am overworked to my breaking point on some days, and this makes it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time.

The boss just piles it all on me because he thinks I can handle it. Well, I can, to a point, but when I have too much going on at once, it becomes impossible to give my full attention to everything and do a great job on each project while I obviously have the others in the back of my mind.

seag47
Post 2

I totally agree with the article on the effect of too much television on a person's attention span. My friends who watch the most TV are the ones who are least able to carry on a conversation and especially to listen to anyone else.

It also seems to dull them a bit. It's like their minds are still on what they watched earlier or something. They just can't pay attention to what is currently going on.

OeKc05
Post 1

My attention span is affected by my allergy medication. I only take the strong kind when I'm having a really bad day with my allergies, because it makes me so sleepy and spaced out that it's really hard to do any work.

I take a twenty-four hour antihistamine at night that helps somewhat. Taking it at night means I'll sleep well and I won't be drowsy from it the next day.

However, sometimes I need the strong antihistamine during the day to supplement my other one. I might as well go home after taking it, though, because it is impossible to focus after that.

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