Why Everyone's Worried About Their Attention Span
Here is how to improve yours
Seemingly everyone is concerned about concentration these days. Margaret Sibley, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, specializes in working with adolescents and adults who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But recently, Sibley says, she and her colleagues have been "inundated" with clients who don’t actually have ADHD—they’re just worried they do.
It’s hard to blame them for worrying. ADHD diagnostic rates are on the rise in the U.S. and posts on TikTok and other social media platforms have convinced even more people that they have attention issues. There is a shortage of medications to treat ADHD, largely driven by rising demand. And even among people who have not sought medical care, there seems to be a sense—probably enhanced by regular studies about shrinking attention spans—that focusing is getting harder. A recent U.K. survey found that about half of adults think their attention spans are getting shorter, and plenty of teachers say the same thing is happening with kids.
Adam Brown, co-director of the Center for Attention, Learning and Memory (CALM) at St. Bonaventure University in New York, said there’s good reason for concern: in his view, inattention has reached "epidemic" levels. But there’s good news too, he said. It’s an epidemic we have the power to reverse.
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