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Anxiety and Concentration: The Link

Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting up to 40% of adults in the United States. It can cause a number of problems for those who suffer from it, but one of the lesser-known problems is difficulty concentrating. If you can't concentrate due to your anxiety, read on to learn more about why anxiety and concentration are linked and how to help manage them both.

Anxiety and Concentration: The Link

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling that everybody will experience at some point in their lives, but when it is diagnosed as a mental illness, it is usually referred to as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is a disorder characterized by constant, debilitating worry about a number of things over the course of several months.

With GAD, concentration difficulties are not actually a side effect - rather, having trouble concentrating is a symptom of anxiety that can help a doctor recognize and diagnose the condition. Other symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Tense muscles
  • Insomnia

How Does Anxiety Affect Concentration?

There are several reasons why anxiety may influence the brain's ability to concentrate. It is possible that the main reason for the impact of anxiety is unknown, as there is much about the brain that has yet to be discovered. However, there are several known factors that influence concentration.

One of the biggest reasons why anxiety can make it harder to concentrate is the insomnia that often comes along with anxiety. It is difficult for anxiety sufferers to sleep, since they constantly experience tenseness and worry. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. Because of this, the brain tends to have more difficulty with focus and concentration.

Another problem is the multitasking nature of anxiety. People who suffer from GAD are always thinking about a number of different things, and they tend to be worried about most of them. The brain takes up so much energy worrying about things that constant anxiety uses most of the brain's space and resources, making everything else more difficult to focus on.

How Can Anxiety and Concentration Be Improved?

With a doctor's help, there are ways to manage anxiety, and this can help to improve concentration as well because of the relationship between the two. It is always best to see a doctor for anxiety that is having a serious impact on your daily life.

Therapy

This is one of the best options for anxiety. In therapy, you will most likely focus on how to change your anxious thoughts, as well as how to practice soothing behaviors to calm your worries.

Meditation

This method has recently become a popular tool for calming anxiety. You may also be exposed to anxiety-inducing situations to learn how to manage your anxious responses to these problems.

Medications

There are medications available for anxiety, and in severe cases, they are likely to be part of the treatment. They are usually used in conjunction with therapy in order to help the patient combine lifestyle changes with medication for the greatest help for the condition.

Knowing about the connection between anxiety and concentration can help you to understand why you have problems focusing, and it can even help you learn to manage the problem. To begin coping with difficulty concentrating, learn how reading can improve your concentration.

Underlying Causes of Difficulty Concentrating

There are many factors that can weigh into your ability to concentrate, such as not being in the moment and worrying a lot. Find out more here.

Sources:
  • Dallas, M.E. (2017). Meditation Can Help Improve Focus in People With Anxiety. Medline Plus. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_165274.html
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
  • Robinson, O. J., Vytal, K., Cornwell, B. R., & Grillon, C. (2013). The impact of anxiety upon cognition: perspectives from human threat of shock studies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 203. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656338/