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What Are the Common Causes of Poor Concentration?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Poor concentration can be caused by several things, including stress and fatigue. Problems concentrating may also stem from a hormone imbalance, such as the low estrogen levels that occur during menopause. Some substance abuse problems and mental disorders, like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), may also contribute to concentration problems. In a few extreme cases, poor concentration may also be caused by a brain or spinal cord injury.

One of the most common causes of deficient concentration is stress. When a person is dealing with stress, even everyday stress, his brain produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Constant stress can lead to high levels of this hormone in the blood, which can result in an inability to concentrate.

Fatigue is another one of the most common causes of poor concentration. The human body needs a period of rest to function properly, so healthy humans sleep for several hours each night. If a person does not get enough quality rest, his brain may not function to its fullest potential, which can lead to difficulty concentrating.

Some people, especially women, may be able to attribute an inability to concentrate to hormone imbalances. Estrogen, for instance, has been shown to have an effect on the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain necessary for cognitive functions, like concentrating. Low levels of estrogen can result in low levels of these neurotransmitters. Women who are going through menopause typically have low estrogen levels, and therefore, they may often find that they have trouble concentrating.

Studies have also shown that substance abuse can have an impact on a person's ability to concentrate. This condition is a common problem for many people who regularly use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Some prescription medications, like anti-depressants, can also cause concentration problems.

Several mental disorders have also been known to cause deficient concentration. Individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), for instance, will often have problems concentrating. This disorder typically becomes apparent when an ADD sufferer begins to have problems in school. Problems concentrating may also be caused by other mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Although many causes of poor concentration are typically minor, some can be dangerous or even life threatening. Damage to a part of the brain or spinal cord can cause a person to have problems concentrating, for instance. Strokes, seizures, or tumors can all result in brain damage, which can cause concentration problems, along with many other symptoms.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On Jul 20, 2014

@clintflint - While it's true that poor concentration can be a medical condition, worthy of medical intervention, I do think in some cases people just aren't willing to explore the right alternatives.

A child might have poor concentration in school because they are completely bored of it. There's only so much you can do about motivating them without actually giving them something to be excited about, and if you can't provide that then medication shouldn't be the next option.

The modern world seems to have been built around the idea of pushing people into unnatural circumstances and then punishing them for being bored or unable to concentrate on pointless minutiae.

If you have a concentration problem, sometimes you need to look at what you're trying to concentrate on. It's more than likely that's the problem, rather than something to do with you.

By clintflint — On Jul 20, 2014

@irontoenail - When it's relatively minor, basically you just have to find a way around it, particularly if you know the cause is temporary. But I don't think many people realize how debilitating it can be to have an attention disorder. We use concentration in almost every aspect of our lives, whether it is conversation with others, or driving a car, or even navigating a crowded sidewalk. If a person isn't able to keep their mind on the task at hand they can find themselves at a severe disadvantage for jobs and life in general.

By irontoenail — On Jul 19, 2014

I have mild concentration issues at the moment, because of the medication that I'm on. It's actually strange how difficult it can be to hold onto a thought when I want to. It doesn't seem to effect anything when it's right in front of me, like when I'm writing a letter, but if I try to think about something without writing it down my mind wanders all over the place.

Even if I make up my mind to concentrate, it will only last a few seconds before my mind goes off again on a tangent. I just have to keep bringing it back to the issue on hand.

I think it's only a minor problem for me, but it has given me some insight into how difficult it must be for people with a genuine attention disorder.

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