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You rely on concentration to get through work or school every day. When you’re unable to concentrate, you can’t think clearly, focus on a task, or maintain your attention.
Your performance at work or school could be affected if you can’t concentrate. You may also find that you can’t think as well, which can affect your decision-making. A number of medical conditions may contribute to or cause inability to concentrate. It’s not always a medical emergency, but being unable to concentrate can warrant medical attention.
Being unable to concentrate affects people differently. Some symptoms you may experience include:
You may notice that it’s harder to concentrate at certain times of day or in certain settings. Others may comment that you appear distracted. You may miss appointments or meetings because of a lack of focus.
Being unable to concentrate can be the result of a chronic condition, including:
Lifestyle changes that affect your concentration include:
Being unable to concentrate is also a side effect of some medications. Read the insert carefully. Contact your doctor or pharmacist to determine if your medications may be affecting your concentration. Don’t stop taking any medications unless your doctor says to.
You should get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to being unable to concentrate:
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
You should also make an appointment to see your doctor if being unable to concentrate affects your abilities to go through daily life or enjoy your life.
Diagnosing your condition could involve a variety of tests because there are many causes. Your doctor will start by gathering a health history as well as discussing your symptoms. Questions asked may include, "When did you first notice this condition?" and "When is your ability to concentrate better/worse?"
Your doctor may also review medications, supplements, and herbs you may be taking to determine if they could be affecting your concentration.
Taking all this information into consideration, your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis or recommend further testing. He or she may recommend one or more of these tests:
Diagnosis for inability to concentrate may take time and more evaluation.
You may be able to make changes that improve your ability to concentrate if it is lifestyle related. Examples include:
Other treatments will depend upon your specific diagnosis. For example, people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may need several different treatment approaches. This includes behavioral therapy to limit distractions or medications to improve concentration. It can also include parent education.
Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Medically reviewed on: May 19, 2015: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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