My TikTok For You page, creepily accurate as usual, recently introduced me to something called hyperfixation. The video that first stopped my scroll was a man describing how, when he's hyperfixating on something, he'll dedicate hours of time and bundles of money on a new hobby until it's all he can think about. Then, just as suddenly, he'll lose all interest. "Hyperfixation is fun!" he says sarcastically.
I felt seen. For years, I've floated in and out of different obsessions: certain book series, bands, movies, sports teams. It doesn't feel like just being a fan or having an interest in these things; it really does feel like, for a time, my life is consumed by whatever I'm into at the moment. If I'm not currently thinking about or interacting with it, I want to be, and everything else is dull by comparison.
I had no idea there was a name for what I'd always called my "obsessions", but once I heard about hyperfixation and resonated so strongly with everything I read about it, I decided to do some more digging.
What Is Hyperfixation?
Hyperfixation is the "compulsive obsession of something," said Breanna Savage, LPC, a therapist and member of the Frame Therapy community. When you're hyperfixated on something, she said, you're "completely engrossed in a particular subject, action, or activity" and paying very little attention, if any, to the world around you.
Is Hyperfixation Related to a Mental Health Condition?
Savage told POPSUGAR that hyperfixation is related to a number of different mental health conditions, including ADHD, autism, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She explained that people diagnosed with these conditions often develop "an avoidance stimulus" to the negative emotions and thoughts caused by their condition, which can often result in hyperfixation. However, hyperfixation alone "cannot be considered a sign of mental illness," she noted.
How Do I Know If I'm Experiencing Hyperfixation?
So how can you tell the difference between just enjoying a hobby (or band, or Netflix series, or book, etc.) and hyperfixating on it? "We have all had moments where we have put too much attention and energy into different tasks," Savage said. The difference between having an "intense interest" in something and being hyperfixated on it is that, when you're experiencing hyperfixation, you'll find yourself unable to engage in daily life. Hyperfixation disrupts your day-to-day. For example, someone who's hyperfixated "may forget to engage in hygiene, forget to eat, or even fail to complete other important life tasks," Savage explained.
Can I Treat Hyperfixation?
Hyperfixation, in and of itself, is not inherently bad, Savage said. While you might experience disruption to your daily life, some people also see benefits from hyperfixation, such as learning a new skill or completing your to-do list.
That said, "if you notice that being hyperfixated on things is causing you to become worried and takes time away from necessary life tasks, then seeking professional help is highly encouraged," Savage said. A therapist or other mental health professional can help you understand your hyperfixation and develop coping mechanisms if it's disrupting your life.