Does Anxiety make you unfocused or does being unfocused create anxiety?

Having an abundance of anxiety can create a shortage of attention and vice versa. But which causes which?

When we’re anxious, our thoughts tend to race and be unclear. Anxiety naturally blurs our ability to see things clearly.

Many people go their whole lives living with mountains of anxiety and are completely unaware. They are never able to focus and may be diagnosed with ADHD. If you cannot focus on information you are given during an evaluation for ADHD, you’re sure to be diagnosed… but what if the reason you cannot focus is because of underlying anxiety? You cannot pay attention when you’re preoccupied with the past or worried about the future.

The opposite could also be the case for some people. When you have a deficit in attention and cannot focus, you may go out into the world looking like a total mess. Your hair may be messy, your clothes are wrinkly and you forgot to staple those last two pages you added to your project last minute. Growing up chronically forgetting some things and completely not noticing other important things can leave one feeling extremely anxious about what they might be missing in this very moment.

With Social anxiety and excessive shyness, this applies to people skills and effects every part of our lives.

People may be treating us poorly simply because the back of our shirt is untucked when wearing business clothes. You might have just a tad more eye-liner on one eye or a stain on your shirt. If we lack the ability to focus, these kinds of problems will plague us and people will react negatively. If this goes on long enough (say, a lifetime), it is totally understandable to develop an anxiety disorder; especially if we never notice the untucked, stained shirt and don’t understand why people are giving us funny looks.

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A Manic Mustache to Remember

I once met a man that seemed like a very nice person, but his energy was overwhelming. He was not on drugs but it really seemed like he was injecting caffeine straight into his veins because of how in-your-face energetic he was. He always sported a thick black mustache, but failed to trim it correctly. He had, what was to me, a very obvious and large mistake on his face. Every day, he woke up and proceeded to shave the left side of his mustache about a ¼ inch lower than the right side. It looked like he had bought a fake mustache from a costume shop and glued it on lop-sided.

I gathered that his intense energy was related to his mustache malfunction. If you are in such a hurry and your thoughts are speeding, you’re not taking the time to pay attention to your facial grooming. This is a problem that is self-exacerbating. In other words, this kind of problem makes itself worse over time. The less you pay attention, the worse people treat you, the more anxious you feel and the more problems you create for yourself.

A Society Disapproving of People in Need of Understanding

People might be giving you bad looks and saying nothing while others might say you need to “pay attention to detail”. That last bit of advice is especially damaging because you’ll try to force and press yourself into being more attentive. This is nearly guaranteed to make you miserable.

Anyone who tells you to “pay attention to detail” and “settle down” doesn’t have the slightest clue of what you’ve been through. They couldn’t possibly know the level of anxiety you may feel inside that clouds your mind. Most people will not invest the time to really understand you and will simply dismiss someone who chronically makes mistakes, has a messy appearance and rushed demeanor.

An adult who grew up having chronic problems ‘paying attention’ and ‘staying on task” , unfortunately may have suffered a lifetime of being scolded and talked down to by people who don’t understand them. If you’re natural way of being is unfocused then being scolded and insulted only pushes you further in the wrong direction. It makes you more anxious,  speeds up your thoughts and diminishes your confidence in your abilities which in turn is very likely to cause you to make more mistakes. When all we ever hear is that we’ve done a bad job, it’s very hard to think that we are capable people.

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Reverse the Cycle of Speeding Anxious Thoughts

When we’ve spent a lifetime rehearsing how to be nervous and inattentive, the reversal process will take time. You did not become this way over night and you will not un-become this way over night. Knowing that one of the most common causes of inattentiveness is rushed thoughts, why not take the time to stop and smell the roses?

In order to find out more about slowing down and increasing your ability to see things clearer, see this article about techniques you can use. Don’t forget to like and share this article if you got something positive out of it and thanks for reading!

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