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Hyperfixation (sometimes used interchangeably with the word hyperfocus) occurs when someone is completely focused, immersed in, and obsessed with a particular topic, interest, or activity. It is a trait often seen in neurodivergent people, like those with autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, anyone can be prone to hyperfixation, especially those with anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other mental health conditions.
For many, hyperfixation centers on a task, with people becoming so obsessed with a hobby, TV show, or subject of interest that they ignore the world around them and forget about daily responsibilities. However, for some, hyperfixation is focused on a person or people, leading to overwhelming thoughts and feelings that make it tough to concentrate on other parts of life. Keep reading to learn six tips to stop hyperfixation on a person and instead move towards healthy attachments and friendships.
6 tips to stop hyperfixating on a person
The following may help you move away from a hyperfixation and toward a more balanced and healthy life. Not every strategy will work for every person, but pick a few that could be most applicable to your life. Here are six tips for how to stop hyperfixating on a person:
1. Acknowledge the problem
First things first: It is important to realize that hyperfixation goes beyond a strong admiration for an individual or intense focus. It is normal to admire or like someone, whether a friend, crush, or celebrity. However, if that fixation causes negative consequences (like stopping you from being present or taking care of yourself), it’s often a sign that you are actually dealing with a hyperfixation. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re hyperfixating on a person, consider reading the bullet points below to recognize some of the signs of hyperfixation:
- You daydream or fantasize about the person all the time
- You put the person on a pedestal and build them up in your head unrealistically, even if you have only met them once or twice (or not at all)
- Your hyperfixation causes physical symptoms like changes in appetite or other aches and pains
- You overstep boundaries with the person and make them uncomfortable
- You ignore your own responsibilities and self-care because of your obsession
- You ignore other friendships to prioritize that one individual
- You over-analyze the person’s text messages to you or social media posts
- You feel jealous if the person has other friends or spends time with others
- You spend so much time fixating on the other person that you begin to lose your own identity and stop doing activities that you used to do
Acknowledging that you have entered an unhealthy balance is a crucial first step. If you wonder, “Do I have a hyperfixation with another person?” and find the signs above familiar, you may indeed have a hyperfixation on another person.
Honesty and self-kindness are important during this step. Take time for non-judgmental self-reflection. Is there a reason for your hyperfixation? Is there an emotional need that you are looking to fill? Learning more about hyperfixation from trusted sources, as well as your mental health needs can also help you understand why this fixation is happening and why this is a problem.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that involves staying present and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. By learning and practicing mindfulness, you will hopefully be able to keep your mind from racing to the past or future and keep yourself from zoning out and thinking about a particular person.
One way you can practice mindfulness is by taking part in a “body scan.” Start from the top of your head and slowly work down to your toes. When you are focused on a body part, think about if you have any tension, discomfort, or pain in that area. Relax your muscles as you move from your head to your neck to your shoulders and so on.
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to build awareness and stay in the present. Breathing in and out, focusing on your breath, and sitting still, even just for a few minutes, can be greatly beneficial. One example of this kind of practice is an exercise like “be the pond,” where you observe your thought patterns without judgment. Let your thoughts roam free as if you were watching them and not participating in them. In this way, you can begin to understand and recognize thought patterns.
3. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries and gradually reducing contact with the person who is the object of your hyperfixation may seem difficult and painful. By making slow and deliberate changes, though, you will begin to feel better. Some ways to do this may include limiting or muting the person on social media, limiting the amount of one-on-one time you spend with the individual, and being conscious about how much you talk to the person or initiate contact with them.
4. Find alternative distractions
Participate in hobbies you used to enjoy
Join a new club
Go for a walk or exercise
Read a new book
Watch a new TV show with friends
Finding distractions other than the person you’re hyperfixating on can help fill the time you may have previously spent thinking about or hanging out with them. In fact, experts believe that one of the causes of hyperfixation (particularly in people with ADHD) may be low levels of dopamine in the frontal lobe that make it harder to refocus from “exciting content” (the hyperfixation) to “boring content.” IN order to break this hyperfixation loop, it’s important to introduce new exciting content.
Are there hobbies or interests you had previously or at another time in your life that you found to be engaging? Re-engaging in some of these hobbies in any way, big or small, is a good first step. Finding new hobbies or interests and giving yourself a goal regarding these interests may also help you break free of the hyperfixation. Challenge yourself to join a new club, go for a walk or exercise once a week, pick up a new book, or find a new TV show to watch with friends.
5. Lean on your support system
Your support system will be key in helping you overcome hyperfixation. If the hyperfixation is another person, it might be embarrassing or awkward to share this with others. Pick a few trusted individuals—friends, family members, or community members—that you feel would be non-judgemental and supportive. If you have been diagnosed with a specific condition such as ADHD, finding trusted support groups where you can discuss these issues with like-minded individuals may make you feel safe and less alone. Let your support system in on your goals so they can keep you accountable. Try to make social plans with these people and stick to them.
Remember to be patient with yourself. Redirecting mental energy from hyperfixation is difficult and may come down to trial and error. Having people in your corner who can understand and support you can be extremely beneficial.
6. Seek professional help
Talking with a mental health professional who understands hyperfixation can help you better understand the problem, yourself, and the solution. Certain forms of psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you connect your actions, thoughts, and behaviors to break the cycle of hyperfixation. Homework assignments from your clinician can help you stay on track. A mental health professional can help with any mental health issues that may underlie your hyperfixation—for example, emotional dysregulation, impulsive behavior, addiction, unwanted thoughts, and more. Finally, talk therapy can help you uncover why you may hyperfixate in order to build healthy relationships in the future.
Support for hyperfixation at Charlie Health
If hyperfixation negatively impacts your daily life, Charlie Health is here to help.
Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers more than once weekly therapy for young people with complex mental health needs, including those dealing with hyperfixation, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and other symptoms of mental health conditions. Our program combines group sessions, individual counseling, and family therapy to provide holistic professional help. Charlie Health’s clinicians are trained in ADHD treatment modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and are skilled at working with young people and their families.