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Lack of concentration: what to do?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 292 views

Everyone suffers from a lack of concentration from time to time. It is then no longer possible to pay attention to something and concentrate on it. Poor concentration can have a variety of causes. Read here what these can be and what can be done to counteract poor concentration.

quick overview

  • Causes: eg psychological overload, sleep disorders, lack of nutrients, too little exercise, circulatory disorders, dementia, kidney weakness (kidney insufficiency), anorexia, low blood pressure, hypothyroidism
  • Poor concentration in children: Often recognizable by careless mistakes (e.g. with arithmetic problems) or being easily distracted. Common causes are, for example, excessive demands, stress, food intolerance, ADHD or lack of muscle tension
  • What helps with poor concentration? Depending on the cause, e.g. regular rest breaks, a regular sleeping rhythm, more exercise, a balanced diet, relaxation techniques, treatment of an underlying disease (e.g. taking thyroid hormones in the case of hypofunction)

Poor concentration: causes and possible diseases

The terms lack of concentration or concentration disorder describe the reduced ability of a person to deal with a specific task over a longer period of time. Those who cannot concentrate properly are easily distracted by external stimuli and their thoughts quickly wander.

A lack of concentration can be temporary and harmless or indicate a serious illness. Possible causes of lack of concentration are, for example:

  • Psychological overload: Professional and/or private overload, severe stress and time pressure up to burnout are possible causes of concentration disorders. In the short term, tension can make you more efficient; in the long run, however, it exhausts the body’s own (concentration) reserves.
  • Lack of sleep or sleep disorders: Anyone who – for whatever reason – sleeps too little has to struggle with a lack of concentration during the day. Because lack of sleep reduces, among other things, the activity of certain brain regions that control attention.
  • Incorrect or insufficient nutrition: The brain needs sufficient carbohydrates , protein , fat , vitamins, minerals and water in order to be able to work optimally. An irregular or insufficient intake of carbohydrates (e.g. in anorexia) causes blood sugar fluctuations. This can result in a drop in performance and poor concentration. A lack of other nutrients such as B vitamins, iron or magnesium can also cause concentration disorders.
  • Lack of exercise: A lack of physical activity can trigger a lack of concentration. Because if you don’t move, you deprive the body of an important opportunity for better blood circulation – and thus also the brain of a better supply of oxygen.
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: Difficulty concentrating as well as motor and inner restlessness are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Impaired cerebral circulation: A lack of concentration can also be triggered by a lack of oxygen and nutrients due to circulatory disorders in the brain. A common reason for such a lack of blood flow to the brain is the “calcification” (arteriosclerosis) of cerebral vessels.
  • Dementia: Dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s are associated, among other things, with memory, orientation and concentration disorders, for example because the brain is no longer properly supplied with blood, brain cells die or protein builds up in the brain.
  • Attention deficit disorder without (ADD) or with hyperactivity (ADHD): Not only children but also adults can suffer from ADD or ADHD. The disease is associated, among other things, with concentration disorders, since certain control circuits in the brain that control attention, among other things, are disrupted.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension) : Difficulty concentrating are typical symptoms of hypotension because the blood flow to the brain is reduced. Likewise, lack of performance, tiredness, palpitations and cold hands and feet can indicate low blood pressure.
  • Other diseases and health disorders: Poor concentration can occur as an accompanying symptom of various diseases and health disorders, such as hypothyroidism, kidney weakness, depression and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • Cancer drugs: Drugs that inhibit cell growth, such as those administered during chemotherapy, can cause impaired thinking and concentration as a side effect. Doctors speak of “chemobrain”. The reason for this side effect is still unclear. Some drugs may damage certain brain cells, impair certain brain areas and activities, or interfere with the production of certain hormones .

Lack of concentration: what helps?

In many cases you can do something yourself against lack of concentration. The following general tips can help both children and adults:

  • Eating right : Eat a balanced and varied diet to provide your brain with all the nutrients it needs. This prevents a lack of concentration due to malnutrition .
  • drink enough : Drink about two liters of fluids a day. Water, mineral water and (unsweetened) tea are best. A “thirsty” brain cannot work optimally, which promotes a lack of concentration.
  • Avoid vegetable supplements : Do not consume too much caffeine , nicotine and alcohol.
  • no sedatives and stimulants : Avoid such drugs if possible.
  • regular rest breaks : Give your body and mind a chance to rest from time to time – especially if stress and overwork are suspected to be the cause of poor concentration. Walks in the fresh air, for example, are recommended.
  • healthy sleep : Make sure you get enough sleep to eliminate concentration problems or to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Stick to fixed bedtimes and wake-up times as much as possible.
  • Relaxation techniques : Relaxation methods such as autogenic training , yoga or progressive muscle relaxation can help with a lot of stress and hectic everyday life as well as with nervous-related sleep problems .
  • Media consumption in moderation : Limit media consumption (TV, computer, smartphone, etc.) and excessive sound (stereo, headphones, etc.). If the brain has to cope with too many external stimuli, concentration becomes increasingly difficult.
  • Ear massage : You can also increase your concentration with an ear massage. To do this, knead the ear cups vigorously with your fingertips for one minute. Then smooth out the auricles towards the earlobes.
  • Breathing exercises : You should do the following exercise several times a day to improve concentration and reduce stress: Sit up straight and place your feet side by side on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs, close your eyes and slowly breathe in and out deeply several times.
  • Cross movements : They are also useful for people who lack concentration because they encourage the left and right hemispheres to work together. For example, alternately bring the right elbow to the raised left knee and the left elbow to the raised right knee.
  • Medicinal plants : Extracts from the ginseng root, for example, are often used to treat states of exhaustion and slight concentration disorders in middle to old age. Ginkgo extracts are said to improve cerebral circulation, which is why they are recommended for example against poor concentration as a result of Alzheimer’s or insufficient cerebral circulation.
  • essential oils : An aroma lamp with a few drops of essential oils can also help against lack of concentration. Lavender, bergamot and rosemary oil, for example, are suitable. However, be careful if you are prone to allergies!
  • Homeopathic remedies : Homeopathy also knows various remedies for concentration disorders, such as Avena sativa 3X (inefficiency and exhaustion), Kali phosphoricum 6X ( for forgetfulness) and Aethusa cynapium 6X (for poor concentration).

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor. The concept of homeopathy and its specific effectiveness are also controversial in science and not clearly proven by studies.

Poor concentration in children

The possible causes of concentration problems in children are basically the same as in adults. The most common reasons for the lack of concentration in offspring are:

  • Overwork and stress: Overwork at school and family or too tight, overcrowded leisure time planning without sufficient rest breaks is often to blame for the lack of concentration.
  • Psychological stress: lack of sleep, stress and emotional imbalance are also possible causes of poor concentration in children. Stressful experiences that a child cannot easily put down have a negative effect on concentration.
  • ADHD: If the lack of concentration is accompanied by impulsiveness and hyperactivity, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can be behind it. Attention Deficit Disorder Without Hyperactivity (ADD) is less common, but it can also cause poor concentration.
  • Physical causes: Physical causes can also be behind concentration problems in children, for example imbalances in the hormone or mineral balance, lack of exercise, flu , pneumonia, contusion of the brain, intolerance (e.g. to certain foods or chemicals) and environmental toxins.
  • Lack of muscle tone: Even insufficient muscle tone can cause a lack of concentration. For example, if a child has to make an active effort to sit up straight at school, for example, there is not enough energy left to concentrate on the lesson.

Recognizing a lack of concentration in children

A concentration disorder in children can be recognized when the offspring forgets many things, is easily distracted or makes careless mistakes during schoolwork. Pediatricians sometimes recommend the following test: Talk to your child while they are drawing or writing. If it then stops with this activity, this can be an indication of a lack of concentration. A fully concentrated child would not let the conversation distract him from what he was doing.

Lack of concentration: when to see the doctor?

If you find the lack of concentration extremely uncomfortable or even threatening, you should see a doctor. The same applies if the concentration problems occur suddenly, cannot be explained (e.g. due to unusually high levels of stress) or worsen.

A frequent and inexplicable lack of concentration in children should also be clarified by a doctor.

Lack of concentration: what does the doctor do?

The doctor will first talk to the patient in detail about their medical history (anamnesis). A physical examination and possibly other examination methods can help to clarify an organic cause for the lack of concentration.

For example, the doctor can carry out blood tests (e.g. if iron deficiency, kidney weakness or hypothyroidism is suspected) or blood pressure measurements (if low blood pressure is suspected) or use imaging methods (if arteriosclerosis or dementia is suspected).

If there is an underlying disease behind the lack of concentration, the doctor will treat it. This usually improves the ability to concentrate.

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