If you look at a list of depression symptoms, you’ll almost always see “trouble concentrating” somewhere on that list. Even though it is always there, many people tend to dismiss this symptom.
After all, it doesn’t sound as troubling as symptoms such as physical pain or loss of interest in things you once loved. However, loss of focus can be one of the most challenging aspects of depression for many people.
I Can’t Concentrate – What Now?
Depression exists on a spectrum. Some people have extreme clinical depression that makes them unable to get out of bed or function in all key areas of life. Oftentimes, though, a person with depression is able to get by. They aren’t at their best, they feel awful, but they manage – more often than not – to get up and go to work or make meals for their children or whatever tasks life requires of them.
It’s important not to underestimate how much harder it is to take on the tasks of life when you can’t concentrate.
Chances are that you can’t just stop your life. You have to keep going to school or work, taking care of your family, and handling life’s daily duties.
Relationship Between Depression and Loss of Concentration
Loss of concentration is a symptom of depression. It can also become part of a negative feedback cycle in which losing focus makes depression worse.
Concentration requires that you want to reach a goal that you believe is worth achieving. Depression interferes with this.
Other common symptoms of depression are that you begin to feel hopeless and lose interest in activities you once loved. In other words, depression itself makes it harder to concentrate because you simply don’t see the point.
Then the more you lose focus due to depression, the harder and more pointless it all seems. You get stuck in that loop.
Similarly, anxiety and depression are linked. If it feels like you’re not getting enough done due to loss of concentration, then you can get anxious, which makes it even harder to concentrate. It’s another part of that negative cycle.
How to Concentrate on Work or Studying When Depressed
If you’re losing focus due to depression, the most important thing will be to treat the underlying depression. Unfortunately, though, depression doesn’t always go away easily even with treatment. Therefore, in the meantime you may have to find ways to concentrate even if you have major depressive disorder.
Tips for Concentrating When Depressed
You might continue going to school or work despite depression. First of all, congratulate and honor yourself for doing the best that you can through this hard time. People with depression often feel so hard on themselves which only worsens the depression. Try to be gentle with yourself and proud that you’re still accomplishing all that you are, even though it may feel like “not enough.”
It might help to educate yourself about how depression literally changes your brain. This can give you insight into the reality that depression is not your fault. You’re not failing to concentrate because of weakness, lack of willpower, or whatever other concept you might berate yourself with. It’s something going on in your brain.
With that in mind, here are some tips for concentrating when depressed:
- Delegate responsibilities where you can. Ask family members to help at home.
- Establish habits and routines. The less you have to think about what you need to do, the more automatic you can make things, the easier it will all be.
- Make a daily “To Do” list. Break each task down into the smallest possible sub-tasks. Prioritize them and do what you can. Prune the list so that it’s realistic. It can help to get outside feedback about what truly needs to be done.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Depression often interrupts sleep. The more you can do to improve your sleep habits, the easier it will be to concentrate during the day.
- Speak with your boss (or professors if you are a student). There is often more support in the workplace for mental illness challenges than you realize. Find out what your options are for remaining in good standing while taking care of your mental health.
- Separate work and home life. This is so challenging, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also very important. You have to be able to turn off “work brain” so that you can fully relax and regenerate for the following day.
- Tackle one small task first thing in the day. Do something easy so that you can start off with a feeling of accomplishment.
- Take breaks. Luxuriate in them by doing something small that indulges your senses and helps you relax. Breathe in a favorite scent, take a quick walk, or listen to a favorite song.
Treatment for Depression
Although you can implement those tips to gain focus despite depression, you ultimately want to treat the underlying disorder. Depression treatment may include medication and/or therapy, with studies suggesting that a combination of both is often the most effective option.
You can speak with a doctor or mental health professional to figure out the right treatments for you. Your regular doctor can prescribe antidepressant medication or you can ask for a referral to a psychiatrist. You can also get assistance through therapy. There are different types of therapy, so you can find one that works for you.
If your primary symptom of depression is difficulty concentrating, then you might want to look into therapy that assists you with step-by-step action-oriented change. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular option.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you overcome symptoms of depression and get back your ability to concentrate.