Hello, I am doing R&D work for a reputed firm. I am also doing my PhD in the same field. My problem is that I am not able to concentrate while reading or studying, and my work requires a lot of reading. As a result, my productivity has become very low. If I spent a whole day studying, I would have read at most a couple of pages! When I start to work a lot of thoughts distract me. I feel like eating, surfing the Web, or watching TV.
This problem appeared about 2 years ago. I used to be a very studious girl, and was always a top performer. I tried things like meditation, but this does not seem to work. Please help me.
There are a number of conditions that could account for your lack of concentration. Let us see if between the two of us we can rule some of these out. E-mail therapy works extremely well in most incidences, but at times it would be helpful to be able to ask more questions and get some immediate feedback. We will look at this question as triage and my guess is that you will be able to figure out on your end what condition fits.
Often time's people have a hard time concentrating because they have Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a condition where the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain is impaired and this causes a number of symptoms including lack of concentration and/or impulsivity. There are several common fallacies about ADD. It was believed that only kids could have it and that has been disproved. It was also thought that there were only two types of ADD, either hyperactive or inattentive. There are actually 6 types according to Dr. Amen who is the acknowledged leader in this field. It was also thought that only people of limited intelligence could have ADD and it is actually the opposite. Often extremely smart people suffer from this problem. Usually though people suffer from symptoms at least by age 12 and the problems are of a long-standing nature. It is possible to have your education and still have the problem, but since your complaints are of only a two-year duration the chances that you have ADD are unlikely.
There are many forms of depression that can occur. Some of these are situational and due to stress and some are endogenous, which is when they are due mostly to a lack of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals in the body. When either of these occurs lack of concentration, preoccupation, appetite and sleep disturbances, and self-negative thinking result. If this lasts for more than a few weeks then it is probably endogenous and anti-depressants should be considered. It is certainly possible that your symptom is related to your situation of working too much, but unless you have the other symptoms it is probably not endogenous depression.
There are a number of medical conditions that could cause lack of concentration as well. Problems with your Thyroid, Pituitary, Hypoglycemia, certain kinds of hormonal fluctuations are all possible. It might also be that your diet is deficient in protein, which helps concentration or that you are not taking the right kind or enough vitamins. It is often a good idea before considering psychological services to rule out medical problems by getting a general physical and getting a full panel of blood work.
All these are possible causes for your lack of concentration, but from listening to your e-mail it certainly seems possible that what is going on is simply that you have been doing too much work for too long of a time and not having enough fun. This is a form of situational depression known as Burn Out in the field. It simply means that you have let yourself get out of balance and your body and subconscious is trying to get you to remember that there is more out of life than simply work. This problem is notorious with people in graduate school. With working full time I would be surprised if some of this were not occurring. I hope this has helped crystallize your thinking.
Jef Gazley, M.S. www.asktheinternettherapist.com
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.
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