Factors That May Cause Poor Concentration

Stress does help concentration for a short period of time. This is because the body is dumping chemicals into the brain to help it focus and throwing adrenaline into the bloodstream in order to heighten the senses. This helps the body hone in on its tasks and helps it to focus. This is, in the beginning, a good thing. Short-term stress really does help your concentration at first, which is very useful when you need to hammer out last-minute paper for school, a report for your boss, or you need to quickly fix some computer problems that are keeping others from getting their work done. Unfortunately, the short-term effects do not last.

As you spend more and more time under stress, your ability to concentrate lessens. The brain will have fired off so many neurons that it cannot replenish its supply of chemicals that helps the neurons fire. As well, that boost of adrenaline that helps people focus will start to heighten the senses to the point where the brain notices every little thing around, causing you to be easily distracted. Distraction is a major cause of poor concentration. There are two types of distractions: external and internal.

External distractions are related to the physical environment of your study area. Once you have identified these distractions an individual can deal with them. Some of the common external distractions are:

  • Noise and conversations
  • Inappropriate furniture and inadequate lighting
  • Interruption from other people and telephone
  • Television
  • Work, paid or unpaid; housework
  • The Internet; email

Internal distractions are related to you: your body, your thoughts and your emotions. Some of them can be easily dealt with once they are identified. Others can be managed with practice and/or with a little help. Some of the common internal distractions are:

  • Hunger; tiredness; illness; and age
  • Lack of motivation; boredom; and lack of interest
  • Personal worries; stress; anxiety; and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Negative thinking
  • Daydreaming; mentally tired; and wandering mind
  • Dyslexia; Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

There is no doubt that mental concentration is tiring. Anyone who has attended a meeting will appreciate the fact. The process of simply sitting around a table for a couple of hours mainly concentrating upon what other people are saying is tiring. Driving a car for hours is tiring. To deal with such times we have to learn and practice concentration skills, and as with any skill this means practice repeated day after day until we achieve enough improvement to feel that we can concentrate when we need to.

The following three factors related to concentration from the list of distractions stand out and deserve further discussion because they impact such a large number of people.


It is known that older adults are more easily distracted. Changes in brain activity begin gradually in middle age causing older adults to have a harder time with concentration in busy environments, and are easily distracted by irrelevant information. This news comes from The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest and the University of Toronto, where scientists compared brain function in young, middle-aged and older adults.

The study says these findings add to the growing belief by scientists that two regions in the brain’s frontal lobes gradually shift into a seesaw imbalance, which causes older adults to become less efficient at blocking distracting information than young people are. Therefore, decreased concentration is inevitable in everyone as they age. To take this a step further, will there be a correlation between the baby boomers and decreased concentration? It has been found the baby boomers are showing chronic health conditions approximately 12 years earlier than people who were the same age 12 years ago. Does this mean the baby boomers will experience concentration deficits earlier than previous groups of people as they age? More evidence is needed on this, but is likely.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)  The Result of a Chemical Imbalance

According to studies from Columbia University over 25 percent of the population in mid to higher latitudes suffer from SAD. Symptoms include severe depression, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, reduced productivity and irritability. Experts have linked decreasing sunlight in winter to a chemical imbalance in the brain. The amount of light affects the natural release of melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland that affects out internal clock; low light induces more melatonin and more sleep. Three common remedies used to assist SAD inflicted people are: light therapy, exercise, and music melodies/sounds.


According to the 2002 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) America poll approximately 74% of American adults experience sleeping problems, 39% get less than seven hours of sleep each weeknight, and more than one in three (37%) are sleepy enough that it interferes with daily activities. Women report insomnia more frequently than men and chronic insomnia increases with age. Lack of sleep saps your power of concentration, says Irene Colsky, Ed.D., adjunct professor of psychology and education at Miami-Dade Community College and president of the Colsky Associates, a firm offering learning and memory seminars. Some women find that they have a particularly hard time paying attention in the last months of pregnancy or during menopause, when insomnia is a common problem.