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Poor concentration due to PTSD
I like to think that for the most, i have recovered from PTSD, well as much as you can recover from it (just my beliefs) but my concentration is still very very ordinary.
Has anyone experienced this? How do you improve your concentration? I know Dr Google will have some answers but I would prefer to hear from people who have lived it.
I think a bit has to do how much mental energy it takes to keep yourself grounded and the lower amount of mental energy the harder it is to concentrate but even when i feel pretty energised, i still can't concentrate much.
Be interested to hear other peoples ideas on this.
I didn't know I had PTSD until my psychiatrist diagnosed me, but it'd been around for many, many years. The most ordinary of symptoms of course was memory loss and lack of concentration.
I had an assessment done with me in my home a couple of weeks ago, and stopped so many times to ask what she'd said or what I'd said, I felt quite stupid. At one stage I'd forgotten where I was and who was talking. (or doing?)
I find it gets worse when the pressures on. Relating to people who have an influence over any part of my life no matter how small, is probably the biggest trigger. Because there's been so many trauma's, it's difficult to find the culprit most days. But every now and then I can put the pieces together.
I try to identify what I already know and take steps to manage my levels. E.g..walk away, take a step back, take a deep breath or if none of these work or are possible, go to the toilet and cry. (Cringe! what can I say, it's worked. Why not keep it in my goody bag of tricks?)
My assessment had to happen quickly as it was $130 pr/hr. So, she reminded me who was talking and what it was about. What a trooper!
What I do know, is that our poor nervous systems, (can you believe I just went blank?) have taken a massive hit over a long period of time. It requires patience and time to recover. (Depending on severity)
What I think is so important too, is our 'will' to heal...be the ball! And even more importantly, is our willingness to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get there.
We are great aren't we? Bloody warriors!
Concentration is a hard one for me. I have a neurological disorder too which affects my memory and concentration a lot so I find that I have to modify a lot of daily living to manage.
Here are some of the things that have helped me -
- Making to-do lists. Knowing what I have to do helps me try to focus on the task at hand instead of thinking "should do that" "need to do that" etc. I also journal which helps a lot.
- Try to focus on one thing at a time. The truth is we actually can't multitask - nobody can. Our brain's aren't designed to do it. For me this means one task at a time and one tab (Internet) at a time.
- I play Peak - it's a brain training game. There are controversial studies about whether this helps long-term but I have found that it's helped a bit and it is free so there's nothing to lose. Science also tells us that general brain stimulation like Sudoku, Chess, playing music or just learning about anything can help boost concentration. I also read and listen to a lot of Podcasts and find them really helpful.
- Meditation and mindfulness. This is something I have to practice constantly, but it does help. I do feel a lot calmer and more attentive.
- Avoid constant sensory input. I can't watch the TV and read at the same time anymore. I pick one. Things like lighting and noise can be overwhelming so try to be aware of that. Some people find even small changes can make a big difference to how much they can focus.
- Turning off notifications on my phone/computer.
- Eating and sleeping well. This is pretty cliche but studies have shown this makes a huge difference. Food linked with concentration includes blueberries, dark chocolate, green tea, leafy green vegetables, fish, flax seeds, nuts and avocado.
Hope this helps 🙂
Dizzy, yeh my mates know now that if i am half way through a conversation and stop, they just remind me what i was speaking about and on i go! Certainly having the will to recover further is really important and fortunately i have no shortage of that.
romantic_thi3f, thanks for the advice. Will give a few of those a go for sure. I'm pretty good on the mindfulness front. Always get a nice (sarcasm) reminder if i drop off on the mindfulness, my mood drops and i get antsy real quick. Will definitely be giving Peak a go.
Don't even get me started on PTSD & it's affects on concentration. "Lacks concentration" is on all of my school reports.
......grrrrrr soooooo frustrating.
Your post has been so helpful! I didn't know why I've poor concentration. I do know I have a form of PTSD, anxiety and, as a consequence, depression. I think depression is a consequence because it only flears up when I feel unable to reach 'goals' (what most 'normal' people do). I even thought I've Alzheimer’s but I read about it and it didn't really match.
I do keep drifting off when people talk to me, forget what I was talking about and (at work) forget instructions given to me almost on the spot or few minutes after. I carry a pen and paper at work everytime I'm going to be given instructions and make a quick scribble with key words that will trigger what they're asking me to do.
I also study a lot and push myself to sit exams as a way to challenge myself. I've always believe that when I stopped studies my memory goes very soft and I can end up with a blank mind most of the time. I some times can't even bring myself to form words.
I agree with you that lots of it has to do with the level of energy used to keep oneself grounded, stop yourself from exploding or ignore the constant triggers around you. That also explains why I'm always so tired and fall asleep early (8:30pm sometimes) .
But, what I do to keep going is: I do mindfulness and meditation. I've downloaded a free app from UCLA "mindfulness and meditations". It's pretty good because it's only very short sessions of 5, 9, 12 minutes. or 19 minutes the longest. I do this during my way to work in the train and/or during lunch time (if working long hours). When I'm at home, I've to listen to it as well if it's been busy.
Keep studying, reading, using your mind to excercise it and the memory does improve.
Best of luck and thanks for posting 🙂
Helen, thanks for your post - really insightful and some really good tips and hints in there.
Certainly the same themes are coming up with mindfulness (which should be mandatory in schools now i think) and making notes to remind oneself of tasks.
Diet is pretty important to. I have sharpened up my diet and seem to be better now but not near where i used to be. Maybe it is just another part of PTSD that I just have to accept and adapt to it.
Hey Mark and all;
What a brilliant thread!
I wish I'd seen it a yr ago when life really sucked big time and I was ignorant and frightened.
I'd like to add something if I could; well a couple actually, no maybe a few. Ha ha
The major thing for me at present, is transitioning from old me to new me. That unhappy place where limbo lives. I've made major changes to my beliefs, behaviour and outlook on life. Each step in this direction, challenges the 'old ways'. It's as if a war of sorts goes on in my head trying to pull me back into old habits of thinking for instance, that has me experiencing symptoms seemingly out of nowhere.
Sometimes it's not the bad stuff that triggers...it's the good stuff as well. That's one point I'm making. Using all the above tools and then some, are strategies for change as well as ongoing maintenance.
I know we've mentioned sleep, but reiterating won't hurt. Sleep is the foundation that all else relies upon. Without resting our brains, there's nothing to hold everything together. If you need med's...you need med's. Please don't let Dr's frighten you with stories of addiction unless you're prone or have existing issues. They saved my life and others I know.
That fog brain we've talked about is heading south for me; it does rare its head like in the above situation about change now and then. But you know what? I know 'me' so well I can pinpoint panic/anxiety just before it occurs. The strategies of maintenance have become integral in communicating with myself. I also use Lifeline like I did last night. They let me talk and have no emotional ties...after 10 min's, I hit on the trigger and felt kilo's lighter.
We are our greatest ally...to thine own self be true...know thy self...be the ball.
What does Corny say...? Ah yes...woof...oink
Sara, awesome response and i love how you have identified "you" in that at any given time you know where you are at. I am pretty confident in saying that when i was able to achieve that, my recovery started to accelerate. It gave me the confidence to go out to places and i would know if i was getting anxious so would enact the coping strategies.
Now that my sleep is well under control, thankfully, I have to say that my memory is getting a bit better but concentration is still south of being crap! I am pretty much at a point where i am going to accept where i am at and think that this is it, this is as good as it will be and that is okay, it's not ideal but hey, some things we just have to accept. I now take a note and pen wherever i go at work and write down what i have to get done. My phone calendar is also full of appointments as well. Put everything in there.
Transitioning from the old to the new is also a great journey to be on. When you recognise that your behaviors are so different to the old you, it reinforces that you are going really well. When you make better decisions, we you successfully handle a trigger, when you don't go off your head at a small thing...all so very rewarding.
So awesome to hear that you are on this course.
I definitely agree with Mark on the Diet front. When I work (short assignments) I know I've to be very careful with what I eat. Sarah, sleep is also very important but sometimes one cannot sleep well and that's a problem. I also agree with you about the good things that trigger reactions. It's frustrating that our past experiences define so much of our later life. But, as you well said, we need to change. I belive we need to save ourselves and that is hard but must keep working at it.
I cannot eat (or must limit to almost nothing) cakes, bics and chocolate. Must not have coffee (or have decaf in social situations) Must avoid at all costs sugar in any form and must choose plain food with vegs and fish/chicken(preferable).
If I have coffee my anxiety/fears/reactions to triggers increase and are very difficult to control. I start to act hyper and cannot concentrate or retain anything that is said to me and start to act very weird (or feel very weird). I shake and I don't notice I'm shaking. Chocolate gives me a fuzzy head and a dry mouth (which my GP says is the result of anxiety) and sugars make me act hyper (with the consequent result that I’ve more ‘vigilant’ of other people’s "bad attitude" towards me and more defensive. Someone said to me they knew I’ve eaten sugar because I was ‘more shouty’. I’d actually eaten home made choc chip cookies.
After failing several attempts, I’m enjoying fruits more to substitue my sugar cravings. I've been trying to change my diet and improve it for some time with the consequent ups and downs.
These days I’ve been stricter with my diet and as a result my head is clearer and after reading the blogs in this website, I’ve started to recognise the triggers and have started to notice my reactions to them more clearly. I got sad because I’m noticing that my life has been affected 95/98% of the time! with symptoms that I didn’t even recognise I had and found out only by reading here in the forum. That is a very high percentage. How have I lived that way? I didn’t know this affected all my relationships. It’s amazing what I’m learning by reading your posts and being in these forums and I'm glad that I have started to notice my state of constant 'alertness'.
Thanks for sharing guys J