Mood and Mental Health

Lack of concentration: What helps with concentration problems?

Written by

Anna Roell
26 July, 2023

Medically checked article All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

The ability to concentrate plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. Whether at work, school or in daily tasks like reading a book, concentration is the key to efficiency and success. But what happens when you have trouble concentrating? Read on if you want to know more about poor concentration, its causes, symptoms, and how to improve it.

Table of Contents

What is concentration?

Concentration is the mental ability to focus attention on a specific task or activity and ignore distractions. It is a basic cognitive skill that helps us use our mental resources effectively and achieve our goals (Sörqvist et al., 2016).

Signs of poor concentration

Poor concentration can manifest itself in many different ways and leave us feeling frustrated, unproductive, and drained. The most common signs include:

  • Difficulty concentrating on a task
  • Being distracted easily
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty listening or reading
  • Difficulty keeping a train of thought
  • Lack of motivation or interest in tasks that require concentration
  • Feeling mentally exhausted or overworked

Source: Sörqvist et al., 2016

Causes of poor concentration

The causes of poor concentration are varied and can be due to either physical or psychological factors. They may be due to a single cause, but are often the result of multiple, interacting factors. These factors can include:

  • Lack of sleep: Adequate sleep is critical for mental clarity. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause one to feel listless, inattentive, and have difficulty concentrating (Durmer & Dinges, 2005).
  • Poor nutrition: Nutrition plays a critical role in the health of our brains and our cognitive abilities. Certain nutrients, such as B vitamins (for example, vitamin B6 or B12), omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are particularly important for brain function. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and concentration problems (Parletta et al., 2013).
  • Stress: Stress can significantly affect the brain’s ability to concentrate. During stressful situations, the body responds by releasing stress hormones, including cortisol, which can affect concentration and other body processes like heart rate and metabolism. This physiological response is designed to help the brain focus on tasks essential to survival. However, chronically high cortisol levels can negatively impact attention and concentration skills (De Souza-Talarico et al., 2011), and the constant presence of stress can make it difficult to concentrate on other tasks.
  • Medications and drugs: Some medications, including certain types of antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and pain medications, can cause side effects that include difficulty concentrating. Drugs and alcohol can also impair brain function and cause problems concentrating (Gould, 2010; Cleveland Clinic, 2019).
  • Environmental factors: Our surroundings can have a significant impact on our ability to concentrate. For example, natural light, compared to artificial light, can improve concentration and reduce fatigue. Noise, especially if it is unpredictable or uncontrollable, can cause stress and divert our attention from the task we are working on. A temperature that is too high or too low can also make us feel uncomfortable and reduce our ability to concentrate (Taylor et al., 2015).

Poor concentration and medical conditions

Many different medical conditions can cause problems with concentration. While having difficulty focusing happens to everyone sometimes, if concentration problems are affecting your daily life it is important to seek medical attention in order to rule out an underlying medical condition. Medical conditions that can cause concentration problems include:

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): One of the most common causes of concentration problems in children and adults is ADHD. This disorder is characterized by inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behavior that can interfere with everyday life (NHS, 2021).
  • Depression and anxiety: Both depression and anxiety are common conditions known to cause problems with concentration. This can be a direct result of the individual’s emotional state or due to side effects of medications used in treatment (American Psychiatric Association, 2023; Mayo Clinic, 2017)
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: Concentration problems can be one of the early signs of these disorders. In addition to memory loss, individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty focusing on one task and have difficulty completing multiple tasks at once (Alzheimer’s Association, 2023).
  • Thyroid problems: The thyroid gland produces hormonesT3 and T4 – that help regulate mood and cognitive function, including memory and concentration. During hypothyroidism, a lack of thyroid hormones can cause these functions to be impaired. This can lead to problems with concentration and memory loss, and people often report “brain fog” that manifests as forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating or thinking (American Thyroid Association, 2022).
  • Chronic diseases: Many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or chronic fatigue syndrome, can also cause problems with concentration. Often, these symptoms are the result of the stress placed on the body by the condition or the side effects of the medications used to treat the condition (Cleveland Clinic, 2019).

Get insight into your health from home

Homed-IQ’s home medical tests allow you to check in on your health from the comfort of home, including biomarkers related to concentration and focus. For example, the Vitamin Deficiency Test measures several key vitamins in the blood, including vitamin B12. A vitamin test can be a useful first step in addressing concentration problems, as many vitamins, especially B vitamins, are essential for optimal brain function and concentration. If you would like to check your thyroid function, Homed-IQ’s Thyroid Test measures the levels of key thyroid hormones using only a finger prick blood sample. Hypothyroidism can cause problems with concentration as sufficient thyroid hormones are needed to regulate mood, energy, and concentration.

What can I do to improve my concentration?

If you find that your concentration is lacking or you are having difficulty focusing on tasks, there are several strategies you can use to improve your ability to concentrate.

  • Take regular breaks: It’s important to take regular breaks, especially if you need to work or study for long periods of time. These breaks give your brain a chance to recover and recharge.
  • Follow a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet can help improve your concentration. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, and foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries and dark leafy vegetables, can promote brain health. In addition, drinking enough water can help prevent dehydration, which can lead to concentration problems.
  • Get regular physical activity: Regular physical activity can help boost your physical and mental health and improve your ability to concentrate.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: Healthy sleep is critical for cognitive function and concentration. It’s important to maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle and make sure you get enough sleep each night. To do this, try to go to bed around the same time every night and sleep in a dark, comfortable room.
  • Stress management: Chronic stress can lead to concentration problems. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and improve concentration.
  • Optimizing your environment: Factors such as light, noise, temperature, and the organization of your work or study space can affect your concentration. Try to find a quiet, well-lit space with a comfortable temperature, and keep your workspace clean and organized.
  • Mental Exercises: Mental exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, reading, and other activities that use the brain can help keep your mind active and focused.

Sources: Harvard Health, 2020; Cleveland Clinic, 2019

It’s important to note that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Try different strategies and see what works best for you.


Poor concentration can have a significant impact on daily life, but there are ways to improve it. It’s important to understand the causes that can lead to difficulty concentrating and take appropriate steps to address them. These include a healthy lifestyle, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and stress management strategies. If concentration problems are significantly impacting your daily life, see a doctor to discuss the potential underlying causes.


de Souza-Talarico, J. N., & et al. (2011). Effects of stress hormones on the brain and cognition: Evidence from normal to pathological aging. Dementia and Neuropsychologia, 5(1), 8-16.

Durmer, J. S., & Dinges, D. F. (2005). Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Seminars in Neurology.

Generalized anxiety disorder – Symptoms and causes. (2017, October 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from

Gould, T. J. (2010). Addiction and Cognition. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 5(2), 4-14.

Hypothyroid patients described what brain fog feels like. (n.d.). American Thyroid Association. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from

Memory Loss & 10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s | (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from

Parletta, N., Milte, C. M., & Meyer, B. J. (2013). Nutritional modulation of cognitive function and mental health. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 24(5), 725-743. – What Is Depression? (n.d.). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from

Sörqvist, P., Dahlström, Ö., Karlsson, T., & Rönnberg, J. (n.d.). Concentration: The Neural Underpinnings of How Cognitive Load Shields Against Distraction. Frontiers, 10.

Why Improving Your Concentration Helps Your Memory – Cleveland Clinic. (2019, October 31). Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. Retrieved July 11, 2023, from

About the author

Anna Roell

Anna is a trained nurse and health economist specializing in epidemiology, combining her medical and scientific interests. Her goal is to improve others' understanding of medical information and to communicate it in an understandable way. Anna is originally from Germany and now lives in Amsterdam. What she appreciates most about Amsterdam is the open-minded, active attitude of the people, the markets, and the beautiful nature in the areas surrounding Amsterdam.