Hyperfocus and Alcohol
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
For many people who experience hyperfocus, drinking alcohol is a slippery slope. This is because hyperfocus means that there is already “decreased activation” in the frontal lobe of the brain.
Your brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for activities like thinking, problem solving, attention, memory, managing behavioural responses, controlling impulses, and more.
Most people who experience hyperfocus already have a hard enough time avoiding embarrassing behaviour, managing emotions, and staying in control while sober.
Alcohol also affects your frontal lobe so if you experience hyperfocus and you drink alcohol, you’re probably increasing your odds of experiencing uncontrollable behaviour, wild emotions, and “crazy nights”.
The Hyperfocussed Brain and Alcohol
People who experience hyperfocus have a prefrontal cortex that works differently from the neurotypical. Alcohol also affects the prefrontal cortex. This means that alcohol can have significant effects on people who experience hyperfocus.
Alcohol is actually a sedative-hypnotic and many people who experience hyperfocus love the effects of alcohol, because alcohol seems to “numb” the prefrontal cortex, and provide you with positive effects like:
• Greater confidence • Less anxiety • Happiness • Excitement • More fun
But at the same time, drinking alcohol is a lot like “tricking” your prefrontal cortex.
All of the good that comes from drinking alcohol is usually counterbalanced with negative effects like:
• Poor decision making • Moodiness • Impulsiveness • Reduced sleep quality • Hangovers
Small quantities of alcohol can definitely serve as an amazing tool for socializing, relaxing after a workout, or networking for your career. But, like most things in life, there’s rarely a “free lunch” to be had. If you let your drinking get out of hand, there’s a chance that you’ll eventually have to “pay the price” with your health, relationships, sleep quality, or something else.
Post-acute-Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). The basic idea of PAWS is that you will probably feel bad after quitting alcohol.
But, you will eventually feel a lot better.
This happens because your brain needs time to adjust its neurochemicals after you stop using a powerful substance like alcohol. You’ll experience the normal ups, downs, and mixed emotions that everyone who withdraws from alcohol must go through.
This is entirely normal. PAWS can last for a number of months, or even several years, depending on the severity of your alcohol usage.
But, once your brain returns to a natural state of balance, you will most likely think, feel, and live better.
Social Drinking Alternatives
Coffee It’s becoming more common for people to drink coffee instead of alcohol.
Coffee can even provide you with some excellent health benefits, like improving your cognitive function, and lowering your risk of depression.
After drinking a couple cups of coffee, you’ll probably be the most alert and in-control person out of your group of friends.
Kombucha Kombucha is a favourite alternative to alcohol that tastes great and makes you feel happy.
The health of your gut is linked to your mood, emotions, and even your level of anxiety. Kombucha is especially great for your gut health, because kombucha is loaded with probiotics. When you improve your gut health, you literally feel better.
Yerba Mate Yerba mate is a special type of tea from the South American rainforest. When you drink it, you’ll notice a major improvement in your mood and mental clarity.
Living with Hyperfocus
Set up external cues to knock yourself out of hyperfocus. Timers, alarms, or phone reminders can alert you to appointments or responsibilities that fade away during a period of hyperfocus.
Discuss how family members or friends can help you “snap out of it” if necessary. For many, physical touch is a great way to break the spell of hyperfocus. If your husband calls you a few times without an answer, ask him to gently touch your shoulder, instead — more often than not, he’ll be able to break through.
Set reasonable limits. Spending three straight days working on an art project might make sense to you, but for the people who love and depend on you, it can be frustrating when you “disappear.” Decide beforehand how much time you can fairly dedicate to a project, without ignoring your relationships or shirking your responsibilities — and set alarms to ensure you stick to your plans.
Be honest about hyperfocus. Talk to your friends and family about typical behaviours and how they manifest for you. Explain that, while you’re taking steps to harness hyperfocus, you may still be unreachable from time to time.
Do not ever believe that you have to apologise for experiencing hyperfocus. We are not defined by our attributes but by how we treat the people around us.