Sam had difficulty concentrating and couldn't focus on his job. He began PTSD counseling and learned skills to manage his symptoms. Others who were going through similar experiences provided support and recommendations for techniques to improve his daily life.
What is difficulty concentrating?
You are easily distracted or make careless mistakes even though you try to do your best. Sometimes you forget to bring the one thing you’ll need most for a task or activity. It’s hard to sit still and listen to someone talk. If this sounds like you, you might be having difficulty concentrating.
Poor concentration can be considered having a lower than expected attention span for your age, or having trouble focusing. Whether you have had trouble concentrating for most of your life or it started more recently, it can cause problems in keeping a job, learning new skills or information, and in relationships with other people.
“A lot of times I have every intention of giving someone my full attention, but before you know it, my brain checks out and I literally don’t hear the words that are being spoken to me.”
Difficulties with attention and concentration can occur for many reasons, including an injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, dealing with chronic pain or severe headaches, or problems that started in childhood. Some Veterans may have difficulty concentrating due to anxiety or stress, depression, or painful memories. You may find other people don’t understand that you’re having a hard time concentrating. They may assume you are not trying very hard or you don’t care. This lack of understanding might make you feel frustrated, angry, or depressed.
If I’m having trouble concentrating, what can I do about it right away?
“Going back to school was hard at first. It was challenging to do simple things like sitting still for an hour and taking notes. Once I realized it was the stress of being back at school that was making it hard to concentrate, I was able to come up with strategies to do better in my classes.”
- Avoid distractions like loud music or the television when you want to concentrate
- If you’re in a meeting or a classroom, sit close to the front and try to remove distractions from your seating area
- Use a planner and make checklists to help you stay organized
- Develop a routine and try to stick to a regular schedule
- Divide your tasks into smaller steps
- Take regular breaks to prevent feeling tired
- Avoid over-stimulating your brain with large amounts of caffeine or energy drinks
Talking to your family and friends about your difficulty with concentration can be an important step. If they know, they can avoid distracting you further, and they may be able to help you focus on your tasks.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans connect with useful resources and effective treatments for better concentration. If poor concentration is affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
- Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist
- Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
- A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about poor concentration in Veterans.
Learn more about the possible associations between difficulty concentrating and other issues such as stress and anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and effects of traumatic brain injury.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Poor concentration could be a sign of other health conditions that need attention. This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.