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Difficulty Concentrating

Learn more about experiencing difficulty concentrating, treatment options, self-help tools, and resources to help you overcome challenges.

What is difficulty concentrating?

Are you easily distracted or perhaps make mistakes even when you try to do your best? Do you sometimes forget to bring the one thing you'll need most for a task or activity? Is it hard to sit still and listen to someone talk? If this sounds like you, you might be having difficulty concentrating.

Trouble focusing and a worsening attention span are signs of poor concentration. Trouble concentrating can result in problems with keeping a job, learning new skills or information, and with 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.”

Trouble concentrating can occur for many reasons, including an injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, dealing with chronic pain, or severe headaches. Some Veterans may have difficulty concentrating due to anxiety or stress, depression, or painful memories from military service. You may find other people don’t understand your difficulties with 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?

  • 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, such as your cell phone, 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 overstimulating your brain with large amounts of caffeine or energy drinks.
  • Minimize the need to multitask by focusing on one thing at a time.

If you have trouble concentrating, talking to your family and friends can be an important step to reduce frustration and misunderstanding. If you share what you're experiencing with your family and friends, they can avoid distracting — and that may help you focus on the task at hand.

Take the next step to connect with care.

Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments to improve their concentration. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.

Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.

  • If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
  • With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
  • If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.

What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.  

  • The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
  • Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
  • VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
  • Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What about support beyond VA?

There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.

Explore these resources for more information about Veterans dealing with concentration difficulties.

Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to difficulty concentrating, such as stress and anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, and effects of traumatic brain injury.