Smiling Woman Watching Television

How Hyperfixation Helps Me Cope With Anxiety and Depression


I don’t know how to casually like something. Whether it’s a book, TV show, musical artist or a creative activity, I will hyperfixate for a while and then usually drop it after a week or so. Sometimes, I’ll refocus my attention on it in a few months, or it will take a few years.

Recently, I binge-watched about three seasons of BBC’s “Merlin.” I also sped through the first half of the 853 page book “Anna Karenina.” I exclusively listened to the music of Coeur de Pirate for three weeks. I briefly resumed my obsession with “Hamilton” for a few days. I’m watching “Friends” for the millionth time. I’ve rejuvenated my love for All Time Low. This has only been in 2017 so far. It hasn’t happened yet, but about once a year, I take up knitting again.

So why do I hyperfixate? Why can’t I just like something without becoming completely immersed in it?

My theory is because I’m typically overwhelmed by bad mental health days (depression and anxiety), I tend to resort to outside distractions. I don’t know how to cope with my undesirable thoughts without total immersion.

If I’m not binging on a show, the thoughts are more likely to make an appearance. If I don’t listen to a specific artist or album on repeat, my mind is filled with self-loathing thoughts rather than lyrics.

In a way, I’m protecting myself. I would much rather think about how Phoebe and Joey would have made a great couple than about how I feel alone. I would love to read a book with depth instead of think about how I haven’t been productive for a week and a half. I’d rather practice singing along to the tongue-twisting lyrics of “My Shot” than berate myself for doing something inadequately – on that note, I just love when I nail singing these lines:

Poppin’ a squat on conventional wisdom, like it or not.

A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists?
Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is!

In any case, it’s a coping mechanism. It may not be the most practical or convenient, but it works.

My hyperfixation isn’t a bad thing. It’s just an aspect of my mental illnesses I have to accept. I may get teased for it or told my hyperfixation is annoying, but it’s what works for me. Allowing myself to surrender to my passions keeps me from spiraling into a vortex of depression, and that’s OK with me.

So maybe your coping mechanism isn’t hyperfixation. Maybe it’s something else entirely, but as long as it’s not putting you or someone else at risk of harm, then I say you do you. If it works, then there is no reason why you should feel ashamed of whatever it is that you do.

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Thinkstock photo by Ryan McVay

 How Hyperfixation Helps Me Cope With Anxiety and Depression
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