When Attention Issues Have Nothing to Do with ADHD

Attention Issues

Do you struggle to pay attention? Have trouble retaining important information? Put off big projects in favor of menial tasks? You may think this sounds like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is also called attention-deficit disorder (ADD). But ADHD isn’t the only cause of attention problems. A host of other issues can sometimes be at the root of inattention, forgetfulness, and procrastination.



ADHD isn’t the only cause of attention problems. A host of other issues—such as anxiousness, stress, or lack of sleep—can sometimes be at the root of inattention, forgetfulness, and procrastination. Click To Tweet

That’s what chef and wellness expert Radhi Devlukia-Shetty discovered when she visited Amen Clinics with her husband Jay Shetty. The couple wanted to see their brain SPECT scans so they could learn how to optimize their brains for ultimate health and well-being. In an episode of Scan My Brain with Daniel Amen, MD, Devlukia-Shetty says that her mind can be very creative, but structure, attention, and focus can be difficult. She has trouble starting on projects unless there’s a deadline approaching. In addition, she says that “names won’t stay in my mind” and wants to improve her recall.

Although these are some of the characteristics seen in people with ADHD, the wellness influencer’s brain scan and psychological assessment did not indicate this condition. According to Dr. Amen, when people who don’t have ADHD but who experience issues of inattention, forgetfulness, or procrastination, there are likely other issues at play.


In some cases, anxiousness can get in the way of paying attention, processing memories or tackling a big project. On brain SPECT scans, anxiousness is often associated with a “busy brain”—meaning there is heightened activity in the brain’s emotional centers. People with a busy brain tend to overthink things, feel restless, and can have trouble concentrating. In addition, anxiousness can interfere with the memory-making process, making it harder to recall people’s names, what’s on your grocery list, or the details of that vacation you took as a teenager.

When it comes to working on a complex project, such as creating a new product, writing a book, or delivering a speech, anxiety can throw you off track. Having trouble making decisions, which is common among anxious people, can make it hard to know where to start. And when a project is so big that it makes you feel angst, you’re more likely to put it off rather than diving in. These issues may resemble symptoms of ADHD even though they are unrelated to the condition.


We live in a stressful world. For some people, that stress builds up and impacts brain function in a negative way. This can lead to symptoms—such as restlessness, distraction, and inattention—that look like ADHD but have nothing to do with the disorder. Having chronic stress also negatively impacts areas of the brain involved in memory formation.

In some people, however, a little bit of stress can be a powerful motivator. Take Devlukia-Shetty, for instance. She says she performs best when under pressure. “When there’s a deadline, I can get things done and focus,” she says.


The energetic and bubbly Devlukia-Shetty does not grapple with low moods, but many people who do struggle with blue moods have trouble concentrating. Depression is linked to focus problems, forgetfulness, low motivation, and low energy—all issues also seen in ADHD.


Sleep issues can have a powerful impact on the ability to pay attention, learn new things, or recall facts and events. For Devlukia-Shetty, who’s a good sleeper, this isn’t an issue. For others, however, not getting enough shut-eye produces ADHD-like symptoms. A lack of adequate sleep decreases blood flow to the brain, which disrupts concentration and memory while lowering energy and motivation.


Discovering what’s behind an inability to pay attention or focus is the key to finding the right solutions. Anxiousness, stress, low moods, and disrupted sleep can all contribute to inattention, forgetfulness, and procrastination. Brain SPECT imaging, which looks at how the brain functions is one way to gain a better understanding of what’s causing your symptoms.

ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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