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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 stressdepression, 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. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.

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 are community-based counseling centers across the nation in all 50 states and US territories that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans, Service members – including National Guard and Reserve components – and their families. Counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma. To learn more, visit the Vet Center website or find a nearest Vet Center. Teams are also available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-927-8387.

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.

Read Next

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Overcoming Depression

Depression can interfere with relationships, work and the ability to get through the day and it can affects Veterans from all walks of life. Treatment works and can help you deal with depression symptoms.

Feeling on Edge

Hypervigilance — feeling like you’re constantly on guard — is a common response to a frightening, traumatic, or life-threatening experience, but it doesn’t have to interfere with your relationships, work, physical health, or ability to get through the day.

Additional Resources

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Vet Center

Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers across the nation in all 50 states and US territories that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment counseling to eligible Veterans, service members – including National Guard and Reserve components – and their families. Counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma. To learn more, visit the Vet Center website or find a nearest Vet Center. Teams are also available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-927-8387.

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Veterans Crisis Line logo

Veterans Crisis Line

Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one? Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves. Free support is confidential and available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255, chat here, or text 838255.

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Coaching into Care

Coaching Into Care is a national telephone service of the VA which aims to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran.

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Self-Help Tools logo

Self-Help Tools

Veterans can access online courses that provide instruction and training in problem-solving, parenting, anger management, sleeping better, managing stress, and more.

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