Distractibility: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Distractibility is the state of being easily distracted, that is, having one's attention diverted from the task or thought at hand and turning to another unrelated thought or activity. Distractibility likely occurs due an inability to filter out outside stimuli such as noises or internal thoughts when trying to concentrate. Distractibility can occur in normal individuals who are tired or sleep-deprived, and it is also a symptom of certain medical conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Substance abuse and withdrawal can also cause distractibility, and it can be a feature of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Distractibility is a very nonspecific symptom and is not always related to a disease or illness.

Other causes of distractibility

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Changes in Life Situation
  • Delirium
  • Drug or Alcohol Intoxication
  • Drug Withdrawal
  • Medications
  • Smith-Magenis Syndrome
  • Tiredness


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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.