Ask Dr Sarah – “Lately, I Have Been Getting Very Easily Distracted In School”

"My problem is I find it really hard to just sit there quietly and concentrate"



Do you have a personal problem that you need help with? is here to help, with Dr Sarah, a clinical child psychologist specialising in adolescent issues.

Lately, I have been getting distracted very easily in school and as a result, I have been getting into trouble with my teachers. My problem is I find it really hard to just sit there quietly and concentrate, but every time I open my mouth I get shouted at. Is there something wrong with me and what can I do about it?

Anon, 17

Sarah Says: You say that your difficulties with concentration and attention have only started ‘lately’. If the problems are only very recent and nobody has ever had any concerns around your attention up till now, and if the difficulties are confined to the classroom, it’s unlikely that you have an attentional disorder such as ADHD or ADD. However, if you have more general difficulties with attention, and not just in the classroom, you should talk to your school or GP to discuss a referral for formal assessment with a psychologist. But before you start thinking that there is some ‘problem’ outside your control, maybe have a look at other possible underlying causes. Sometimes our concentration and attention can be affected when we have worries and stressors in our lives. Is there anything that has been bothering you recently or has there been any recent big change at home, with friends or in school that might be stressing you out? Another possibility is that you’re finding the classwork either too easy or too difficult and just zone out, so maybe have a think about how you’re managing your workload. You say that you get shouted at ‘every time you open your mouth’, but is this because your constantly chatting to the person next to you? An easy way to avoid the temptation to chat is to sit up at the front away from the other talkers. Maybe try this out and see if you still feel as distracted and fidgety. Is it possible that you’ve got into a bit of a negative cycle with your teachers; you now expect to get into trouble so you live up to their expectations? You clearly don’t want this situation to continue as it is, so a good place to start would be to talk to your year head and tell them what you’ve said here. If you haven’t already talked to your parents, you should think about sharing your worries with them as well. Well done for admitting there’s a problem and looking for help; it takes a lot of guts.


Send your questions to us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook with the subject line Ask Dr. Sarah.