When Shakespeare wrote of “distraction” in his plays and sonnets, however, he was not speaking of something that diverts our attention. Back then, the word was used to describe a state of mental disturbance or insanity. Even today, one definition of the word “distraction” can imply some degree of emotional upset.
So was Shakespeare onto something?
Certainly we can be distracted and not experience mental illness. A loud noise, unruly children or a sudden rainstorm are all events that can distract us from what we’re doing at the moment.
But can repetitive distraction — nonstop ringing phones, incessant email and text message interruptions, meetings and co-workers who need immediate attention — contribute to mental distress or even mental illness?