Hyperactivity means having increased movement, impulsive actions, and a shorter attention span, and being easily distracted.
Activity - increased; Hyperkinetic behavior
Hyperactive behavior usually refers to constant activity, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness, and similar behaviors.
Typical behaviors may include:
- Fidgeting or constant moving
- Talking too much
- Difficulty participating in quiet activities (such as reading)
Hyperactivity is not easily defined. It often depends on the observer. Behavior that seems excessive to one person may not seem excessive to another. But certain children, when compared to others, are clearly far more active. This can become a problem if it interferes with school work or making friends.
Hyperactivity is often considered more of a problem for schools and parents than it is for the child. But many hyperactive children are unhappy, or even depressed. Hyperactive behavior may make a child a target for bullying, or make it harder to connect with other children. Schoolwork may be more difficult. Kids who are hyperactive are frequently punished for their behavior.
Excessive movement (hyperkinetic behavior) often decreases as the child grows older. It may disappear entirely by adolescence.
Conditions that may lead to hyperactivity include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Brain or central nervous system disorders
- Emotional disorders
- Over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
A child who is normally very active often responds well to specific directions and a program of regular physical activity. But, a child with a ADHD has a hard time following directions and controlling impulses.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your child's health care provider if:
- Your child seems hyperactive all the time.
- Your child is very active, aggressive, impulsive, and has difficulty concentrating.
- Your child's activity level is causing social difficulties, or difficulty with schoolwork.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The provider will perform a physical exam of your child and ask about your child's symptoms and medical history. Examples of questions include whether the behavior is new, if your child has always been very active, and whether the behavior is getting worse.
The provider may recommend a psychological evaluation. There may also be a review of the home and school environments.
Bostic JQ, Prince JB, Buxton DC. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 69.
Walter HJ, DeMaso DR. Assessment and interviewing. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 20.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.