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Hyperactivity

Definition

Hyperactivity means having increased movement, impulsive actions, and a shorter attention span, and being easily distracted.

Alternative Names

Activity - increased; Hyperkinetic behavior

Considerations

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
  • Wandering
  • 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.

Causes


Home Care

A child who is normally very active often responds well to specific directions and a program of regular physical activity. A child with a hyperactivity disorder, on the other hand, has a hard time following directions and controlling impulses.

When to Contact a Medical Professional


  • Your child seems persistently hyperactive.
  • 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 doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam on 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 doctor or nurse may recommend a complete psychological evaluation. There may also be a review of the home and school environments.

References

Nass R, Ross G. Developmental disabilities. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 61.


Review Date: 5/14/2014
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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