What is hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity is defined as excessive physical activity or movements that have no purpose and are increased in speed. Hyperactivity is sometimes associated with ADD, as in ADHD.

What characteristics are associated with hyperactivity?

Frequently, the hyperactive person is labeled as fidgety. Toddlers who are hyperactive are on-the-go constantly and have difficulty playing in a group activity. Children with hyperactivity shows excessive running or talking for their age group. The school age child who is hyperactive is frequently fidgeting with something or is out of his/her seat in class. These children find it nearly impossible to do their homework.

Adults with hyperactivity are labeled as people who “never sit still.” They have a difficult time relaxing.

Are there genetic factors associated with hyperactivity?

Although not always true, hyperactivity tends to be found in certain families. Usually children with hyperactivity will have a relative who either suffers or has suffered from the behavior.

Does hyperactivity affect males, females, or both?

Males are five (5) times more likely than females to be hyperactive.

At what age does hyperactivity appear?

Although parents may suspect that their child is “hyper,” the disorder may not come to the attention of professionals until the child starts school and is expected to sit still and not disrupt others. Therefore, a concern about hyperactivity is commonly raised when the child enters the classroom setting.

How often is hyperactivity seen in our society?

Approximately four to five percent (4-5%) of school aged children have hyperactive behavior.

How is hyperactivity diagnosed?

Hyperactivity may be diagnosed when parents take their child to a professional because they are concerned that the young child is accident prone, or later on, when the child is doing poorly in school. Teachers often alert parents when a child seems considerably more active than other children in the classroom. The diagnosis of hyperactivity is made after obtaining the child’s history from the child and the parents. It is also quite helpful to the professional to obtain the teacher’s observations.

How is hyperactivity treated?

Hyperactivity, which is associated with attention deficit disorder (ADHD), may be treated with therapy, medication, or both. Behavior therapy with the guidance of the parents and support of the teacher helps the child to become more focused . When indicated, medication, such as Cylert (pemoline), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), or Ritalin (methylphenidate) can be prescribed for the child. These medications, which are stimulants to the average person, have a paradoxical effect and tend to calm a child with hyperactivity. Hyperactive children who are calmed by the use of behavior therapy or medication are more attentive and, frequently, are able to improve their academic performance. Successful treatment allows the child to participate more appropriately with his/her peers, and this often improves the child’s social life.

What happens to someone with hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity tends to diminish with age. Therefore, people are much less likely to receive treatment for hyperactivity once they reach adulthood.

What can people do if they need help?

If you, a friend, or a family member would like more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns with that person.

Developed by John L. Miller, MD
Reviewed 7/2000

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