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Hyperactivity

Definition

Hyperactivity is a state of too much muscle activity. This term is also used to describe a situation when a particular portion of the body is too active, such as when a gland produces too much of its particular hormone.

See also: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Alternative Names

Activity - increased; Hyperkinetic behavior

Considerations

Hyperactive behavior usually refers to a group of characteristics. These can include constant activity, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness, and similar behaviors.

Typical behaviors may include fidgeting or constant moving, wandering, too much talking, and difficulty participating in quiet activities (such as reading).

Hyperactivity is not easily defined, because it often depends on the tolerance of the observer. Behavior that seems excessive to one observer may not seem excessive to another. However, certain children -- when compared to others -- are clearly far more active, which 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 affected child. However, 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, and hyperactive kids are frequently punished for their behavior.

Hyperkinetic (excessive movement) behavior often decreases as the child grows older, and may disappear entirely by adolescence.

Common 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.

Call your health care provider if

  • 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 health care provider's office

The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. There may also be a review of the home and school environments.

Medical history questions documenting hyperactivity in detail may include:

  • Is this a new behavior for the child, or has the child always been very active?
  • Is the behavior getting worse?
  • Exactly what behavior have you noticed?
  • Is the child physically active?
  • Is the child easily distracted?
  • Does the child have trouble following directions?
  • Have you noticed anything that makes the child more or less active?
  • Is the child more active at school than at home?
  • What other symptoms are present?

The provider may recommend a thorough psychological evaluation.


Review Date: 4/26/2010
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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