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Alternative names

Activity - increased; Hyperkinetic behavior


Hyperactivity is a state of excessive muscular activity. This term is also used to describe a situation when a particular portion of the body is excessively active, such as when a gland produces too much of its particular hormone. See also attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) .


Hyperactive behavior commonly refers to a group of characteristics. This can include constant activity, easy distractibility, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness, and similar behaviors.

Typical behaviors may include fidgeting or constant moving, wandering, excessive 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, and this can become problematic if it interferes with their school work or ability to make 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 because their inability to sit still makes them a target for bullying, makes in harder for them to connect with other children, can make schoolwork difficult, and punishment for their behavior common.

Hyperkinetic behavior (a very active child) often decreases as the child grows older, and disappears by adolescence.

Common Causes

  • attention deficit disorder
  • emotional disorders
  • brain or central nervous system disorders
  • hyperthyroidism
  • normal personality

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, is also aggressive and impulsive, and has difficulty concentrating
  • your child's activity level is causing him or her social difficulties or difficulty with schoolwork

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:
  • time pattern
    • Is this a new behavior for the child or has the child always been very active?
    • Is the behavior getting worse?
  • quality
    • What exactly have you noticed?
    • Is the child physically active?
    • Is the child easily distracted?
    • Does the child have trouble following directions?
  • aggravating and relieving factors
    • Have you noticed anything that makes the child more or less active?
    • Is the child more active when at school than when at home?
  • other
    • What other symptoms are present?

The physical examination may include a thorough psychological evaluation.

If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider regarding the cause of the child's hyperactivity, you may want to note that diagnosis in your child's personal medical record.

Update Date: 5/24/2002

Elizabeth Hait, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT