What Is Hyperactivity in ADHD? - Symptoms, Definition & Causes

Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson describes what hyperactivity is in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. It covers diagnosis and potential areas for treatment.

What Is Hyperactivity?

Imagine Tigger from 'Winnie the Pooh', Speedy Gonzales, or Daffy Duck!...Maybe even Alex the Lion from 'Madagascar.' They can't quite sit still, some are hyperverbal (talk fast) and can't stay on one idea. These are great examples of hyperactivity in ADHD.


ADHD actually stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD hyperactivity is when someone is unusually hyper or restless, and it's not due to candy, energy drinks, or an invisible battery. This person is naturally hyper. Because they have so much natural energy, it is hard for this type of person to focus. This is why many hyperactive people are diagnosed with ADHD, where hyperactivity and attention are in constant competition with each other.

Hyperactive behavior is constant activity and impulsiveness. It has been associated with aggression. However, some behaviors that are excessive to one person may be okay for another person. It is when this behavior starts to make life difficult that hyperactivity becomes a problem. Hyperactivity is also a problem when it begins to negatively influence focus on work or school. Because it occurs naturally, many people don't understand why this person can't simply 'get themselves together' or 'stop playing around.' Many adults and children get depressed because they want to be good but it's hard.


There are other conditions that can mimic ADHD. It is also important to remember that some behaviors are not hyperactivity, but phases of life. It is normal for young children to be lively and have short attention spans. Puberty can also cause teens to appear hyper. Those who suffer from mental disorders, have problems at home or work, or have medical problems may also appear hyper at times.

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